Survey Finds Pay and Morale Problems Contribute to Nursing Shortage
Over the next five years, one in five nurses plan to leave the profession, citing "poor working conditions" as the top reason why, a survey by the Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, a division of the AFL-CIO's American Federation of Teachers, found. The survey, which was based on interviews with 700 direct care nurses and 207 former direct care nurses, also found that half of the current nurses, excluding those expected to retire, have thought about leaving the field. The Detroit Free Press reports that many of the nurses plan to leave out of "frustration," but 75% would "consider staying" if improvements were made. The findings indicate that the "pool of registered nurses will shrink faster than originally expected, possibly worsening the national nursing shortage," the Free Press reports (Kennedy, Detroit Free Press, 4/20). The survey also found:
- About 53% of current nurses say the job is "too stressful and physically demanding;
- Twenty percent of current nurses would prefer a career with "regular hours";
- Morale among nurses is low, with 68% of surveyed nurses saying morale was "fair or poor." Morale conditions fare the worst at hospitals, with 74% of nurses reporting that morale is fair or poor;
- Almost half of those surveyed (49%) said they would have pursued a different career if they "were just starting out";
- The "No. 1" issue nurses face is staffing. Sixty-six percent of nurses said patient loads are a "fairly or very serious problem," 65% said understaffing is a problem, and 64% said they do not have enough time to spend with patients (AFT release, 4/19).
Kathleen Emrich, interim dean of the School of Nursing at Oakland University, said, "A few years ago, it was one in every 10 nurses that said that they expected to leave nursing or at least though about leaving nursing. But now that number as changed and we all have to find a way to change this trend" (Kennedy, Detroit Free Press, 4/20).
To improve retention and recruitment, Sandra Feldman, president of the AFT, called for a legislative ban on mandatory overtime and federal standards for staffing levels at all health care facilities. In addition, she supports congressional efforts that would forgive nurses' student loans to encourage people to pursue nursing as a career. She added that nurses' salaries, benefits and pensions should also be improved. Feldman said, "The silver lining is that the nurses threatening to leave say they would consider staying if improvements are made. Hospitals have to do what it takes to retain the nurses they have, try to bring back those who left in frustration, and recruit new people into the profession" (AFT release, 4/19). According to the Department of Labor, an additional 450,000 registered nurses will be needed by 2008 (Kennedy, Detroit Free Press, 4/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.