March 29, 2018

How can we afford more full-time RNs?

This week the provincial government released the 2018 Budget. It was no surprise our dire fiscal situation and high health spending were a focus of conversation.

And they should be. We spend the highest per capita on health care in the country.

But there is a way to immediately reduce health spending. It’s by adequately staffing registered nurses. I’ll explain how More RNs would save money in just a minute.

First, I’d like to talk about why safe RN staffing might matter to you, as someone who lives in Newfoundland & Labrador.

At some point, you or someone you love will need the care of a Registered Nurse.

Having more full-time RNs in our health care system leads to better care for patients – in terms of both their experience, and their outcomes.

Now, that might seem like common sense, but there’s a clear consensus in the research that backs it up.

RNs have in-depth nursing knowledge. They use advanced decision-making, critical thinking and problem solving skills to care for the most stable to the most complex patients. When we have safe and sufficient RN staffing, Registered Nurses have more time to provide the highest level of care possible.

But when RNs work short-staffed, their ability to provide that care is compromised.

Registered Nurses face demanding and unstainable workloads. Last year, RNs in NL worked more than 1200 shifts over 16 hours long – including shifts up to 24 hours. Yet, we rely on RNs to make critical decisions that have a direct impact on patient health.

More RNs would mean…

  • Better preventative care
  • Earlier interventions
  • Fewer cancelled surgeries and procedures
  • Fewer complications, falls, and infections
  • Shorter hospital stays
  • Reduced readmissions
  • Lower mortality rates

But of course, who wouldn’t want better health care?

The real question is – can we afford better health care?

That’s where the research gets really interesting.

Not only is there a link between more RNs and better health care… the evidence is also overwhelming that more RNs will actually save money.


Because better health care is also more cost-effective health care.

For example, a standard hospital stay in NL is over $6000. Research has shown that having more RNs may decrease the readmission of surgical patients by
nearly 50%!

It’s not hard to see how cutting down the number of readmissions could save a lot of money.

Another example of how we could save money is by reducing patient complications. Research shows having more RNs leads to fewer complications and infections. Treatment of a complication like pneumonia is over $8,000. Hospital care for a senior with a urinary tract infection is over $6,000.

Not only would more full-time RNs in our system reduce the costs associated with patient care, it would reduce the human cost. The pain and suffering experienced by patients and families.

Which means, really… the question we should be asking is not “How can we afford more full-time RNs?”

The question is “How can we afford to continue without more full-time RNs?”