BOCA RATON, Fla. — Nurses haven’t received the respect they deserve for decades. They work exceedingly long hours, juggle numerous responsibilities on a day-to-day basis, and are routinely tasked with administering delicate medications and treatments — all while getting a fraction of the pay doctors receive. The COVID-19 pandemic greatly exasperated these issues, as the virus overloaded and overwhelmed medical facilities and hospitals around the globe. Now, a new poll finds one in four are ready to quit.
The nationally-representative survey finds a large portion of nurses nowadays are fed up with their profession and plan to move on within the next two years. Moreover, the majority of nurses say that staffing shortages are contributing to their well-being struggles.
This research was commissioned by Cross Country Healthcare, Inc., a tech-enabled workforce solutions platform and advisory firm, in collaboration with Florida Atlantic University. These results are part of the company’s annual survey encompassing close to 1,500 nursing professionals and students.
Study authors found that while nurses are usually passionate about the meaningful work they do, and earning a good income, only one-third plan to remain in the profession for the foreseeable future. Roughly one in four say they’ll probably leave within the next year or two. This project, conducted in collaboration with FAU’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing, also found that over half of nurses complain there is insufficient staff to meet patient demands — a development they consider the absolute worst part of being a nurse. When there aren’t enough colleagues to help pick up the slack, on-duty nurses become overworked and burnt out.
May is Nurse Appreciation Month and Mental Health Awareness Month. So, in an attempt to help address some of the mental health struggles facing our nurses today, Cross Country Healthcare has launched the Check Your Vitals initiative. This project asks nurses to check their vitals, or overall health and well-being, and also offers various tips and strategies on how nurses can better maintain both mental and physical wellness. The campaign suggests nurses wear green to show support for mental health awareness and post their green outfits on social media using the hashtag #checkyourvitals.
“We had hoped that at this point past the pandemic, we would see improvement in the sentiment of our nurses, but that’s simply not the case,” says John A. Martins, president and CEO of Cross Country Healthcare, in a university release. “The decision to choose nursing is more of a calling than a job. Nurses are tireless in their passion for quality patient care, no matter how challenging their working conditions may be. But the profession has reached a breaking point, and it is well past time that industry leaders come together to create reform to revitalize this essential profession.”
1 in 3 nurses are dealing with depression
According to the survey, nurses deal with tons of negative symptoms regularly, including anxiety (46%), insomnia (35%), and depression (32%). Interestingly, most nurses (83%) don’t attend any mental health or well-being counseling, despite most employers offering these services. The most common reported cause of poor mental health was staffing shortages (71%), followed by a dearth of support resources (55%). Recent experiences during the pandemic have only added to feelings of discontent, with close to two in five employed nurses admitting it dramatically increased their desire to leave the profession.
On a related note, the United States Health Resources & Services Administration is now predicting a national projected shortage of 63,720 full-time registered nurses by 2030 and a projected shortage of 141,580 full-time licensed practical nurses by 2035.
What about mental health among nursing students? Six in 10 respondents (61%) said their school offers mental health and well-being resources like student assistance programs, gyms and fitness resources, counseling, food and nutrition services, and even a mental health and well-being hotline. Meanwhile, 47 percent actually take advantage of the mental health offerings from their school, and 53 percent find them useful. Notably, 93 percent of nursing students said they’re still happy with their decision to become a nurse.
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“Despite the many challenges and stressors that have contributed to burnout and nurses being on the brink of a breaking point in their professional careers, nurses and nursing students remain overwhelming satisfied with their career choice,” explains Safiya George, Ph.D., Holli Rockwell Trubinsky Eminent Dean and Professor, FAU’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing. “Nurses have endured and thrived over the years. The profession as a whole will need a lot more investment of human capital as well as fiscal and other supportive resources moving forward. This national survey has helped to identify innovative ways to improve quality of work and life for current and the next generation of nurses.”
“Nurses are struggling and have been for years now. They are overworked and understaffed, and addressing their well-being challenges must be a critical priority for health care leaders,” concludes Hank Drummond, Ph.D., M.Div, B.A., RN, senior vice president, and chief clinical officer. “The patient experience is only as good as the caregiver experience, so we need to ensure our caregivers are well and cared for, both physically and emotionally.”
The survey also reports close to one in five currently employed nurses are unsure if they would follow the same career path given the chance to hop in a time machine. Meanwhile, most nurses overwhelmingly believe that increased pay rates and incentives are key to attracting and retaining more nursing staff, as well as more flexible scheduling. Interestingly, despite many health care organizations offering growth and development opportunities, one in three nurses are unaware if their employer has such opportunities, and one in five said their employer does not. It’s also worth mentioning both employed and unemployed nurses greatly believe in the value of national licensure.