Generational Differences in Job Satisfaction & Career Plans

By Debra Wood, RN, contributor

October 25, 2013 - The vast majority of nurses remain very satisfied with their choice of nursing as a career, according to the new 2013 Survey of Registered Nurses by AMN Healthcare.

Marcia Faller: AMN Healthcare's Survey of Registered Nurses measured job satisfaction.
Marcia Faller, PhD, RN, chief clinical officer for AMN Healthcare, said that of the 3,400 nurses surveyed, 9 out of 10 are satisfied with their career choice, but 1 out of every 3 are unhappy with their current job.

“A little more than 90 percent of the nurses were satisfied with their career, however, not necessarily with their current job,” said Marcia Faller, PhD, RN, senior vice president and chief clinical officer of AMN Healthcare, which surveyed more than 3,400 nurses for its most recent annual report.

The 2013 survey found that only 73 percent of nurses were satisfied with their current jobs, with 35 percent saying they often feel like resigning and 33 percent indicating if they had their way, they would not be working in their current job a year from now. Both percentages are up from responses in 2012. Older nurses were more likely to think about resigning or changing jobs. Males are more likely than female to plan on leaving their jobs in the year ahead.

Twenty-three percent of nurses age 55 or older plan to change their work life in the near future: 13 percent plan to retire, 3 percent plan to take a non-nursing job and 7 percent plan to work part-time. Younger and mid-career nurses will not retire nor will many reduce the hours they work.

“When large numbers of nurses feel comfortable enough to retire, it could mean a significant change in the supply of nurses able to work,” Faller said. “It also could create a ‘brain drain.’”

Faller reported that this is the first time in the four years that AMN has conducted the survey that they have seen a large jump in the number of older nurses planning to retire.

Generational differences

Seventy-two percent of those surveyed would recommend a nursing career to others. Variation occurred generationally, with 80 percent of nurses age 19-39 encouraging others to become a nurse, while 73 percent of nurses age 40-54 and 70 percent of nurses age 55 and older replied affirmatively. 

Although nurses of all ages were pleased with their career choice ― with 89 percent of those age 19-54 and 91 percent of nurses age 55 or older indicating satisfaction ― differences surfaced in how nurses in various age groups view the overall state of nursing today. Sixty-six percent of nurses age 55 and older reported that nursing care has generally declined, while only 37 percent of nurses age 19-39 felt that way.

The electronic medical record was another area showing differences among the generations. Younger nurses were more positive about the technology and indicated it improved productivity, time management and the quality of patient care, while older nurses thought it was slowing them down and was not improving their patient care.

“That’s not a surprising finding, since younger nurses are more tech-savvy,” said Faller, adding that the survey has shown greater satisfaction with electronic records as the years have progressed and nurses have become more comfortable with the technology.

Education and certification

Despite the Institute of Medicine’s goal that 80 percent of nurses hold a bachelor’s degree or higher by 2020, just under half the RNs with an associate’s degree or diploma in nursing plan to seek additional nursing education.

“That’s [still] a good number,” Faller said. “I don’t know that we would expect all of them to be going back for a bachelor’s degree.”

Younger nurses were more likely than older nurses to pursue additional education. Nearly one-quarter of nurses age 19-39 said they will pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing in the next three years, while 34 percent said they will pursue a master’s degree in nursing. Among nurses age 40-54, 22 percent said they will seek a bachelor’s degree and 22 percent a master’s degree.

Certification also follows a generational pattern, with a larger percentage of older nurses holding specialty certification and more young nurses considering certification within the next three years. Oncology nurses hold the highest percentage of certification.

Long hours

The survey showed nurses continue to work long hours, with full-time nurses averaging about 42 hours per week. More than 30 percent of nurses reported working more than 40 hours, with 13 percent reporting working 46-50 hours weekly and 8 percent working more than 50 hours in that time period. Twelve percent of males and 6 percent of female nurses indicated working more than 50 hours per week.

Younger nurses were more likely to work standard work weeks of 36-40 hours, with 60 percent of 19-39 year olds saying this was their average compared to 53 percent of nurses age 40-54 years and 47 percent of nurses age 55 or older. Older nurses are also more likely to have varied work weeks.

About 63 percent of the respondents work in a hospital setting, a number that has been fairly consistent over the life of the survey.

“We want to watch if that number shifts as more care moves into the home and outpatient setting,” Faller said. “I expect to see that change in the next five years.”

To read the full results, download the AMN Healthcare 2013 Survey of Registered Nurses.

© 2013. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.