Christine Kovner, Ph.D.

Nearly 18% of new nurses leave their first job within a year, according to a study in Policy, Politics & Nursing Practice.

Just over a third of registered nurses leave within two years, often for higher-paying jobs in hospitals or private practices. The findings are the result of a longitudinal study by the RN Work Project, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It has surveyed the same cohort of RNs five times since 2006.

The data was collected in an effort to better define turnover, a measure that is often used to assess the job market and working conditions.

“Reported RN turnover rates vary considerably over time, across settings, and by definitions used,” said study authors, who were led by Christine T. Kovner, Ph.D., RN, FAAN. “We argue that much of the difference is because of measurement difference in definitions, response rates, and sample.”

As an example, the authors cited yearly nursing home staff turnover that varied from 21% to 55% between 1983 and 1991.

The authors suggest those reporting turnover be clearer about voluntary vs. involuntary leave and as to whether nurses are changing positions, moving between units/organizations, or leaving the profession. Data also is needed to determine whether staffing issues are due to avoidable turnover or RN shortages.