Study of U.S. Nurses Finds Young Leaving Profession; Nurse Shortage May Reach Crisis Sooner than Thought
September 5, 2002
In one of the most far-reaching studies of the current state of nursing, a University of Pennsylvania researcher has discovered that newly minted nurses are leaving the profession at far faster rates than their predecessors, suggesting that the current shortage of nurses may reach crisis proportions sooner than anticipated.
One additional surprising finding is that beginning male nurses are leaving the profession at twice the rate of women. The research, which analyzes data from the National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses collected by the Division of Nursing in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 1992, 1996 and 2000, is reported today in the influential health care policy journal Health Affairs.
"The study indicates that new nurses begin their careers with higher levels of job satisfaction, but the workplace itself seems to be convincing growing numbers to leave the bedside earlier in their careers for other professions," said Julie Sochalski, Ph.D., RN, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. "We know the nation is facing a shortfall of nurses. If new RNs are leaving the profession after only a few years, the shortage is likely to reach crisis proportions sooner rather than later."
As baby boomers age, thus increasing demands on the health care system, the median age of nurses is rising toward retirement. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts a shortfall of 331,000 nurses by 2008, leading to national recruitment efforts. However, Dr. Sochalski found that nearly 136,000 nurses are working in other professions, suggesting policy makers should turn their attention to nurse retention
as well as the current emphasis on recruitment.
Specifically, the research found that:
o in the most recent nurse survey, 7.5 percent of new male nurses dropped out of nursing within four years of graduating from nursing school, compared to 4 percent of women;
o the dropout rate for both male and female new graduates is accelerating, rising from 2 percent of men in 1992 to 7.5 percent in 2000; and 2.7 percent of women in 1992 to 4.1 percent in 2000;
o among new nurses, 75 percent of women reported being satisfied with their jobs compared to only 67 percent of men; among more established nurses 69 percent of women and 60 percent of men were satisfied.
"One might predict that this new cohort of nurses may be destined to see their satisfaction levels sag over time, which, depending on the market conditions, may influence decisions to continue in their position or to leave nursing entirely," Dr. Sochalski reports in Health Affairs. "The accelerating rate of loss in the supply of nurses, at a time of substantially increasing demand, underscores the need to determine the reasons for the exodus
. And while men may not yet comprise a sizable number of the total who are leaving, the growth in their retreat from nursing is nonetheless concerning."
Source: School of Nursing Public Relations
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