Serious Nursing Workforce Challenges Require More Action
The American Nurses Foundation (the Foundation) released the results of its fourth mental health and wellness survey as part of the Pulse on the Nation’s Nurses Survey Series. Conducted in May 2023 with more than 7,400 nurses, the findings from this latest comprehensive survey show the nursing profession is still in desperate need of sustained support or the workforce will continue to decline in both well-being and in numbers.
Nurse turnover is still above pre-pandemic levels – five months after the Biden Administration officially ended the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency in May, which led to its announcement of $100 million to grow the nursing workforce in August. The intent to leave remains high among nurse respondents with 20% indicating they changed positions in the past 6 months, and 39% indicating they were likely to leave their current position in the next 6 months. This number is much higher for direct care nurses at 41%.
According to this study, there are three major reasons impacting nurses’ decisions to leave the profession or change positions: insufficient staffing, feeling unvalued by their organization, and inadequate compensation. Insufficient staffing was a top reason selected by nurses who have less than 10 years of experience in the profession. However, when asked what aspects of clinical work lead to joy, 55% said, “feeling like I’m making a difference”.
This Nation’s Nurses Survey Series continues to illustrate the magnitude of burnout nurses are experiencing. This results in everything from being overworked and understaffed to working in unsafe and unsupportive work environments. The findings in this survey call for renewed attention and continued action to address today’s challenging nursing workforce dynamics. Fifty-six percent of nurses are experiencing burnout, including emotional exhaustion, and 64% say they feel “a great deal of stress because of their job.” Positive emotions and feelings of empowerment among nurses are on the decline while these negative feelings of stress and anxiety remain consistently high.
One of the reasons nurses are experiencing these negative emotions and mental health challenges are due to inadequate and unsafe work environments. In fact, 40% of nurses in this survey felt poor control over their workload and said their day-to-day work as hectic or intense. To make matters worse, 2/3 of nurses who said they are suffering mental anguish or toxic emotions are either not seeking or not receiving mental health support, and 56% say there is stigma as a health care provider associated with receiving mental health care.
“Another year, and sadly another disturbing report on the state of nursing. What we’re finding year-over-year is that not much has changed since the start of the pandemic, which to me is the most alarming finding from this report. Another disturbing statistic is that younger nurses and less tenured nurses – a key demographic in shoring up the nursing pipeline – are more negatively affected by burnout, turnover and mental health challenges,” said Executive Director of the American Nurses Foundation Kate Judge. “What nurses need now is a radical transformation in all levels of support and resources they receive. We need everyone in positions of power and decision-making ability to invest in nursing. The fate of our health care system depends on it.”
The Foundation will continue to work on behalf of the nation’s nurses through its programmatic work and advocacy to address the burnout and mental health challenges nurses are facing. Groundbreaking new programs such as the Stress & Burnout Prevention Pilot Program are seeking to transform organizational culture to remove the stigma around seeking mental health support. The Foundation also provides resources and support through its Well-Being Initiative for all nurses as they seek to overcome the stress caused by various workforce challenges. Read the full report here.