Survey: Nurses Share Reasons Why They Leave (and How You Can Retain Them)


Want to know why nurses leave the industry, and perhaps more importantly, how to keep them? A recent study conducted by Beacon Research for the Massachusetts Nurses Association provides some answers. The survey asked RNs a wide range of questions about the state of healthcare, their experiences with patient care, (including their experiences working through COVID) and other challenges they are facing. Imbedded in the findings are some indications as to why nurses are leaving the profession and what could be done to help them stay.

Nurses were asked about the biggest challenges they face. Here’s what topped the list:

  • A majority (71%) said not having enough time to provide quality care. That’s a record high for the survey, up from 60% saying the same thing last year.
  • Further, 67% say not having enough time with patients and 63% say having too many patients at one time are the major challenges they face.
  • Pay and benefits factor in prominently as well, as 64% list inadequate pay and benefits as a challenge. That’s up from roughly half (48%) last year, and nearly one-third (27%) in 2019.

There’s another clear finding in the study as well; nurses want more help. Almost 7-in-10 (69%) say understaffing is the biggest obstacle to providing quality care. Nearly the same amount, 71%, say their employer did a fair or poor job providing the staffing levels needed to properly care for COVID patients, a 12-point jump from last year.

COVID Concerns

The last few years cannot be considered normal conditions in healthcare. Most any survey conducted during that time should be viewed through a pandemic lens. It has affected everything, including nurses’ emotional health, and that shows up in the survey results.

The pandemic has taken its toll on nurses both professionally as well as emotionally. More than half, 56%, said their employers did a poor job providing the emotional and psychological support nurses need to deal with in the wake of the pandemic. Half of the nurses (51%) surveyed say their employers are doing a poor job providing ongoing emotional support services as well, which is a 13-point increase from 2021.

Time off is an issue. More than six-in-ten (62%) nurses now believe their employers are doing a poor job providing adequate time off to deal with the impact of working during COVID, which is an eight-point increase from 2021. In addition, 25% of nurses said they plan to reduce their hours because of their experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic, and one-quarter of nurses surveyed also said they may leave the field of nursing within two years or less.

What Can Be Done to Retain Nurses?

The survey asked the 25% of nurses who said they plan to leave the profession within two years what could be done to keep them from resigning. Salary and staffing topped the list. Specifically:

  • A majority (69%) of them identified salary increases as the number one benefit that employers could offer that would keep them from resigning.
  • Additionally, half (53%) said having enough ancillary staff would prevent them from leaving.
  • Also, 49% said that limits on the number of patients that can be seen at once would also keep them from resigning.
  • Other incentives named included additional benefits, including time off benefits (44%) and pension benefits (41%).

Even though nurses remain dedicated to patient care, many feel exhausted by their work. Consider that while 95% of nurses surveyed said they always or sometimes look forward to being able to help their patients, 94% said they always or sometimes feel emotionally drained from work, and 65% reported feeling disengaged from their work.

So, how can nurses be kept in the industry? Among the surveyed nurses, 80% said they wanted more time off to recuperate, and 41% responded there is a need for counseling services and 39% reported they would benefit from support groups.

Addressing the concerns expressed by nurses can help health systems retain and attract talented clinicians. If you’re unsure how to start, Medical Solutions can help provide strategic planning on what it takes to win talent in a tight labor market. Start a conversation today and we will show you how your healthcare system can identify, address, or prevent any potential gaps in staffing, through expansive nationwide reach, human-first service and efficient technology.

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