2022 Is The Worst Time Ever to Become a Nurse, And Here's Why: Op-Ed

Rick Martinez RN

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As remarkable a profession nursing is, the facts are indisputable. Not only the one in the title, but also the fact that in addition, 4 out of 10 nurses plan to pursue a role somewhere else.

Over the last few years, nurses across the country have been pushed to their limits. Their limits of the hours they're being told to work—the limits of worsening conditions at work. And finally, their limits as far as pay getting worse, not better.

And in 2022, it will all come crashing down.

According to a recent poll of nurses, more than one-third expect to leave their profession by the end of 2022, owing to burnout and a demanding career, among other things.

But there is one small beacon of hope. And that is that not all nurses are going to leave the profession. The same study showed that roughly 4 out of every ten nurses would remain nurses but choose an alternative career path.

Likely away from the bedside, though, where staffing levels are already suffering.

Despite that stat, nearly one-third of nurses plan to either fully retire or leave the profession altogether. These stats come from a recent survey of over 2,500 nurses done by a staffing company, Incredible Health.

Other findings as a result of the survey were:

  • 44% say that being overworked, burnout, and high-stress healthcare environments drive their desire to leave.
  • 65% of nurses surveyed said they had been verbally or physically assaulted by a patient or their family in the past year.
  • Finally, a full 32% of those polled state that they have experienced racism on the job.

Overworked, high stress, assault by patients, and racism.

And as if that wasn't enough, we haven't even touched on staffing issues and pay.

Staff Turnover and Money Issues

While pay rates and the fast growth travel nurse industry are also important issues, these are just part and parcel of the problem of high turnover.

Many nurses are leaving their jobs for pay raises. While one facility might pay $36 an hour, nurses have been known to "jump ship" for a few dollars more per hour. I know because I have been one of those nurses.

The problem is that the grass is rarely, if ever, greener.

Hight stress, staffing issues, and all the other maladies of the profession leave no facility untouched.

But pay and staffing aren't the only reasons nurses are leaving. A few other big reasons also include:

  • RNs seeking a different role in the profession
  • Nurses leave for better schedules and scheduling
  • Some move to travel nursing for location freedom, and independence
  • Others choose to leave for career advancement or to obtain new or different training opportunities
  • And finally, some leave because of the hope for better staffing and staffing ratios.

And that brings us to the elephant in the room

Travel nursing is the fastest-growing segment of the entire profession.

And as such, it's also one of the biggest frustrations to nurses, especially staff RNs everywhere. Many of the nurses polled share that they've seen a growing number of travel nurses in the recent past. This ever-increasing number lends to more profound frustration, especially since the travel RNs are paid much better than their staff nurse counterparts.

And this seems wholly unfair to dedicated staff RNs.

It is creating a new wave of unhappy and dissatisfied nurses in its wake.

The bottom line is hourly pay rates.

And who can blame a staff RN when a travel nurse shows up for a 13-week assignment, doing the same work, for often greater pay. In fact, in some crisis areas, a travel RN can make upwards of $100 per hour.

Besides the difference in pay, plenty of staff nurses feel that the temporary staffing of travel nurses is only a quick fix to a deeper problem. Problems that have plagued the profession for years. And issues that will likely remain long after COVID is a thing of the past.

The final word

It's no wonder that nurses are feeling overworked and burnt out.

Between the high-stress environments, racism, and verbal and physical assaults by patients or their families, it's impressive that any nurse is still in the profession at all.

The fact that one-third of nurses plan to leave within the next five years is unsurprising but deeply concerning.

The profession needs to address the issues of staffing, pay, and other factors that are driving nurses out of their jobs. And until it does so, we can expect to see a continued high turnover and exodus from the nursing profession.

What we need now is support for our nurses — better mentorship programs, more resources for dealing with stress and burnout, and better pay.

It's time to start valuing our nurses as vital members of the healthcare team. Otherwise, we risk losing an entire generation of nurses to burnout. And that would be a catastrophe for us all.

Resources:

>> Incredible Health nurse staffing

>> Healthleaders Media

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I'm a freelance writer and a decades-long travel nurse. Writing about the travel nurse industry and healthcare.

San Antonio, TX
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