Survey: Many Nurses Still Eyeing An Exit As Pandemic Frustrations Persist


By Dave Muoio

Despite frequent calls to address nurses’ pandemic burnout, short-staffing and other workplace stressors, new survey data suggest “nothing has changed” for nurses in the past year as many say they're still eyeing an exit from the profession.

Among roughly 1,800 nursing professionals and students polled in May and June, about a quarter (26%) said they were currently satisfied with their nursing career—down slightly from the 32% who said they were satisfied during a corresponding survey of 571 respondents from the prior year.

Stress (39%) and burnout (35%) were again cited by nurses as leading drivers of job dissatisfaction among employed nurses, although insufficient staff to meet demand (53%) surged to become the leading frustration point.

Further, 28% of respondents in the new poll said their desire to leave nursing “increased dramatically” due to the pandemic. Thirty-eight percent said they are currently considering retiring from nursing or seeking a new career, compared to 38% who had indicated the same a year prior.

“We had hoped that at this point, we would be past the pandemic and our nurses would have better balance, mental health and working conditions, but we are not there,” healthcare staffing platform Cross Country Healthcare and Florida Atlantic University’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing, which collaborated to conduct the now-annual survey, wrote.

“Nurses are leaving the profession or changing careers in droves. The drumbeat is getting louder. We need to fix this. Healthcare industry leaders require a foundational change to refresh and salvage this essential profession,” they wrote.

The survey’s silver lining, the groups wrote, is that the majority of respondents still find patient care to be personally rewarding despite the stress. Two-thirds of nursing professionals cited helping others as a top reason they would stay in the field, followed by 46% who pointed to their strong income.

The reward of patient care was ubiquitous (92%) among the poll’s nursing students, which Cross Country and the nursing college attributed to their primary focus on learning about patient care and limited exposure to “what happens behind the scenes, such as administration and documentation.”

Similarly, 73% of student nurses said they were completely or very satisfied with their career choice, in comparison to 40% of those who were employed.

"Nurses are passionate but exhausted, and there is room for meaningful changes. The demand for patient care is increasing exponentially," Michael Skovira, chief medical officer at Cross Country Healthcare, said in a statement. "We must change how we educate, train, hire, manage and treat our nurses. We have all the tools to start now, but we cannot implement these practices if we continue to blame the pandemic for a situation that has been growing for years. We need to come together as an industry and start now." 

As before, the majority of respondents agreed that healthcare employers will need to increase pay and incentives to hold onto nursing staff (from 81% in 2021 to 86% in 2022), improve and increase use of staffing resources (70% to 77%) and increase their use of flexible scheduling (73% to 77%).

Forty-one percent of respondents said their employer offered well-being resources. Of these, 71% said their employer offered employee assistance programs, although other well-being resources such as employer-paid healthcare (31%), a mental health hotline (24%) and counseling (22%) were less common.

Roughly a fifth said their employer offers no job growth opportunities, such as training courses or tuition reimbursement, while just under a third said they were unsure.

Cross Country and Florida Atlantic University’s nursing school’s online survey was primarily answered by employed nurses (76%), with the remainder identifying as students (8%) or “other” (16%).

Eighty-five percent of respondents were registered nurses, two-thirds were between the ages of 23 and 54 years, 74% worked at a hospital, 60% said they had been in practice for at least 10 years and, notably, 54% said they currently worked as travel nurses.

Results from the new poll fall in line with other recent data from a staffing firm, in which 34% of respondents said it was very likely they would leave their current roles by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 194,500 average annual openings for registered nurses from 2020 to 2030.

Burnout, stress and short-staffing frustrations are also among the leading issues being cited by nurses joining picket lines. For instance, more than 15,000 Minnesota nurses slated to walk off the job in the next week contend that understaffed and overworked nurses are driving many from the profession and damaging day-to-day patient care.


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