What Can We Learn From the Existing Evidence of the Business Case for Investments in Nursing Care: Importance of Content, Context, and Policy Environment

Olga Yakusheva, Marquette University
Douglas Wholey, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
Kevin D. Frick, Johns Hopkins University

Medical Care, Vol. 51, Supplement (April, 2013): S47-S52. DOI.


Decisions of health care institutions to invest in nursing care are often guided by mixed and conflicting evidence of effects of the investments on organizational function and sustainability. This paper uses new evidence generated through Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative (INQRI)-funded research and published in peer-reviewed journals, to illustrate where the business case for nursing investments stands and to discuss factors that may limit the existing evidence and its transferability into clinical practice. We conclude that there are 3 limiting factors: (1) the existing business case for nursing investments is likely understated due to the inability of most studies to capture spillover and long-run dynamic effects, thus causing organizations to forfeit potentially viable nursing investments that may improve long-term financial stability; (2) studies rarely devote sufficient attention to describing the content and the organization-specific contextual factors, thus limiting generalizability; and (3) fragmentation of the current health care delivery and payment systems often leads to the financial benefits of investments in nursing care accruing outside of the organization incurring the costs, thus making potentially quality-improving and cost-saving interventions financially unattractive from the organization’s perspective. The payment reform, with its emphasis on high-quality affordable patient-centered care, is likely to strengthen the business case for investments in nursing care. Methodologically rigorous approaches that focus on broader societal implications of investments in nursing care, combined with a thorough understanding of potential barriers and facilitators of nursing change, should be an integral part of future research and policy efforts.