A new survey reveals the alarming impact of the pandemic on the nursing profession, raising concerns for the future of healthcare
Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 100,000 nurses have quit their jobs due to stress and burnout, according to a recent survey conducted by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Furthermore, an additional 800,000 nurses expressed their intent to leave the profession by 2027. With a total of 6.2 million registered nurses in the U.S., the survey found that one in five nurses plans to retire or exit the industry within the next five years.
Survey Findings: Age and Experience as Contributing Factors
The survey revealed that older and more experienced nurses are more likely to consider leaving the profession in the near future. Over 600,000 nurses with more than 10 years of experience anticipate departing the industry by 2027 due to stress, compared to just under 200,000 nurses with less than 10 years of experience.
Impact of the Pandemic on Workloads and Emotional Health
A staggering 62 percent of nurses reported that their workload increased during the pandemic, with approximately 50 percent stating they felt emotionally drained at work. Furthermore, 49 and 45 percent of respondents reported feeling fatigued or burnt-out, respectively.
Nursing Unions, Strikes, and Calls for Better Working Conditions
Workforce fatigue has become a rallying point for nursing unions, leading to several large-scale strikes across the nation in recent years. For instance, a significant strike in New York City earlier this year saw nurses demand better pay and working conditions.
New York AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento commented on the treatment of nurses during the strikes, stating, “The hospitals’ treatment of these nurses is proof that all their words of adulation for their healthcare heroes during the pandemic were hollow.” Cilento called for fair treatment, dignity, and respect for nurses to ensure they can continue providing quality care to their communities.
The strike concluded with a tentative deal guaranteeing increased staff ratios, addressing nurses’ concerns about being stretched too thin by low staffing numbers.
Moreover, a series of strikes impacted California hospitals last year, including an 8,000-strong strike at Sutter Health facilities and a 5,000-nurse strike at Stanford’s health facilities in April. In September, approximately 15,000 nurses in the Twin Cities area went on strike for three days.
Implications and Future Concerns
The growing trend of nurses leaving the workforce due to stress and burnout has serious implications for the healthcare industry. With an aging population and increasing demand for healthcare services, the loss of experienced nurses could place an undue burden on the remaining workforce and compromise the quality of patient care.
To mitigate the potential crisis, healthcare institutions and policymakers must address the issues that contribute to nurses’ burnout and dissatisfaction. This may include:
- Implementing fair compensation packages and benefits
- Ensuring adequate staffing levels to reduce workloads
- Providing mental health support and resources for nurses
- Developing and enforcing safety protocols and guidelines to protect nurses’ well-being
In conclusion, the alarming exodus of nurses from the workforce due to stress and burnout amid the COVID-19 pandemic raises serious concerns for the future of healthcare. To address this critical issue, healthcare institutions and policymakers must work together to improve working conditions and prioritize the mental and emotional well-being of nurses, ensuring they can continue providing the highest level of care for patients in the years to come.