Post-pandemic burnout could cause hundreds of thousands of nurses to quit the profession entirely in the next few years, according to a survey published in the Journal of Nursing Regulation.
The study, “Examining the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on burnout and stress among U.S. nurses”, analyzed a subset of data taken from nearly 30,000 registered nurses and advanced practice registered nurses and just over 24,000 licensed practical nurses from 45 states who participated in the 2022 National Nursing Workforce Survey.
The key takeaway from the report was that 20 percent of nurses could quit their jobs by 2027.
The researchers found that 62 percent of nurses experienced a higher workload during the pandemic. Nearly 51 percent said they felt emotionally drained, 45.1 percent said they were burned out, and 56.4 percent reported feeling “used up.” Nearly 30 percent said they felt like they were at the end of their rope either every day or a few times per week. These problems were more prevalent in nurses with less than 10 years of experience in the profession.
“High workloads and unprecedented levels of burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic have stressed the U.S. nursing workforce, particularly younger, less experienced RNs.”
So far, the U.S. has seen 100,000 nurses leave the workforce during the pandemic, and a further 800,000 could walk away in the next few years. According to the National Council on State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), more than 600,000 nurses with more than 10 years of experience with an average age of 57 reported they intend to quit by 2027 due to burnout, stress or retirement; 189,000 nurses with 10 or fewer years of experience and an average age of 36 said the same.
This mass exodus would have a significant effect on healthcare. One of the study’s authors, Maryann Alexander, a chief officer of nursing regulation for the NCSBN, said the findings surprised her, particularly the feelings of younger nurses. When the industry is forced to depend on less-experienced nurses to serve as leaders, managers and mentors, it could have a big impact on the quality of care.
“It will send us into a health care crisis of huge proportions,” she noted. She added that although young nurses do sometimes leave their jobs to obtain more advanced degrees, young nurses do not leave the job due to burnout and stress under normal circumstances.
Some nurses are complaining that hospitals place profits over people
In January, more than 7,000 nurses went on strike to draw attention to their working conditions in New York. One union official who addressed the crowd, Danny Fuentes, explained the dire situation many nurses are experiencing.
He said: “Time and time again, we are forced to take unsafe patient loads. We are humans, and we are burnt out. And we are tired. And the hospital doesn’t seem to care. All they see are profits. We don’t want to be out here. We would much rather be with our patients. We need a fair contract to protect our patients.”
A different study carried out by AMN Healthcare found that 60 percent of nurses are planning to change their job status within the coming year. Meanwhile, just a third report having an ideal amount of time to spend with patients; this is a drop of 10 percentage points since 2021.
After surveying more than 18,000 nurses, they found that declining job satisfaction among nurses is a major factor, including satisfaction with the quality of care they are able to provide to patients due to time constraints and post-pandemic nurse shortages. Just half of nurses said they would encourage other people to enter the field, marking a 14 percentage point drop from 2021.
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