Nearly 30% of nurses plan to leave the profession

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The past two years have been tough for nurses, and research from shows just how true that is: In the “Nurses Salary Research Report,” 29% of nurses said they were considering leave the profession, a sharp increase from the 11% who were considering such a decision in the 2020 survey.

Among respondents, 4% said they worked as travel nurses, and 62% of them became travel nurses in 2020 or 2021. Higher salary far outweighed all other reasons for becoming a travel nurse, followed by dissatisfaction with management.

Higher pay and dissatisfaction with management were also key drivers of nurses changing work settings in 2020 or 2021, with 28% saying they had changed settings. The percentage of nurses considering changing employers has increased from 11% in 2020 to 17% in 2021, while the percentage of nurses who are passive job seekers – not actively seeking a new job but open to new opportunities – has also increased from 38% in 2020 to 47% in the current survey.

Part of the problem is that nursing shortages have reached crisis levels, according to the report. Nursing shortages are nothing new, but the pandemic has made the problem even worse.

The vacancy rate for registered nurses was almost 10% in 2020, for example, almost a point higher than the previous year. More than a third of hospitals reported a vacancy rate above 10%. And the turnover rate for nurses is increasing, standing at around 22% in 2021, up from 18% in 2019.

It takes an average of three months to recruit a qualified nurse to fill a vacant position, a period that is expected to increase following the disruptions caused by COVID-19, according to the data.

The survey found that 90% of nurse leaders anticipate staffing shortages after the pandemic, and hospital CEOs rank staffing shortages as their top concern. The American Nurses Association recently called on the US Department of Health and Human Services to “declare the current and unsustainable nursing shortage facing our country as a national crisis.”


Among other findings, the survey showed that the gender pay gap among RNs is widening. The median male RN salary is $14,000 higher than the median female RN salary — a gap that was $7,297 in the 2020 survey.

Thirty percent of nurses said they never negotiated their salary compared to 18% who said they always did. Female RNs were less likely to negotiate their salary always or most of the time (31%) compared to male RNs (40%). Given the current demand for nurses and the commitment of many healthcare organizations to invest in their core nursing workforce as the pandemic wanes, nurses are well positioned to negotiate better salaries, the report says. .

Good news emerged from the survey of nurses – wages are up for most groups. The median RN salary was $78,000, a substantial increase from the median RN salary of $73,000 reported in the 2020 edition. The median salary is also up for other license types, with an increase of $13,000 for APRN and $3,000 for LPN/LVN.

RNs who work in Region 3 of the American Hospital Association — which covers Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington DC — have seen their pay cut, however.

When asked if the pandemic had affected their salaries, 25% of all nurses surveyed noted increases in their salaries and 9% noted decreases.

Healthcare organizations have also learned hard lessons during the pandemic: To maintain sufficient staff in facilities, they have paid a premium for traveling nurses, on top of overtime and essential staff pay. The lesson many organizations have learned is that it is ultimately more cost-effective and sustainable to make long-term investments in their core nursing workforce.

Healthcare leaders are taking a number of steps in this direction, offering things like higher wages, more flexible working hours, signing bonuses and relocation packages, loan forgiveness and improved benefits. .


When the ANA called on HHS to declare the nursing shortage a national crisis, it cited COVID-19 as a complicating factor that exacerbated underlying chronic nursing shortage issues. While the initial focus at the start of the pandemic was on equipment shortages and the shortage of ventilators and personal protective equipment, the ANA said the focus must now be on the shortage of human resources , which the band called “more serious” and potentially threatening. to patient care.

The group provided figures that highlight the scale of the challenge. Mississippi, for example, has seen a decrease of 2,000 nurses since the start of 2021, while hospitals in Tennessee are operating with 1,000 fewer staff than at the start of the pandemic, prompting them to call in the National Guard. for reinforcements.

At the same time, Texas is recruiting 2,500 nurses from out of state, a number that will always fall short of projected demand; while Louisiana had more than 6,000 unfilled nursing positions statewide before the Delta variant caused an increase in cases.

An April survey by the American Nurses Foundation found that the pandemic is prompting 92% of nurses to consider leaving the workforce. Almost half cite lack of staff as one of the main reasons.

Hospitals are experiencing nursing shortages for a number of reasons, including the possibility that nurses will receive $150 per hour to be a traveling nurse, compared to $48 per hour for hospital staff.

In other cases, nurses had to choose between working and having children at home while schools did not hold in-person sessions. Some nurses nearing retirement have chosen to leave while others have left to work outside of acute care facilities.

Twitter: @JELagasse
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