The economic power of nursing care

James Lloyd, ANMF Federal Vice President

This will highlight the multifaceted impact of nursing on economies, emphasising the undeniable economic value generated by the compassionate care nurses provide worldwide.

The economics of care and compassion are how much our profession contributes to the overall economic health of our nation. However, this is not well-recognised in our profession or the wider community.

This year’s theme aims to reshape the perception and understanding of nursing as not only a profession that provides quality care, compassion and advocacy but also a driver of economic and social development. Nursing is often undervalued and underfunded despite being the backbone of the healthcare system.

Traditionally, economic discussions in healthcare have centred around costs, expenditures, and budgets. However, the International Nurses Day 2024 theme challenges this perspective by shifting the focus to the economic value generated by the care nurses deliver.

The economic power of care encompasses the direct and indirect contributions of nursing to the overall health of populations and the financial wellbeing of nations.

As the backbone of healthcare systems worldwide, nurses contribute significantly to disease prevention, health promotion, and education. By preventing and managing chronic disease, promoting healthy behaviours, ensuring timely healthcare interventions, and being the leaders of multi-disciplinary teams, nurses play a significant role in reducing health costs and increasing the efficiency of the healthcare dollar.

A healthy population is a productive one, and nurses are at the forefront of creating and maintaining the health of a society. As caregivers and health educators, we empower individuals and communities to adopt healthy lifestyles, which ultimately reduce the economic burden of preventable chronic health conditions and diseases.

Additionally, the economic power of care ultimately influences workforce productivity, helps reduce absenteeism, and further fosters a more robust and resilient labour market. The economic investment in nurses and the care we provide leads to enhanced social and economic wellbeing.

The economic power of care is also evident in the innovative and efficient healthcare delivery models championed by nurses. With advancements in technology and a focus on patient-centred care, nurses contribute to streamlining healthcare processes, reducing unnecessary hospitalisations, and improving the overall efficiency of healthcare systems.

As advocates for patients’ rights and quality care, nurses influence healthcare policies and practices. Our active participation in shaping healthcare policies ensures that resources are allocated efficiently, promoting a sustainable and economically viable healthcare system. The economic power of care, as exemplified by the nursing workforce, goes beyond individual patient care to influencing systemic changes that benefit all of society.

Nurse practitioners are an example of how the nursing profession can provide cost-effective care. They often work in primary care settings to provide comprehensive and holistic patient care. NPs can help expand access to healthcare services, especially in underserved or rural areas where there is sometimes a shortage of primary care providers. By providing timely and efficient care, NPs can help reduce unnecessary emergency department visits and hospitalisations, which can be costly to the healthcare system. NPs provide high-quality, comprehensive care in an economical manner, leading to improved access to care and better health outcomes. This is not to say that GPs do not have a vital place in a primary healthcare system; however, NPs need to be recognised that they can take on the burden of primary healthcare and lessen the burden of GPs whilst still working in a multi-disciplinary system.

Nursing is not often recognised as one of the largest segments of the healthcare workforce in our country. Through our salaries earned and spent, we contribute to national economic stability. The collective wages of nurses represent a significant portion of overall healthcare expenditure and contribute to the economic activity of the healthcare sector. We, therefore, contribute to consumer spending, supporting local economies through the expenditure on goods and services.

In summary, the economic power of nurses is significant and continues to grow as the demand for healthcare services increases. Our contributions to healthcare delivery, advocacy efforts, career mobility, and entrepreneurial ventures all add economic influence and highlight the importance of recognising and valuing the work of nurses in society. Nursing has the potential to generate even greater economic value and growth if it is adequately invested in and respected for its rights, roles, and responsibilities.

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