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Nurses Feel the Squeeze of Ongoing Staffing Problems

By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

Half of respondents across all healthcare settings indicated their unit does not operate with the necessary RN staff 49% of the time or less, according to the results of a survey conducted by the American Nurses Foundation.

Among more than 11,000 nurses surveyed, two-thirds said they sometimes, seldom, or never work with the necessary or appropriate ancillary staff. In acute care, 74% of respondents said the appropriate number of ancillary staff were available sometimes, seldom, or never.

In the past 14 days, 50% or more of respondents said they felt stressed, frustrated, exhausted, and overwhelmed, compared to 25% or less feeling happy, supported, or valued. Nurses gave lukewarm responses to statements such as “My organization really cares about my well-being” and “My organization responds to my complaints and concerns.”

Although a plurality of respondents (40%) indicated their preferred shift length is eight hours, 59% said they are asked either daily or weekly to cover additional shifts and 56% reported they have to work beyond their shifts either daily or weekly to finish existing work or provide adequate care to patients.

Sixty-three percent of respondents said they are unhappy with their current compensation; 68% said raising salary, wages, or bonuses would be the best way for their organization to improve work satisfaction (59% said hire more staff, 31% said “genuinely listen to my voice and address my needs”). Respondents did indicate their workplace hired more travel nurses to fill staffing gaps (52%) and some even raised wages or offered bonuses (40%).

Despite concerns about staffing shortages, 52% of nurses said they do not plan to leave direct patient care in the next six months. Additionally, nurses gave highly positive responses to the question “Are there appropriate safeguards in place to safely perform nursing tasks at your organization?”

“The most worrisome aspect of these data is that nurses — who were called heroes for their extraordinary pandemic care — are still at risk and under supported,” said American Nurses Foundation Executive Director Kate Judge. “Virtually nothing has changed in terms of nurses’ burdens and personal suffering. We must break the negative cycle and prioritize the health and well-being of our nurses who are already severely burned out and working overtime to care for patients and communities. Institutions must respond and change their work environments and culture. Healthy and safe work environments are critical to the success of nurses and the overall quality of health care provided.”

For more on this and related subjects, be sure to read the latest issues of Hospital Employee Health.