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New RN Survey Highlights Obstacles to Nurse Job Satisfaction

nurse job satisfaction survey2017 nurse survey provides insights into health care’s largest workforce

By Melissa Wirkus Hagstrom, contributor

A new survey of more than 3,300 registered nurses has uncovered some critical challenges to the nurse job satisfaction rate, among other important findings.

The 2017 Survey of Registered Nurses, conducted by NurseChoice’s parent company, AMN Healthcare, was designed to supply the healthcare industry with insights directly from the largest sector of the health care workforce.

The latest biennial nurse survey found that just 60 percent of RNs report being satisfied with their current nursing jobs. Yet the survey also highlighted some positive trends:

  • 83 percent of nurses say they are satisfied with their choice of nursing as a career
  • 73 percent say they are satisfied with the quality of care they provide
  • 66 percent say they would encourage others to become nurses

Top Obstacles to Nurse Job Satisfaction

“Nurses are not quite as happy with their current jobs as they are with their careers -- 60% said they are satisfied with their jobs. More than half expressed concern that their jobs may be affecting their health – not surprising considering the emotional and physical demands of working as an acute care nurse,”Marcia Faller, PhD, RN, chief clinical officer, AMN Healthcare, wrote in an article for Becker's Hospital Review.

“While nursing may be facing some challenges in the current era of healthcare change, the energy of Millennial nurses constitutes a progressive force for the profession and the industry,” Faller added.

Some of the obstacles to nurses’ job satisfaction noted in the current RN survey:

  • Nearly half of nurses either disagreed or were ambivalent when asked if they could trust their leaders
  • 55 percent worry that their nursing jobs are affecting their health
  • 48 percent said that nursing shortages are worse today than five years ago
  • 44 percent say they usually do not have the time they need to spend with their patients

These findings are nothing new. In fact, a 2001 survey from the National Center for Biotechnology Information confirmed that nurses have long reported that their work conditions are not conducive to providing patient-centered care that is safe and of high quality.

Why the Fallout?

Nursing jobs are challenging by nature and clinicians have many obstacles to overcome in terms of addressing the reason(s) why nurse job satisfaction is not as high as leaders and their staff would like—despite all of the advantages to nursing. 

Numerous career options, autonomy, competitive pay and the joy of knowing you are helping others are just a few of the benefits to a career in nursing. 

The answer to the nurse job satisfaction issue may lie in the emotional, psychological and physical stressors that RNs must battle while working in the patient care setting. Long hours, shift work and tough, highly-intense emotional situations can take a toll on overall satisfaction and health. 

Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), among others, have found that nurses have more health problems than other types of professions, including an increased prevalence for obesity and lower back pain / injuries.

4 Things RNs Can Do to Boost Nurse Job Satisfaction

Nurses put a lot of time, energy and passion into becoming RNs and maintaining the licensing and certification requirements to obtain nursing jobs. All of this hard work shouldn’t be wasted on a job that doesn’t satisfy.

While nursing administrators need to do their part to provide a safe and supportive working environment, here are four ways individual RNs can help boost nurse job satisfaction levels:

1. Focus on self-care. If you find yourself injured, physically exhausted, or burned out, be sure to raise your hand and ask for help. And make adjustments as needed to find a better work–life balance. You have to care for yourself before you can care for others. 

2.  Switch things up. Seek out a mentor to learn new skills, or get the cross-training needed to float to other units or switch specialties. Or consider a stint as a travel nurse, which allows you to choose a new assignment location every few months.

3. Find a nurse-friendly hospital. Seek out an ANCC-designated Magnet hospital, or another facility that is known for its nursing care and ethical treatment toward their staff.

4.  Step up for your fellow nurses.  Watch for signs of distress or dissatisfaction in your fellow nurses. Speak up about any nurse bullying or mistreatment, and encourage your colleagues to take care of themselves, whether that involves getting more rest or some management intervention to solve an ongoing problem.

Hopefully the 2019 RN survey will find an uptick in nurse job satisfaction.

DOWNLOAD a copy of the 2017 Survey of Registered Nurses to read the full findings.

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