Viewpoint: Hospitals should value nurses as professionals, not pieces of furniture

Nurses play a crucial part in patient care. However, many hospital boards view nursing as a cost, rather than a revenue generator, which can downplay the true value of nurses, retired nurse Kathleen Kaufman, RN, wrote in an op-ed for The Salt Lake Tribune.

Hospitals charge for nursing care as a standard rate based on the patient's unit or diagnostic group. Therefore, even though two patients residing in the same unit may require drastically different levels of attention, nursing care is essentially averaged into a cost per room, according to Ms. Kaufman.

"Being seen only as a cost to the bottom line and not a revenue generator, the entire nursing staff becomes a liability, not an asset," she wrote. "This puts nurse leaders into a position of defending the very real need for safe staffing for a patient population that has only gotten sicker over the past decades."

Even though hospitals are starting to attract nurses with sign-on bonuses and other incentives amid a national nursing shortage, Ms. Kaufman believes the value of nursing care will still be buried in the room charge.

"Are we professionals or are we furniture?" she said. "Your nurse's value rises far above the level of the bed, lights and temperature control of your room."

Ms. Kaufman argued patients and insurers should pay for the nursing care received, instead of averaging the cost of all care on a unit.

"Your nurse is the reason you get 24/7 coordinated care that hopefully leads to the best outcome for you," she said. "So ask your hospital administrator how nurses are valued in your hospital. And thank your nurses."

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