By Morgan Curry RN, BSN
Unless you have been completely sheltered from the world over the last two years, it is evident that healthcare workers have taken a beating—specifically nurses.
You are also likely aware that nursing burnout is a national healthcare crisis; more nurses are leaving the bedside than ever before.
But, why is this happening? What can be done? How do we prevent further mass exodus?
Are you a nurse that has experienced or is currently experiencing burnout, lack of job satisfaction, or thoughts of not only leaving your job, but leaving the profession entirely?
If so, do not feel guilty. You are not alone; this is the current trend. I was in the same shoes as you not very long ago.
Nurses have dedicated their lives to the service of others, only to be mistreated, under-respected, overworked, and forgotten. Thousands of nurses are either leaving the profession or beginning to question if they were cut out for this career after all.
So, from one nurse, to another, let’s take a look at the logistics as to why the nursing shortage is continuing to ravage
Why Nurses are Leaving the Profession
One of the main contributing factors as to why nurses are leaving the profession is due to their heavy workload. The Patient Safety and Quality: An Evidence-Based Handbook for Nurses highlights that the workload placed upon nurses is heavier than ever before and the consequences are detrimental.
The heavy workload, high staffing ratios, interdisciplinary conflict, and lack of support are factors that continue to contribute to the crisis of nursing burnout. Over 50% of nurses are clinically burnt out, and the RN turnover rate in the United States currently stands at 18.7%.
What is even more astounding is the fact that one in three nurses will leave their positions as a direct result of burnout.
Depression rates for nurses are at an all-time high with a rate of 15-30%, which is significantly higher than the national average of 10%.
Can we blame these nurses for wanting out? Many nurses are coming to realize quality over quantity. They would rather have decreased stress, depression, and anxiety than the money that hospital institutions will give them for “hazard pay.”
Money will only take you so far.
Who will be there to take care of patients when the nurse is having a panic attack and decides to quit her job?
Nursing has always been a stressful occupation. Nurses are faced with difficult decisions and carry the responsibility of human lives in their hands. The recent pandemic has only heightened the stress of the profession.
With increased fatigue, pressure, and severity of patient illnesses, nurses within high-stress environments are more prone to making errors, leaving patients to suffer the consequences.
These statistics seem overwhelming, and no wonder nurses are leaving at unprecedented rates.
Oh, and the Nursing Shortage- To Make Matters Worse
Healthcare administrators have been warning the nursing profession and other members of the healthcare systems for decades about the national nursing shortage. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the issue stems from a projected shortage of RNs.
The Baby Boomer population is aging, and the need for health care is continuing to grow. What is only compounding the problem is that nursing schools are having a hard time expanding their capacity.
With nursing burnout and the ever-growing nursing shortage, why would nurses want to remain in the profession?
What Can Be Done?
Workplace satisfaction is huge. I have left several jobs because the work culture was toxic and I was undervalued, underpaid, and underappreciated. I still loved nursing, but it wasn’t worth it for me.
I am not alone in this feeling. Many nurses are experiencing the same things I was. Their quality of life is more important than the feeling of dread going into a job that they once loved.
Nursing executives and administrators must address the issues related to decreased job satisfaction and address the causes leading to nursing burnout before we have no one left to care for our own family and friends.
Nursing managers must evaluate their leadership teams, staff, and processes in place to ensure that the working environment is a positive, pleasant, and safe place for nurses to work.
If hospital institutions remain complacent with unresolved conflict or managerial issues within their practice, turnover and exodus will continue to occur, the nursing shortage will grow, and the snowball effect will become larger.
Create a culture that supports, empowers, and informs nursing staff to provide safe, efficient, and quality care to patients.
- Increase and encourage effective communication. Nurses want to feel heard.
- Show appreciation. Everyone wants to feel appreciated; it doesn’t necessarily mean a bigger paycheck, but rather, small acts of kindness and respect.
- If you are a nurse considering leaving the profession, think long and hard about your decision. Consider your options. Reflect on the good and the bad times within your career.
Try to remember why you became a nurse. Was it to help others? To save lives? To make an impact or follow the legacy of a loved one?
Think about your passion. You should always have passion for what you are doing; it gives life meaning.
Once you have considered these things, maybe it still means leaving your position, but the possibilities and opportunities in nursing are endless.
If your current nursing role is too stressful or the night shift at the bedside is continuously bogging you down, don’t throw in the towel on your entire career; try switching your role.
It may look a little different, but who knows? It could be the perfect fit for you.
Morgan serves as the Course Curriculum Executive Editor and Content Manager at NursingCECentral.com. Her extensive background in a Level I Trauma Hospital setting provides vast clinical insight into high octane clinical care, along with a deep understanding of specialized areas of nursing such as heart and lung transplants, ECMO, and cardiac surgery recovery.
Morgan’s professional versatility also extends into the highly sought-after field of aesthetic nursing, with comprehensive experience in the Plastic Surgery field; including nurse leadership in PACU, PERI-OP, and OR departments.