Third of nurses plan to leave their jobs in 2022, survey finds

Burnout and stress from working throughout the COVID-19 pandemic are taking a major toll on nurses and it could lead many of them to quit their jobs.

More than one-third (34%) of nurses say it's very likely that they will leave their roles by the end of 2022 and 44% cited burnout and a high-stress environment as the reason for their desire to leave, according to a new survey by technology-based nursing hiring platform Incredible Health. Nurses cited benefits and pay are the second leading reason (27%) for quitting their jobs.

This comes as experts say the pipeline of new doctors and nurses alike is insufficient to meet the growing demands of 2022 and beyond.

The company analyzed data from more than 400,000 Incredible Health nurse profiles and surveyed more than 2,500 registered nurses in the U.S. in February 2022.

Not all nurses who plan to quit their jobs plan to leave the nursing field, the survey found, as 40% plan to pursue a nursing role elsewhere. Nearly a third (32%) of nurses plan to leave the field altogether or retire.

The survey also found that 42% of nurses started a new nursing role since January 2021. The main reason they moved to a new role was higher pay (58% reported this was their motivating factor). Other reasons for the change include a search for a different role (33%), an improved schedule (31%), their preferred location (25%), career advancement or training opportunities (24%) and better staffing overall (24%). 

Along with increased stress, nurses also are fighting discrimination and assault on the front lines. Two-thirds of nurses (65%) report they had been verbally or physically assaulted by a patient or a patient’s family member within the last year. Anger around hospital' COVID-19 guidelines (52%) and frustration around staffing/care (47%) were the contributing factors to this aggression.

A third (32%) said they had experienced discrimination and/or racism in the workplace. While most of this discrimination was from patients and their families (46%), co-workers and supervisors were also reported as a source. 

To attract and retain nurses, health systems are offering sign-on bonuses rather than higher salaries, the survey found. Proprietary salary data showed small changes to hourly rates nationally, but a 162% increase in total offers with signing bonuses. Florida had the highest average sign-on bonus at $13,095.

California continues to have the highest average salary, according to Incredible Health data, which sits about 20% higher than the national average of $80,010.

In Texas, sign-on bonuses in the state nearly doubled from an average of $5,800 to $10,700 in the past year. In 2021, nearly three out of five (58%) offers in Texas had bonuses compared to less than one in five (16%) the year before.

The healthcare industry is facing a significant labor crunch. Workforce shortages—and their effect on staffing costs—have been front of mind for many in the healthcare industry, Fierce Healthcare's Dave Muoio reports.

The hospital subsector’s workforce has dipped nearly 90,000 people since March of 2020, according to preliminary November data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among nurses alone, the American Nurses Association expects there will be more than 100,000 registered nursing jobs available annually by next year.

Last fall, the ANA penned a letter to a top federal healthcare official urging the administration to declare a national nurse staffing crisis and adopt new policies to shore up the workforce. The nursing field needs outside help to tackle the broad issues of workforce retention, nurses’ mental well-being and limited education of new nursing students, among other issues, the organization said.

89% of nurses surveyed have received one or more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 73% last year. This is good news on the vaccine front, as at this time last year, 33% of nurses who had not been vaccinated reported that they didn’t plan to take the vaccine at all.

The increased use of travel nurses throughout the pandemic remains a flashpoint issue among clinical staff. The majority of nurses (77) report seeing an increase in travel nurses in their unit during the past year. A third of nurses in permanent roles (32%) said that this increase made them feel dissatisfied or extremely dissatisfied.

Compensation is the heart of the issue, the survey found with 86% of nurses reporting that compensation differences were the leading cause of their dissatisfaction with travel nurses, who are often highly paid by temporary staffing agencies to solve critical gaps. Additionally, nearly half (47%) believed the quality of patient care suffers from this kind of temporary staffing.

Nurses' unions are getting more active with labor campaigns as two years of pandemic hardships have raised tensions between the healthcare workforce and their employers.  Staffing shortages, pay and safety issues have been the impetus behind demonstrations at health systems, one of the most notable of which was a 10-month strike at Tenet Healthcare-owned St. Vincent Hospital in Massachusetts that was backed by the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

Vaccine mandates and campaigns to encourage clinical staff to get immunized against COVID-19 appear to have been successful among the nursing workforce. Close to 9 out of 10 nurses (89%) have received one or more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 73% last year. At this time last year, 33% of nurses who had not been vaccinated reported that they didn’t plan to take the vaccine at all, according to Incredible Health.

Nearly a fourth (23%) of nurses reported that they had been asked to work while being positive for COVID-19. Another 38% have had to use vacation days and/or sick days to stay home.

Two-thirds (66%) of nurses reported that they do not feel adequately appreciated by their local community for their role in battling COVID-19.

The report outlined steps health systems can take to support their nursing workforce. Organizations should provide clear career advancement opportunities, skill growth and training and offer more flexible scheduling options. Health systems also need to offer competitive pay, encourage better teamwork and transparency and offer stronger management training.

The report recommends that managers provide more clarity on career mobility and training opportunities, include nurses in decision making and governance and ensure staff members are taking breaks.