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Study: Nurses are exhausted, and many want to leave their jobs

A recent American Nurses Foundation study found nurses are tired of current working conditions and thinking of leaving the job amid the shortage.
Posted at 8:24 PM, Mar 01, 2023

Burnout has always been a part of nursing, stemming from mentally and physically tough environments along with long hours and a pre-pandemic nursing shortage that has exploded post-COVID.

"We definitely need to be rethinking about what's creating this shortage and what are ways that we can alleviate this problem," said Karl Minges, chair of the department of population health and leadership at the University of New Haven. 

A study from the American Nurses Foundation released in February found 57% of 12,581 surveyed nurses said they had felt "exhausted" over the course of two weeks, 43% claimed they felt “burned out," and just 20% said they felt valued.

"There's some factors, like workplace safety, that also come into play, as well as just general behaviors of patients and and nurses feeling disrespected or that they're not seen as the equivalent of another health care provider," Minges said.

Minges also adds that some hospitals changed nurse-to-patient ratios, meaning caring for more patients.

Forty-three percent of those surveyed by the American Nurses Foundation said they were thinking about switching jobs.

Quitting has crossed the mind of Dominique Hamilton. She graduated from nursing school in 2017.

Nurses walk through a hospital hallway.

Finding solutions to address nursing shortage

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"I thought it would be a beautiful profession to do that for other people," she said.

Hamilton now works as a nurse in the ICU at St. Mary's Hospital in Arizona, but she says there's less of a team now as the nurse shortage grows. 

"What is more difficult is not having the support of our facility, our administrators in order to give us the resources that we need to work well," Hamilton said. "We need more nurses, and we need better working conditions to get more nurses."

Minges says the interest in the field is not the issue: There were 60,000 qualified nursing applicants turned away from nursing schools in 2022, according to the American Nurses Association, because class space wasn't available.

"The reality is, is that there is a severe nursing shortage in large part because we can't train enough nurses," Minges said.

As more nurses leave the profession, schools are not producing enough graduates to fill the gap.

Minges says there’s still time to change things for the better. 

"One is, of course, better pay, right?" Minges said. "Secondarily, you could invoke better work-life balance through having more flexible schedules. Thirdly, we could invoke training for nurses to achieve mindfulness and de-stressing activities while in that position."

But it requires a lot of work, and the reality is, for some, change may not come soon enough.

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