BSN Workforce Again Shown to Be Key in Improving Health Outcomes and Lowering Costs

A new study by UMSN Associate Professor Olga Yakusheva and colleagues confirms the positive impact of higher proportions of baccalaureate-prepared nurses.

In the newly released “Economic Evaluation of the 80% Baccalaureate Nurse Workforce Recommendation: A Patient-Level Analysis"  lead author Olga Yakusheva, PhD, now an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing (UMSN), and her colleagues from the University of Colorado and Marquette University found:

  • A 10% increase in the proportion of BSNs on hospital units was associated with lowering the odds of mortality by 10.9%.
  • Increasing the amount of care provided by BSNs to 80% would result in significantly lower readmission rates and shorter lengths of stay. This would translate into cost savings that would more than off-set expenses for increasing the number of BSNs in hospital settings.

The research is published in the October 2014 issue of the journal Medical Care. It references the  2010 Institute of Medicine report that calls for increasing the proportion of BSN-educated nurses to 80% by 2020.

"The real contribution of this study is that when we looked at patients in the same hospital, who were hospitalized on the same unit with the same diagnosis, patients who received more than 80 percent of nursing care from BSN-educated nurses tended to do better – despite often being sicker at the time of admission," explains Dr. Yakusheva. "These patients tended to spend less time in the hospital, fewer of them had to go back to the hospital after discharge, and fewer of them died. This makes you think, really, how can we give all of our patients an equal opportunity to receive high-quality care they deserve? The answer is, or at least seems to be, in investing in nurse education. And our study shows that these investments can also have real cost-saving effects in the long term."

Dr. Yakusheva is a health economist whose research focuses on nursing human capital and social networks in health behaviors. Her work has been funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Nursing Credentialing Center. Her co-authors for the new study are Richard Lindrooth, PhD (Colorado), and Marianne Weiss, DNSc, RN (Marquette); the study was done when Dr. Yakusheva was at Marquette.

The same issue of the journal features an editorial by University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing's Dr. Linda Aiken, whose groundbreaking research has focused on uncovering the connection between nursing education and outcomes. She introduces the Dr. Yakusheva's article by saying: “The study’s findings of a business case supporting an 80% BSN nurse workforce should serve as a catalyst to hasten a transition that has been a long time in the making and remains in the public’s interest.”