Half of nurses said they're thinking of quitting the profession within 2 years in a survey. Higher pay and better staffing could convince them to stay.

nurses covid-19 surge
Healthcare staff say they're feeling burned out and emotionally exhausted after working during the pandemic. Mario Tama/Getty Images
  • Half of nurses said in a survey they were considering leaving the profession.

  • More than 90% said a shortage of nurses had made their job worse.

  • Many said that better pay could convince them to stay.

About half of US nurses said they may leave the profession within the next two years in a new survey.

In the survey of 250 nurses by ShiftMed, an on-demand staffing platform that connects nurses to healthcare facilities, 20% said they were either extremely or very likely to leave the profession within two years.

In total, 49% said that they were at least somewhat likely to leave. ShiftMed ran the poll between September 16 and 28.

Healthcare staff say they're feeling burned out and emotionally exhausted after working during the pandemic, often in difficult working environments. Nurses say they've seen more physical and verbal abuse from agitated patients, Insider's Allana Akhtar reported.

Some hospitals are having to limit how many patients they treat because of understaffing. The CEO of TaraVista Behavioral Health Center in Massachusetts told Bloomberg earlier in October that nearly a quarter of its beds were empty because of the labor shortage.

Ninety-one percent of the respondents to ShiftMed's survey said they'd been negatively affected by the nurse shortage.

Just over half, or 52%, said they'd had to work more hours or longer shifts, while 45% said they've been given larger patient loads than was feasible. A similar proportion said that the shortage had affected their mental health and that they were worried patients weren't getting the right care.

Of the nurses who told ShiftMed they may quit, 38% said they would switch to non-patient-facing roles in healthcare, while 31% said they'd leave the industry altogether. Around one in eight of the group said they'd go to college or a technical school so they could retrain for a different industry.

When these nurses were asked what would convince them to stay in the field, 59% said higher pay. The next most common reasons were better staffing levels so that patient care improved, more paid time-off, and a more cooperative work environment.

Some nurses said better shifts, a more flexible schedule, and fewer working hours could convince them to stay, too.

Just over 20 million Americans worked in the healthcare and social-assistance industry in September, per preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is around 728,000 fewer workers than in February 2020.

Some state and healthcare officials have warned that COVID-19 vaccine mandates could exacerbate staffing shortages. Houston Methodist Hospital, which mandated the shot for its staff, said in June that 153 workers quit or were fired over the policy, while Northwell Health, New York's largest healthcare provider, said earlier this month that it had fired 1,400 employees who refused to get vaccinated.

ShiftMed's survey shows that vaccine mandates remain divisive among nurses. Twenty-three percent of nurses said they'd be more likely to stay if their employer introduced a COVID-19 vaccine mandate, while 19% said they'd be more likely to stay if their employer scrapped their vaccine mandate.

Expanded Coverage Module: what-is-the-labor-shortage-and-how-long-will-it-last

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