2010 Survey of Registered Nurses: Job Satisfaction and Career Plans.- AMN Healthcare

November 14, 2012

2010 Survey of Registered Nurses: Job Satisfaction and Career Plans

Nearly one-third of registered nurses (RNs) surveyed last month say they will not be working in their current job a year from now and close to half say they plan to alter their career path in the next one to three years that would either take them out of the nursing field entirely or reduce their contribution to direct patient care by working fewer hours or choosing a less demanding role. These are among key findings from AMN's 2010 Survey of Registered Nurses: Job Satisfaction and Career Plans. The survey, which collected data from 1,399 respondents, was conducted during a period of economic recession and in the course of an ongoing national debate over healthcare reform. The survey reflects how RNs may have altered their career plans due to the recession, how they might respond to an economic recovery, and highlights whether they believe healthcare reform will address the nurse shortage.


The United States is in the midst of a nursing shortage that promises to become more acute over the next 15 years. The shortage has been eased to some extent by the recession, which has reduced utilization of medical services at many health care facilities and has prompted many nurses who had migrated from the nursing profession to return. Nevertheless, the long-term trends driving the nursing shortage persist. 

Among these trends is the aging of the patient population. In 2011, the first wave of some 75 million baby boomers will begin turning 65. Florida, the oldest state in the union based on average population age (median age is about 44), is a demographic bellwether. The U.S. Census bureau projects that by 2030 the entire country will be as old, on average, as the population of Florida is now. And, by 2030, in six states, more than one in every four residents will be 65 and older (Florida, Wyoming, Maine, New Mexico, Montana and North Dakota). 

An older population uses health care services at a considerably higher rate than a younger one, studies show. For every one visit a person 25 years old or younger makes to a physician, a person 65 years old or older makes over three visits (Department of Health and Human Services/Bureau of Health Professions 2008 Ambulatory Care Survey). 

Just as the general population is aging, so too is the nursing workforce. Fifty-five percent of nurses actively involved in patient care are 45 years old or older. Thirty-six percent are 50 years old or older. The nation’s ability to train new nurses to replace older, retiring nurses is significantly compromised by a dearth of faculty members at nurse training programs.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), in 2009, some 40,000 qualified candidates were turned away from four-year nursing education programs. The reasons for turning students away were due to insufficient faculty available at the programs (60.7%), and not enough clinical placement sites (61%).

A new trend that will only add to the problems in educating nurses was the influence of the economy on state budgets. State funding cuts were the primary reason for turning away qualified candidates from nursing (AACN) programs in 31.3% of programs surveyed, up from 14.8% in 2008. As a result, current projections for 2025 indicate a shortage of between 260,000 (Peter I. Buerhaus, “The Recent Surge in Nurse Employment: Causes and Implications,” June 2009) to 1 million (2004 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) nurses.

The career plans, satisfaction levels, and professional concerns of registered nurses are, therefore, of considerable importance in assessing current and future nurse staffing needs.

In the next one to three years, will a significant number of nurses opt to seek employment outside of nursing, shift to part-time roles, retire or otherwise alter their career plans? If the economy recovers, what sort of turnover should health facilities expect among their nursing staff? Do nurses themselves perceive that there is a shortage of professionals in their field, and would they recommend nursing as a career to others?