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.
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 www.amnhealthcare.com/2017-RNSurvey.