The economic value of nurses

The Government is currently negotiating the career, salary and working conditions of nurses. These three axes influence professional practice and constitute the main problem faced by the class.

Over the last few years, nurses have watched, sometimes with great indignation, the appreciation of other health professions, remaining completely on the sidelines. In fact, his work aspirations have long since ceased to have a corporate aspect. The NHS nursing salary scale has remained unchanged for over ten years and current career progression requires around 100 years to reach the top.

The result has been, among others, a complete lack of motivation for those who stay and a highly qualified mass emigration, which translates, globally, into millions of euros of damage to the country.

But, if we think that health occupies the podium of expenditure in the State Budget, there is a perspective that is rarely considered in relation to nurses.

Nursing, closely associated with care, empathy and humanism, is rarely recognized for its economic value. The truth is that this is an essential professional class not only for the provision of healthcare, but also for the economic sustainability of the System. You need to look at value beyond care.

We have long known that an adequate number of nurses in different professional contexts leads to a significant reduction not only in the mortality rate, readmissions and hospital infections, but also in costs.

On the other hand, people’s health has a direct impact on the country’s economic productivity and nurses can play a fundamental role in health promotion, disease prevention and management of chronic pathologies , which contributes to drastically reducing work absenteeism.

On the other hand, the intervention of nurses in vaccination programs, public health campaigns and home care are also determining factors for cost reduction.

And, in fact, for various and extensive reasons, the country is not taking advantage of the skills of nurses as it could, not realizing why it is not doing so. Even if more skills would imply more responsibilities, which, in turn, would imply greater appreciation for your work.

Investment in professional development assumes, in turn, great importance, particularly the effective implementation of the Nursing Specialty Internship, whose model is already being built and which, currently, nurses ensure at their own expense, with insufficient or even no improvements in salary and working conditions.

In Portugal, specialist nurses have shown very positive results in the quality and efficiency of care provided and in reducing costs. But this reality could have a much greater dimension.

For example, the autonomous management of pregnant women and low-risk births by Specialist Nurses in Maternal and Obstetric Health, already considered by the Government in the Emergency and Transformation Plan in Health, would help to resolve the crisis in access to maternal health care that has occurred in recent years.

On the other hand, the reconfiguration of the skills of Family Nurses would also allow a reduction in the need for frequent use of the Health System, and, consequently, the associated costs.

And, just to give one more example, the management of chronic disease with autonomous monitoring by nurses, whether in hospitals or in primary health care, in addition to the obvious health gains, would make it possible, from therefore, freeing up medical professionals for other functions, such as first consultations, helping to recover the respective waiting lists and reducing the number of people in emergencies. This necessarily leads to an improvement in clinical results and quality of life for patients, also determining a reduction in all related expenses.

The country needs to consider the value of nurses’ work in relation to other health professions and, above all, in relation to the economic value they can provide. And there is no need to innovate or risk reckless reforms, just look at the solutions already adopted, with great success, by other countries.

Investing in motivating nurses, giving them new skills, with increased salaries, an attractive career and adequate working conditions, is an intelligent economic strategy that, at the same time, provides health gains and benefits public finances.


Francesco Giganti

Journalist, social media, blogger and pop culture obsessive in newshubpro

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