Survey of 20,000 Registered Nurses Finds Workplace Pressures Growing in the Challenging Decade Ahead

Millions of registered nurses face growing pressures on their professional and personal lives in the new decade due to increased demand for services, nursing shortages, and structural changes in the industry, according to a newly released survey of nearly 20,000 RNs by AMN Healthcare.

The survey, AMN Healthcare 2019 Survey of Registered Nurses: A Challenging Decade Ahead, found warning signs of larger problems ahead, including that significant percentages of nurses are working second jobs – and many with two full-time jobs. Nurses say they are unable to spend the time they need with patients, and most have been affected by some form of workplace violence, a recognized hazard of the healthcare industry. Nurses are concerned that their jobs affect their health, and many say they are planning to leave their current jobs, either to another nursing job, retirement, or getting out of bedside nursing altogether. Their biggest influence to remain at a job – even greater than pay -- is flexibility and work-life balance.

Nursing Pressures Grow in the 2020s

Pressures on nurses may intensify in the next decade as the aging of America enters a rapid phase, which will increase demand for healthcare services (people 65+ have three times more hospital days than the middle aged) and accelerate the retirement wave of Baby Boomer nurses. At the same time, the healthcare industry will undergo dramatic structural changes due to consolidation and the movement to value-based medicine.

“The 2020s could be dubbed the decade of the healthcare worker, because workforce challenges facing healthcare organizations will rise rapidly, with nurses bearing the brunt of change,” said Dr. Cole Edmonson, Chief Clinical Officer at AMN Healthcare. “The 2019 RN Survey can help healthcare organizations prepare for the workforce problems they face, particularly through addressing the need for greater flexibility and work-life balance, better professional development opportunities, and reduced workplace violence.”

The survey found that more than one in five nurses holds more than one job, and many of them hold two full-time jobs. Two-thirds worry that their jobs are affecting their health, 44% say they often feel like quitting their jobs, and 41% say they usually don’t have the time they need to spend with their patients.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration says workplace violence is a recognized hazard of the healthcare industry, and RN survey responses bear that out. More than two in five nurses say they have been victims of bullying, incivility, or any other form of workplace violence, while an additional one in four say they have witnessed workplace violence. Among nurses who were victims or who witnessed workplace violence, 63% say their organization did not address the situation well at all.

Improve Professional and Personal Lives of Nurses

The survey also suggests areas where healthcare organizations can help improve the professional and personal lives of registered nurses. Nurses who say their organizations strongly support professional development and workplace diversity have greater job satisfaction and are more likely to remain at their current jobs. Improving work-life balance and flexibility, along with enhancing safety practices and better addressing workplace violence, including bullying, incivility, and assault by patients, can create much better workplaces for nurses.

Other highlights from the 2019 RN Survey include: 86% of Baby Boomer nurses plan to retire in the next five years, 81% of nurses say they are satisfied with their career choice, and 65% say they are satisfied with their current jobs. 43% of nurses say their organizations does extremely well or very well in supporting professional development, and 29% say their organization does slightly well or not well at all at supporting professional development.