Despite ongoing challenges, including staffing issues, burnout, and more, over 70% of nurses said they were happy with their career choice, according to Medscape's "Nurse Career Satisfaction Report 2022."
For the report, Medscape surveyed 7,540 U.S. nurses between May 3 and July 26, 2022. Responses came from a variety of nursing positions, including RNs, LPNs, and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), which includes NPs, nurse midwives (NMs), clinical nurse specialists (CNSs), and certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs).
Overall, between 39% and 54% of respondents said the pandemic decreased their career satisfaction, with CNSs least likely to say so and NMs most likely. Compared to 2021, more respondents said the pandemic decreased their career satisfaction in 2022.
Despite this decrease in satisfaction, 72% of respondents said they were happy with their career choice. When asked if they had to begin their careers again, 70% said they would choose the same education preparation, and 44% said they would choose the same practice setting.
"This gives me hope because as a profession, we have gone through so much since 2020," said Danielle McCamey, an assistant dean at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. "I am glad that the heart of why people chose nursing remains intact."
When asked about the most rewarding aspect of their job, 28% of RNs and 29% of LPNs said that it was making a difference in people’s lives. In comparison, the least rewarding aspects were workplace politics, followed by their salary.
Many APRNs had the same responses as RNs and LPNs when asked about the most and least rewarding aspects of their jobs. The most rewarding aspects for most APRNs include making a difference in people's lives and their patient relationships. The least rewarding aspect for APRNs was also workplace politics, followed by a poor work-life balance.
"This [report] confirms why we as nurses come back shift after shift; it truly is about making a difference for us," McCamey.
However, salary concerns, particularly among RNs and LPNs, may become an issue in the future. In total, 17% of RNs and 23% of LPNs said they had no annual raise and between 8% and 10% said their hours had been reduced.
"The lack of raises was a big concern, particularly coming out of the pandemic," said Margaret Thew, medical director for adolescent medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin. "At the peak of the pandemic, nurses were working longer hours due to the volume of patients and because many nurses had left the workforce or became sick."
In 2022, many nurses continued to struggle with different types of abuse in their workplace, including emotional, verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.
Roughly half of respondents said they had experienced emotional abuse at work, with 50% saying that it had come from their manager or administrator and 43% saying that it had come from a coworker. In general, younger nurses (under 45 years) were more likely to experience emotional abuse from patients, visitors, and physicians than older nurses.
Similarly, 40% of nurses said they experienced verbal abuse, with most of it coming from patients (73%) and visitors (49%).
According to McCamey, verbal abuse from patients is one of the "unspoken norms" of nursing. "Unfortunately, it is hard to hold patients accountable for this because there are so many contributing factors that could be the underlying root cause of this behavior and most of the time it is due to their illness, and they may not have the wherewithal to control various emotions and expression of that emotion," she said.
Fewer nurses experienced physical (12%) or sexual (15%) abuse, but it was still an issue. Among nurses who had experienced physical abuse, most said the perpetrator had been a patient.
In addition to these experiences with abuse, many nurses are also struggling with staffing shortages and other problems at their hospitals, which has impacted their feelings of burnout. Among the different nursing professions, at least 27% of respondents said they were either burned out or very burned out.
"I have heard more nurses comment on being burned out since the pandemic than any other time in my career," Thew said. "Burnout has contributed to more nurses leaving their present role for either a new position as an outpatient or clinic nurse (taking a pay cut) or moving into another field."
To combat burnout, nurses talked with their friends and family (49%), slept (42%), listened to music (42%), or ate junk food (40%). Male nurses were also more likely to exercise (44% vs. 32%) or isolate themselves (48% vs. 37%) when they were burned out compared to female nurses.
Among the respondents who said they were dissatisfied with their careers, 25% said they would pursue a new nursing path, 21% said they would retire early, and 18% said they would leave the nursing profession altogether.
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