I’m just kidding. The study is really about whether more patients die in the hospital when nurses are on strike, and the findings suggest that they do.
Now, is it just that only really sick people go to the hospital during a nurse’s strike, driving up the mortality rate, or are nurses actually an integral part of the hospital? This is the question asked yesterday by Freakonomics co-author and University of Chicago Economics Professor Steven Levitt on the New York Times Freakonomics Blog.
Despite mentioning that in Superfreakonomics Levitt and his co-author, journalist Stephen Dubner, wrote that when doctors go on strike patients tend not to suffer, or even fair better, Levitt writes that the statistic might be driven by the type of patients that show up at the hospital. If only very sick patients went to the hospital during strikes, then one would expect the mortality rate to increase during any kind of hospital strike, not just during nurses’ strikes.
Well, unless the population at large sees nurses as the most crucial part of the hospital and only change their medical care-seeking behaviour when the all-important nurses go on strike.
That seems unlikely. People seem to be more afraid that we are heading into a doctorless world then a nurseless one. Anyway, this is all a moot point, because the authors of the study say expressly in the abstract that they controlled for “patient demographics and disease severity.”
Using a variety of observable characteristics, the authors of the study determined that patient demographics don’t change during a strike.
So maybe I’m not kidding. Maybe nurses are more important than doctors.