Image of female nurse using telephone in office

Nurses rank staffing shortages as the top cause of burnout and attrition dogging their profession, according to a new survey conducted in the United States.

Investigators from Florida Atlantic University and workforce solutions company Cross Country Healthcare, Inc. found that more than half of 1,500 nursing professionals and students surveyed nationally cited insufficient staffing to meet demand. Respondents linked this issue to feelings of overwork and poor mental health as well, with 71% saying that understaffing is the key reason for these troubles.

Respondents said they are passionate about their work and appreciate earning a good income, but 46% reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety, 35% reported having insomnia and 32% had feelings of depression. Despite these revelations, 83% of the employed nurses surveyed said they do not participate in counseling or well-being services, even when employers offer these services. In addition, 55% said that a lack of workplace support resources exacerbates their mental health problems.

Decision to leave

These problems may be fueling the choice of many nurses to quit. Only one-third of survey respondents said that they plan to remain in the profession, and about one-fourth plan to leave in one to two years. 

The pandemic has played a major part in their discontent as well, with 2 in 5 saying that COVID-19 stressors have substantially increased their desire to leave their jobs. 

A breaking point

“We had hoped that at this point past the pandemic, we would see improvement in the sentiment of our nurses, but that’s simply not the case,” said John A. Martins, president and CEO of Cross Country Healthcare. He added, “[T]he profession has reached a breaking point, and it is well past time that industry leaders come together to create reform to revitalize this essential profession.” 

The United States Health Resources & Services Administration has projected a national shortage of 63,720 full-time registered nurses by 2030 that will continue to rise, the researchers reported.

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