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Are You Satisfied at Work? A Look at Why Nurses Are Quitting the Profession

On Apr 15, 2022
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According to a poll of registered nurses across the nation, nearly half of RNs surveyed said they considered leaving their profession at one time.

In fact, 62 percent of hospitals across the country are reporting nurse vacancies over 7.5 percent. The COVID-19 health crisis exacerbated issues that already existed in the nursing profession, leaving many RNs to wonder if it may be time to change careers.

Keep reading to learn why nurses quit and what employers are doing to combat burnout and increase retention.

Leading Reasons Why Nurses Leave Their Jobs

1. Poor Management

The mental and emotional health and well-being of nurses can have a real impact on the level of care they provide for patients in all healthcare settings—for better or for worse. It’s essential for employers and management to build a supportive workplace culture that nurtures employees and sets them up for success.

Research shows nurses who feel valued actually report fewer medical errors compared with those experiencing poor physical and/or mental health.

[ Read: 7 Things You Need To Do Before You Quit Nursing ]

A poor manager is one who does not listen to their staff and may favor some nurses over others. Some fail to establish performance standards or provide constructive feedback that lets nurses know where they are flourishing and where there is room to improve.

Without guidance, structure, and support, employees lack motivation and lose sight of why they pursued nursing in the first place: to make a difference in patients’ lives.

2. Staffing Shortages

Based on the rising demand for healthcare services across all specialties, it will take an estimated 1.2 million new registered nurses by the year 2030 to resolve the current nursing shortage. As of February 2021, nursing ranked fifth among in-demand jobs in the United States. California, Texas, and New Jersey lead the nation in the demand for nurses.

The nursing shortage is one of those chicken-and-egg scenarios. As nurses continue to leave the profession in greater numbers, those that remain are overworked, anxious, and just plain exhausted. That leads to more nurses quitting—and the cycle continues.

There is no debating that understaffing hurts productivity and the bottom line. But much more importantly, nursing shortages compromise patient health and well-being.

3. Illnesses and Injuries

While nurses are discouraged and sometimes even disciplined for moving patients alone, time constraints and understaffing compel many to do just that. Nurses who move patients without assistance are at risk of painful, debilitating neck and back strains and sprains.

Additional health risks facing nurses and other medical professionals include exposure to infectious illnesses (including COVID-19), hazardous chemicals, and radiation.

Workplace injuries may require surgery, physical therapy, and time off work, costing the injured nurse and their employer time and money. Nurses may decide the risks to their mental and physical health are simply not worth it and make what many have called “the great escape.”

4. Stress and Burnout

Nursing is an emotionally and physically demanding profession. While the goals of nursing have never changed, the obstacles to reach those goals have increased significantly amid the current pandemic and nursing shortage.

[ Read: Nurses: Patients Need You to Care — For Yourself ]

Without tools and resources to overcome these hurdles, it is easy for nurses to experience burnout and lose their passion for healthcare. Many leave nursing altogether, opting for less stressful jobs outside of the medical field.

5. The Coronavirus Pandemic

You cannot talk about the current nursing shortage without addressing the proverbial elephant in the room—the COVID-19 pandemic. As the number of cases began to surge across the country in early 2020, an already strained healthcare system became even more overwhelmed.

Short on beds, staff, and other resources, medical professionals encountered unparalleled challenges in their efforts to care for patients. Many nurses and other healthcare providers have also pushed back against mandatory vaccination requirements enforced by their state or their employer, which they feel violate their personal rights. As new variants are discovered and cases surge again, employers must address these issues to retain staff and improve job satisfaction among nurses and all medical professionals.

The Good News for Nurses

Amid all of the difficulties facing nurses right now, there is still plenty of good news for the profession. Employers are taking action to improve working conditions and make nursing jobs more appealing.

Employers, universities, and agencies are implementing systemic changes to improve the lives and careers of new and veteran nurses. Some of these steps to increase job satisfaction and staff retention include:

  • Offering continuing education opportunities for career development
  • Designating mentors to inspire and guide new nurses
  • Allowing nurses to create flexible schedules for better work-life balance
  • Implementing technology to automate mundane tasks
  • Increasing salaries to prevent nurses from leaving for lucrative travel positions
  • Recognizing and rewarding nurses for outstanding performance
  • Creating positive workplace cultures that encourage nurses to thrive mentally, physically, and professionally

It’s Still a Great Time to Be a Nurse

Yes, nursing does come with some challenges, as does every profession. But it is still an ideal time to be a nurse. The nursing shortage has made it easier than ever to find the perfect position.

Nurses can earn higher pay and other incentives. During the first few months of 2021, the average salary for nurses in the United States rose by 4 percent to $81,376 according to the Wall Street Journal. Many companies also offer impressive sign-on bonuses and opportunities for overtime. Some nurses are reporting signing bonuses as high as $15,000.

Telemedicine Has Created New Roles for Nurses Seeking More Flexibility

As patients with non-emergency medical conditions were encouraged to stay out of the hospital during the early phase of the pandemic, access to telemedicine services increased significantly. Physicians and other clinicians could utilize technology to treat patients remotely, without risking exposure to COVID-19.

[ Read: Nursing Degrees: What You Need to Know ]

Appreciating the efficiency and convenience of telemedicine, many practitioners have continued to offer these services in addition to traditional in-person care. The growth of telemedince has created a wealth of opportunities for nurses who have grown weary of bedside care or simply find working from home is a better fit for their family and their lifestyle.

Nurses Are Educators, Coaches, and Entrepreneurs

Beyond telehealth positions, nurses are exploring all of the many ways they can apply their skills and experience. The sky is the limit for nurses who are passionate about health coaching, teaching, or owning their own business. Click here to learn more about creative careers for self-employed nurses. Now more than ever, nurses can earn higher pay, explore non-traditional positions, and feel empowered to create the career of their dreams.

Are you looking for a new nursing job? Look here for your next opportunity.

Apply for your next nursing job today!

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