By Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, FAAN
I frequently read papers from our nursing graduate students on the topic of the nursing shortage. Often, I find that information included in these papers from recently published articles is dated, and does not reflect current changes in the nursing workforce. More troubling are the number of nurse authors that the students cite that discuss reasons “why nurses leave nursing” as if it were a widespread trend. I challenge students to closely examine the evidence about nurse employment. The evidence does not support the widely believed myth that nurses leave their profession in large numbers.
Nurses don’t leave nursing – they leave jobs.
Dr. Peter Buerhaus in his work has pointed out that nursing has one of the highest levels of professional participation when compared to other disciplines. More than 80% of currently licensed nurses are working in nursing and the nursing workforce has grown 24% over the past decade (HRSA, 2013). In fact, more nurses work in nursing today than in 1977 when 68% of those licensed worked in the profession. This trend holds true even among new graduates who have the highest employment turnover when compared with other groups.
Dr. Christine Kovner and Dr. Carol Brewer at NYU are co-investigators on a 10-year, multi-state, longitudinal panel study of newly licensed nurses designed to gain a better understanding of the work life of registered nurses (RNs) called the RN Work Project. Their current findings indicate that 17.3% leave their first employment within one year and 54.5% within six years of starting their first job. A key finding in their work is that when newly licensed nurses leave their employer – they stay in nursing.
Satisfied with the profession but not their job
In a recent nationwide study of Registered Nurses done by AMN Healthcare, it was found that 90% of the Registered Nurses surveyed were happy with their career choice. This finding was consistent across all age groups, educational levels and most specialties. Participants recognized that they had chosen a profession with a wide range of career possibilities. Satisfaction with their job was found to be lower – only 73% of participants were satisfied and 33% indicated that if they had a choice – they would not be working in their current position in 2014.
This data is important because when nurses enjoy their jobs and intend to stay in their positions long term, it can translate to improved patient outcomes, according to findings from NDNQI, a quality improvement program of the American Nurses Association.
Many more opportunities outside of the hospital
What is true from recent data is that the number of RNs working outside hospitals is increasing as the nursing workforce expands. According to the 2012 Nursing Survey conducted by the Health Resources and Services Administration, 63.2% of nurses work in hospitals – a very slight percentage increase over the past decade. It is expected with healthcare reform, this percentage might decrease over time as more care moves into the community.
If you ask most seasoned nurses what they like best about their profession, they will of course discuss the satisfaction of caring for others. But a very close second is the rich diversity of career opportunities available in the profession. So the next time you hear a colleague discuss how nurses are leaving nursing – challenge them to prove it.
Read to Lead
AMN Health (2013). 2013_RNSurvey. Whitepaper.
Buerhaus, P., Staiger, D. & Auerbach, D. (2008). The Future of the Nursing Workforce in the United States: Data, Trends and Implications. Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
© emergingrnleader.com 2013