New Survey Shows RNs Happier with Their Careers

By Debra Wood, RN, contributor

December 3, 2012 - Nurses are more satisfied with their careers than last year, yet many still would not recommend the profession to others, according to the AMN Healthcare 2012 Survey of Registered Nurses.

“Nursing has received a lot of attention in the last year, both because of health care reform and the changes that will be occurring with more people having access to care and the need for more nurses,” said Marcia Faller, PhD, RN, AMN’s chief clinical officer and executive vice president. “Coming out of the recession might be part of the improved career satisfaction. Jobs are more plentiful and nurses feel better about nursing in general.”

In addition, Faller said she thought the Institute of Medicine’s Future of Nursing report has contributed to nurses feeling more valued.

AMN distributed the survey in April 2012 to 88,288 registered nurses nationwide who had registered with the internet portals or, and received 2,931 completed responses. Of the respondents, 80 percent of the RNs work full-time, 34 percent had 30 or more years of experience as a nurse, and 57 percent are hospital permanent staff.

Now in its third year, AMN’s annual survey offers a snapshot of current job satisfaction levels among nurses and indicates how the economic recovery may affect future career trajectories. The results of this year’s survey were released at the inaugural Healthcare Workforce Summit, held November 8-9, 2012, in Southlake, Texas.

Ninety-one percent of the RNs said they were satisfied with their careers--up from 74 percent in 2011--but not necessarily their particular job.

“Younger nurses are more pleased with their careers than older nurses,” Faller said.

However, 44 percent either would not choose nursing again or are not sure about the career choice if they were to start over, which is unchanged from the prior year. Additionally, about 40 percent indicated they would not or may not recommend nursing as a career to young people.

“There wasn’t anything extremely surprising in the survey,” said Gay Casey, a consultant with the Transformational Performance Improvement group at BRG, headquartered in Emeryville, Calif. “My clients have indicated recruiting has eased up, and there is a more adequate supply of nurses.”

Casey thought the 91 percent positive response was high, but said nurses feel called to the profession. Yet when they are in the trenches, their mood varies with their current environment.

BRG principal Amy J. Showalter, RN, MBA, added she thought not recommending the career was related to the stress of the job and that young people have so many more career opportunities today.

“Nursing can be financially limiting,” Showalter said. “It’s not a career you will get rich with, and it’s very demanding, with the shift work.”

Sixty-six percent of the nurses surveyed said they plan to continue working in their current role, up from 55 percent in 2011, and 17 percent reported they plan to seek a new place of nursing employment as the economy recovers, down from 24 percent in 2011.

“They know what the conditions are where they are working now and when they move, there’s a chance it will not work out well,” Casey said. “Another thing playing into that is the drastic move of health systems integrating, merging and being acquired. Things could change significantly.”

Thirty-one percent of the responding nurses reported that they planned within the next one to three years to reduce their current workload, such as by switching to a part-time or less-demanding role, retiring or transiting to a non-nursing job.

Casey suspected the huge number of nurses in the 45-year to 55-year age range who need to work 12-hour shifts, on their feet, contributes to that desire to work in a less physically demanding role.

In addition, health care reform will shift more care to ambulatory and home settings, offering opportunities.

“That will offer more alternatives for nurses who want regular schedules and have a balanced lifestyle,” Showalter said. However, that shift and lower reimbursement for hospitals will result in a need to figure out how to deliver acute care more efficiently.

At the same time, 40 percent of the nurses surveyed indicated they planned to pursue additional nursing education within the next one to three years, up from 19 percent last year. Of those, 17 percent will seek a bachelor’s degree, 18 percent a master’s degree and 5 percent a doctorate. AMN concluded that the recent Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommendations to achieve an 80 percent BSN-educated workforce by 2020 could be contributing to that increase.

“There’s a large movement to shift nursing education from lower levels to at minimum a baccalaureate degree,” Faller said.

Casey added that an increase in Magnet-designated facilities, with its focus on more highly educated nurses, also plays a role. Showalter reported that hospitals have become more supportive, with tuition reimbursement and more flexible scheduling, and classes are being offered on weekends and evenings.

Specialty certification also is important for Magnet status, and the survey found 35 percent held certification and 28 percent were considering certification. Faller said younger nurses showed more interest in obtaining certification.

The survey also asked respondents about the quality of care now vs. when they entered the profession and 57 percent said it had declined. Nurses in all age groups indicated they were above neutral or “somewhat agreed” that electronic medical records had positively influenced job satisfaction, quality of patient care, and productivity and time management. Younger nurses rated all three areas more positively than older nurses.

“Electronic health records are not going away,” Faller said. “They are a huge part of tracking quality metrics that are related to upcoming reimbursement changes. Hopefully, as time goes on, these numbers will get more positive.”

Click here to download the full survey.