Healthcare organisations in some ‘Japa’ destinations including the United States are struggling to retain nurses as they face prolonged workforce shortages, rising labour costs, and increased staff burnout.
Findings from the joint American Nurses Foundation and McKinsey survey indicate that the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the challenges of high-intensity roles such as nursing, despite steps that many organisations have taken to address them.
Nursing turnover has declined from its 2021 high but remains above pre-pandemic levels, the study shows.
Intent to leave also remains high, with about 20 percent of surveyed nurses indicating they had changed positions in the past six months, and about 39 percent indicating they were likely to leave their current position in the next six months.
Intent to leave was roughly 41 percent among nurses who provide direct care to patients, compared with 30 percent for nurses not in direct-patient-care roles.
Surveyed nurses who indicated they were likely to leave cited not feeling valued by their organisations, insufficient staffing, and inadequate compensation as the top three factors influencing their decisions.
Insufficient staffing was especially important to respondents with less than ten years of experience—a population that will be critical to retain to ensure future workforce stability.
Highlighting the scale of physical and mental challenges facing the nursing workforce, the research shows that more than 57 percent of surveyed nurses indicated they had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 11 percent of those indicated they had been diagnosed with post-COVID-19 conditions.
“Additional research may be needed to understand the impact of PCC on nurses fully, but in the meantime, employers could consider augmenting their PCC services for clinicians,” the study states.
Over the past three years, the researchers identified sustained feelings of burnout among surveyed nurses—a trend that continued this year.
Reported contributors to burnout include insufficient staffing, high patient loads, poor and difficult leadership, and too much time spent on administrative tasks.
About 56 percent of nurses reported experiencing symptoms of burnout, such as emotional exhaustion, while more than half (64 percent) indicated they feel “a great deal of stress” because of their jobs.
Additionally, although there have been slight improvements year over year in respondents’ reports of stress, anxiety, and feeling overwhelmed, reports of positive emotions such as feeling empowered, grateful, and confident have declined.
“Our results indicate that mental health and well-being vary by nurse experience levels. Less-tenured nurse respondents were more likely to report less satisfaction with their role, had a higher likelihood of leaving their role, and were more likely to be experiencing burnout,” the report says.
Despite these sustained and high levels of burnout, approximately two-thirds of surveyed nurses indicated they were not currently receiving mental-health support and 56 percent of surveyed nurses believe there is a stigma attached to mental-health challenges.
Reasons cited by nurse respondents for not seeking professional mental-health support have remained consistent over the past two years, with 29 percent indicating a lack of time, 23 percent indicating they feel they should be able to handle their mental health, and 10 percent citing cost or a lack of financial resources.
For nurses with ten or fewer years of experience, lack of time is ranked as the top reason for not seeking professional mental help.
To address these sustained levels of burnout, stakeholders will need to take steps to support nurses’ mental health and well-being, the researchers say.
They will also need to address the underlying structural issues, such as workload and administrative burden, that affect the nursing profession and have been consistently acknowledged as root causes of burnout.
Simultaneously, reducing workload demands and increasing the resources available to meet those demands will be critical.
Various stakeholders are deploying a variety of interventions that could address the drivers and effects of adverse nursing mental health and well-being, bolstering support for individuals, organizations, and the healthcare system at large.