Fully two-thirds of nurses are now considering leaving the profession, a survey released earlier this month from staffing firm Cross Country Healthcare has found. 

The survey, conducted in partnership with Florida Atlantic University’s College of Nursing, sought to identify root causes of the current stressors among healthcare professionals, including those in long-term care, and provide actionable areas to help improve nursing satisfaction, career outlook and mental well-being.

The biggest pain point: career satisfaction. Just 32% of nurses surveyed said they are very satisfied with their occupation, compared to 52% who said the same prior to the pandemic, according to the survey. The nursing shortage and inadequate staffing levels top the list of contributors to the low satisfaction rate. In addition, nearly 37% of nurses identified as being burned out, stressed and/or overworked.

The survey also pinpointed areas of change that nurses believe would positively affect the profession. These include incorporating new staffing approaches and increasing wages. For instance, 97% of participants agree, and 81% completely agree, that increases to pay rates and other incentives would attract and retain nurses. More than half (58%) say that telehealth should be a cornerstone of care delivery and 85% believe that the healthcare industry must improve cross-training to adapt to crisis events. Additionally, the majority of nurses (85%) strongly believe national licensure, a multistate license that would allow nurses to practice across state lines, would have greatly benefited the country during the pandemic.

“Our nurses are the backbone of the healthcare system and if too many leave or decide not to pursue a career in nursing, the consequences would be catastrophic,” said Safiya George, Ph.D., APRN-BC, FAANP, dean and professor at FAU’s College of Nursing. “Our nurses need solutions, many of them outlined in this research, that will ease burnout and reduce stress, as well as help them enjoy long-term and satisfying careers.”

The two organizations collected 570 responses from nurses throughout the profession — including those working in assisted living, nursing homes and within home health — between May and June of this year.