Insights from the Front Lines: AMN Healthcare 2017 RN Survey

Insights from the Front Lines: AMN Healthcare 2017 RN Survey

In a newly released national survey of registered nurses, data shows that the long-predicted wave of retirements among Baby Boomer nurses is already underway, a trend that will undoubtedly exacerbate existing RN shortages. The survey also showed that an overwhelming majority of RNs expressed a strong desire to see more nurses in health care executive leadership positions. And, approximately half of RNs don’t feel supported by their leaders.

These were just a few of the key insights found in the AMN Healthcare 2017 Survey of Registered Nurses, health care’s innovator in workforce solutions and staffing services.

AMN Healthcare conducts the biennial RN survey to provide the health care industry with immediate and up-to-date information directly from one of the largest and most influential sectors of the health care workforce.

In this ongoing period of transformation nurses surveyed had a lot to say about staff shortages, the delivery of care, and how they feel about their work environment and leadership. The survey was completed in spring 2017 by 3,347 RNs.

The following are some highlights.

Retirement Wave and Nurse Shortage

The aging of America—10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day, according to the Pew Research Center—is affecting the health care landscape in many important ways. Along with pushing patient demand to new heights, a wave of retirements among Baby Boomer nurses—a trend uncovered in the 2015 RN Survey—has taken hold. Among those nurses who say they are planning to retire, 27%—more than one in four—plan to do so in less than a year. That is considerably higher than the 16% in the 2015 survey.

The Baby Boomer retirements are expected to exacerbate nursing shortages, a situation that many RNs feel has worsened over the last five years. In the 2017 RN Survey, 48% said that nurse shortages have gotten worse, compared to 37% in 2015.

2017 RN Survey Chart

Continuing shortages of nurses and intense competition for quality health care professionals are also fueling a national nurse licensure movement, which the 2017 RN Survey showed RNs heavily favor. The Nurse Licensure Compact, launched in 2000 by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, gives eligible RNs the ability to practice in other compact states without having to secure an additional license. Thus far, 26 states have joined.

More Nurse Leaders Wanted

The 2017 RN Survey showed a strong desire for more high-level nurse leaders (82% favored), coupled with a relative lack of interest among many of those surveyed in assuming such positions. Central to the desire to see more RNs in leadership positions was the feeling among many nurses that they are not adequately supported by their current leaders, according to the survey.

Despite this desire for greater nurse representation among executives, 61% said they would not consider moving into a leadership position, though 17% said they already were in such a role. A relatively small percentage (22%) of RNs indicated their interest in entering leadership positions. Reasons given for lack of interest included not wanting to deal with the politics of leadership structure and a desire to remain at the bedside.

A slightly different picture emerges when the numbers are broken down by age group. Millennial nurses (ages 19-36) were significantly more interested in moving into leadership positions, with more than one-third expressing interest. This compared to one-fourth of Gen Xers (ages 37-53) and only 10% of Baby Boomers (ages 54+).  However, Baby Boomer nurses had a much higher percentage of RNs already in leadership positions.

RNs had mixed feelings on trust and other issues regarding their leaders, according to the 2017 RN Survey. When asked whether their leaders were people they trust, good at what they do, care about them, and support their career development, the RN responses were split nearly down the middle. In general, about half of respondents responded positively to questions about their leaders, while the other half responded negatively or weren’t sure. The mixed results suggest that health care providers face challenges in ensuring workers feel cared about and supported by their leadership.

Career Satisfaction vs. Job Satisfaction

A large percentage of nurses (83%) expressed satisfaction with their career choice, and two-thirds said they would recommend nursing to others. Pride in their career was also evident regarding patient care delivery as 73% of nurses said they are satisfied with the quality of care they provide.

Nurses are not quite as happy with their current jobs as they are with their careers—60% said they are satisfied with their jobs. More than half expressed concern that their jobs may be affecting their health—not surprising considering the emotional and physical demands of working as an acute care nurse.

However, when asked whether they would encourage others to enter nursing, 66% of all nurses agreed or strongly agreed that they would. And that percentage was even higher among Millennial nurses. In many sections of the survey, data showed stronger positives among the younger cadre of nurses. While nursing may be facing some challenges in the current era of health care change, the energy of Millennial nurses constitutes a progressive force for the profession and the industry.

To learn more about the 2017 RN Survey, and read our full finding, please visit

Can Travel Nurses Help the Nursing Shortage?

Can Travel Nurses Help the Nursing Shortage?

With nursing shortages a pressing issue throughout pockets of the country, one branch of nursing could help remedy the solution, says Marcia Faller, PhD, RN, and chief clinical officer of AMN Healthcare. Travel nurses can fill short-term needs while organizations are able to assess, stabilize, and hire permanent nurses without compromising patient care during a staffing shortage.

Faller says travel nurses can help fill the gaps while providing high-quality, reliable care. She points to a study slated for summer publication in the peer-reviewed journal, Nurse Leader, that reveals that patient outcomes for travel nurses and staff nurses are no different. In fact, the study asserts, travel nurses might help ease the staffing burdens and contribute to less error and nurse burnout. Using data sources from Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) and National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators (NDNQI®), the study looked at a U.S. hospital to assess patient outcomes when using both core nurses and travel nurses.

According to Faller, most travel nurses work in temporary job assignments of three months at a time. After their rotation is done, they might stay for another three months, sign on for a permanent position, or move on to another assignment in a new location.

It’s very appealing,” says Faller. It’s a quick and easy way to get a new job and gain both professional experience in a new area while also having the chance to travel. Some nurses want to shift their location for a life event—a child is getting married across the country or has a new baby, for instance. Or a nurse from a smaller community might want to gain experience in a larger academic center, Faller says. Maybe they have a list of places they want to see and travel nursing will help them do that while also working at a job they enjoy.

Travel nurses only account for two percent of all nurses, says Faller, but they offer both a distinct nursing career opportunity and a boon for organizations who need more nurses.

Different organizations find travel nurses help their staffing needs in varied ways, says Faller, and help keep the quality of care high. “Travel nurses give them the ability to fill vacancies where they are finding themselves short staffed,” Faller says.

Organizations can fill the positions while continuing to focus on recruiting. Travel nurses are also especially helpful when it comes to covering non-productive hours, says Faller. For instance, known times when nursing staff members are taking PTO, jury duty, has a leave of absence, or even needs educational time off are all good times for travel nurses to fill in. Travel nurses can also help offset overtime costs and hours. “Those have to get covered somehow,” says Faller, and helping ease up on too much staff overtime can also help offset nurse burnout and eventually retain nurses and keep turnover down.

If an organization is launching a new event, like electronic medical records, travel nurses can help cover staffing while regular staff is undergoing training.

And Faller notes that travel nurses are held to the same high standards as staff nurses. They need to have the same credentials as other nurses for whatever location they are going to, she says. And while approximately 25 states are part of the multi-state contract that allows nurses to use one license for many states, the rest of the states do require independent state licenses. Travel nurses also must pass background checks, drug screening, and any other requirements for hiring. And travel nurses are well-educated, she says, with 64 percent of travel nurses having a BSN or higher.

A nurse with a couple of travel experiences under his or her belt has some valuable skills, says Faller. These nurses are adaptive by nature, learning quickly how an operation is run and how to find what they need to do their jobs well.

As the demographics of the country continue to change and become increasingly diverse, travel nurses can help fill a gap and provide a service that many organizations need. Nurses who speak multiple languages or who fit with the cultural background of the patient population being served are especially valuable, says Faller. “There is a large demand for that cultural matching,” she says, noting that even a familiarity with a certain culture can help organizations align with their patient populations in a way that helps everyone.

Whether you are considering travel nursing for a career move or are an administrator assessing the best way to fill in the gaps, travel nursing is an option that’s both viable and valuable.