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J Clin Anesth. 1998 Nov;10(7):593-8.

Computer simulation of changes in nursing productivity from early tracheal extubation of coronary artery bypass graft patients.

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Department of Anesthesia, University of Iowa, Iowa City 52242, USA.



To determine whether the results from a clinical trial, which showed that early extubation of elective coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) patients can reduce hospital costs by more rapid discharge of patients from the intensive care unit (ICU), are likely to apply to other hospitals.


Discrete-event computer simulation.


We (1) generated simulated CABG patients, (2) had them "flow" from one condition to the next according to specified rules, and (3) calculated the labor productivity of simulated nurses who would be caring for the patients. We defined nursing labor productivity as the number of patients undergoing elective CABG cared for each year per nursing full-time equivalent working 40 hours per week. Our simulations predict that the increase in nursing labor productivity achieved by early extubation of CABG patients is sensitive to the number of elective CABG cases performed each year at the hospital and the method of compensating nurses. Hospitals with an "hourly workforce" and many cases per year are predicted to achieve a greater increase in productivity from early extubation than are hospitals with a "salaried workforce" and less active volume. At hospitals with a salaried workforce, increasing the percentage of patients extubated early may have no effect on labor productivity.


Although "fast-tracking" protocols may offer benefits other than increasing nursing labor productivity (i.e., saving money), the results of clinical trials that demonstrate cost savings from clinical pathways that include early tracheal extubation are likely to apply only to hospitals that have similar annual CABG volume and method of compensating nurses as those in the clinical trial. To estimate the likely economic impact from early extubation protocols, a hospital should complete a simulation study with parameter values appropriate to its institution.

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