School Nurses: Unhappiest Nurses in U.S.

 In Nurses Weekly

School nurses topped this year’s list of the unhappiest nursing jobs in the U.S., as tracked by Nursing Process, followed closely by hospital staff nurses, emergency room nurses and substance abuse nurses.

The rankings looked at a number of different factors, including salary, potential for upward mobility, stress level, work-life balance and feelings of appreciation.

School nurses had been among the “happiest” strains of the profession in previous rankings, but this year the category takes the unhappy throne due principally to the COVID-19 pandemic, which Nursing Process estimates has increased school nurse workload by as much as threefold. These nurses have been tasked with constantly checking ill students and sending them home for extended periods due to stringent COVID-19 regulations, and they’ve also been responsible for conducting all contact tracing.

“Being the hub of ‘Covid central’ and the constant bearer of bad news has made the job of a school nurse quite labor-intensive and dissatisfying,” the ranking found.


The number two job on the unhappy list, hospital staff nurse, is consistently one of the unhappiest jobs in the field. In addition to working long hours on their feet with required rotating shifts and weekends, staff nurses have often been overworked and understaffed, a problem that has only been made worse by the “Great Resignation,” which hit healthcare especially hard.

Emergency nursing, on the other hand, can be exciting but exhausting due to the constant hustle and bustle of caring for people at their worst, the report found. Due to the unpredictable nature of the work, it can also be dangerous: Criminals, drug seekers and the intoxicated can walk through the doors at any time, and ER nurses are there to treat them.

Drugs are also one of the factors contributing to the stress level of substance abuse nurses, which ranked at fourth this year. The report describes dealing with addicted people as “frustrating” at times, and occasionally dangerous, because oftentimes people in recovery facilities don’t want to be there. This also means substance abuse nurses’ work is often not appreciated by patients, who can be uncooperative and create a dismal work environment.

Fifth on the list are correctional nurses, whose patients are typically not a happy bunch – contributing to the stress level of the position. Day-to-day work includes treating injuries from fights, helping addicted people detox from drugs and caring for people who in some cases haven’t tended to their physical wellbeing in years. All that combines to create a harsh work environment.

Rounding out the top 10, in descending order, are nurse educators, nurse managers, home health nurses, insurance physical nurses and nursing home RNs.


Nurses nationwide are feeling slightly better about their jobs these days, with a May survey showing that 60% still love being a nurse. But 62% are still concerned about the future of nursing.

The numbers are an improvement from 2021, but nurses are still reporting high levels of burnout, mental health issues and lack of support, among other hardships. About 39% of them said they were dissatisfied with their current job, though this answer varied based on education level and specialty.

Staffing issues and an ongoing nursing shortage continue to cause challenges for the nation’s nursing workforce. A full 91% of respondents believe the nursing shortage is getting worse and that burnout, poor working conditions and inadequate pay are the primary causes.

Meanwhile, 79% said their units are inadequately staffed, while 71% said improving staffing ratios would have the greatest impact on the nursing shortage.

In the 2022 Nurse Salary Research Report, 29% of nurses said they were considering leaving the profession, a steep rise from the 11% who were considering such a move in the 2020 survey.

(This story originally appeared in Healthcare Finance News.)

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