Survey Shows Nurses Feel Burnt Out While Nursing Skills Gap Continues to Grow

Photo by Lucas Pimenta on Unsplash

Nursing jobs are increasing at an accelerated rate. CareerBuilder's analysis of the labor market shows the number of nursing jobs (RN and LPN) in the U.S. grew 6 percent from 2012 to 2016 to 3.5 million, and is expected to grow another 7 percent from 3.6 million in 2017 to 3.9 million in 2021.

At the same time, employers are struggling to find qualified labor to fill job vacancies, leaving nurses currently on staff with larger workloads and longer hours. Day-to-day demands and high pressure situations have 7 in 10 nurses (70 percent) saying they feel burnt out in their current job, and 54 percent of nurses rating their stress level at work as high.

The nationwide survey was conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder from February 16 to March 9, 2017among a representative sample of 3,215 full-time, private sector workers across industries in the U.S., of which 93 workers are nurses.

Health care employers are also feeling stressed
The large number of open nursing positions in the U.S. is not expected to cure itself anytime soon. Fifty-six percent of health care employers say they currently have open positions for which they cannot find qualified candidates, seven percentage points higher than all industries surveyed.

CareerBuilder research looked at the number of unique (or individual) nursing job postings in Q1 2017 and compared that to the total number of job postings for nurses – meaning how many times those unique job postings were posted on other sites. The higher the posting intensity ratio, the more effort employers are putting toward hiring.

In Q1 2017, the average number of unique job postings for registered nurses was 178,586, but the total number of job postings for registered nurses in that timeframe was 1,749,900 – a ratio of 10:1. That means every unique job listing for registered nurses was posted an average of ten times on different sites, signaling a highly competitive hiring environment where employers are using multiple touch points to try to reach potential job candidates.

Job postings for licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses tell a similar story with both having 8:1 job posting intensity ratios.

Nurses take care of us – but are they taking care of themselves?
The American Nurse Association has designated 2017 as the "Year of the Healthy Nurse," and the theme of this year's National Nurses Week was "Nursing: The Balance of Mind, Body and Spirit." These efforts focusing on nurse wellness are not without cause.

According to the CareerBuilder study, nurses report feeling the below symptoms from job stress:

  • Tired all the time (50 percent)
  • Sleepless nights (35 percent)
  • Weight gain (33 percent)
  • High anxiety (32 percent)
  • Aches and pains (32 percent)
  • Depression (19 percent) Seventy-eight percent of nurses say their company does not offer classes or programs to help employees manage stress.

"Nurses, the backbone of U.S. health care, often handle life or death situations, so this high level of stress may come as no surprise," said Rosemary Haefner, Chief Human Resources Officer at CareerBuilder. "However, high levels of stress sustained over a long-period of time can be a major detriment to one's health. Employers must ensure their nurses are getting the support they need, such as flexible schedules, expanded headcount or tools to deal with stress."

Satisfaction vs. dissatisfaction
The good news is that despite high stress levels, the majority of nurses are happy in their jobs, but there are areas for improvement. While three quarters of nurses (76 percent) say they are satisfied with their jobs overall, a third (33 percent) are dissatisfied with their career progress, and 22 percent are dissatisfied with their work/life balance.

One quarter of nurses (26 percent) are dissatisfied with their pay and the same amount don't earn anywhere near their desired salary level.

Three in ten nurses (30 percent) are going back to school or getting a certification or training to make themselves more marketable this year, compared to 20 percent of U.S. workers across all industries. Eighty-five percent of nurses say that while they're not actively looking for a new job today, they would be open to one if they came across the right opportunity.

Survey Methodology
This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder among 3,215 employees ages 18 and over (employed full-time, not self-employed, non-government) between February 16 to March 9, 2017, of which 93 workers are nurses (percentages for some questions are based on a subset, based on their responses to certain questions). With pure probability samples of 3,215 and 93, one could say with a 95 percent probability that the overall results have a sampling error of +/- 1.73 and +/- 10.2 percentage points, respectively. Sampling error for data from sub-samples is higher and varies.

Thoughts? What do you think? Share in the comments section below.

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Maggi Escamilla
4 years ago

That BSN qualification has been on hold since the seventies when I started in diploma nursing school with all sciences taken at university. We were hearing about it then. I finished in another school with AD in early 80’s but we were still discussing it.. Its only now that they are pulling the trigger. Here in Florida, for instance, the HCA hospitals will only hire new staff if they can show registration of physical or online BSN program. It is what it is. There are LPN s with a vast clinical experience but they make it very hard for them… Read more »

Lora Gregory
4 years ago

The BIGGEST problem that adds to burn out is the nurse to patient ratio and under-staffed units. Having 6 to 8 patient loads with no support staff such as nurse techs or CNA, PCT at an almost 80% rate leads to total care nursing. With the HCAP scores in place now, employers are focused more on patient satisfaction. They do not care that you have 6 patients with a heavy load, they want to see everything perfect and everyone happy at your expense. No bathroom break, no lunch break, staying after your shift ends to chart. If they would fix… Read more »

4 years ago

BSN is going to be the standard soon. They are asking us as nurses to do more and more. As the population of older adults increases we will be doing more for there care. We already have video consults for Doctors at our hospital, and we basically do the exam as the Dr speaks to the patient. It will be interesting to see how nursing will be in 5 yrs.

Jessie L Collins RN MSN
4 years ago

Im a retired RN with 40+ years experience. I have worked in many areas from ICU, CCU, CVICU, ED To a Medical Surgical unit. I started with a ASN in the 70’s and eventually got my MSN. I have also taught Nursing at the ADN level. There are many issues causing the problems. Unqualified students trying to get Nursing degrees they never should have qualified for to start with. Schools are taking anyone who breaths into Nursing school then wonder why they can’t cut it, pass boards or leave the profession in less then 5 yrs. Nursing is more then… Read more »

Marcia Burns
4 years ago

I have been in nursing for 37 years (not including 4 years as a nursing assistant in long-term care). I have done most everything in nursing such as staff, charge, mentor for a teaching hospital, school nursing, and a nurse educator in an LPN and BSN nursing programs. As a nurse educator at a university, I was required to go back for a PhD in nursing. Now, no one will hire me! Nurses face a monumental wall to climb first off because we are mostly female caregivers who in are society are “throw away” beings. If you over 50 years… Read more »

4 years ago

Burnout is at least in my opinion. Much
Larger problem than anyone realizes.
Stress is off the chart and it is very difficult
To have a balance in life. We have to take
Charge of our lives and stand up to anyone
Who would undermine that.

Cindy Arth
4 years ago

I’m an RN with 40 plus years of experience. I’ve worked in pediatrics, ER 10 yrs, Pacu 20 plus years and in occupational health. If hospitals would consider more flexible staffing there would be older nurses that could work 4 hr shifts , especially to cover lunch breaks. But one problem I’m having is I’ve been told diploma nurses will not be hired over new grads with a BSN because it’s been proven the new grad has better critical thinking skills over a nurse with extended experience. Hospitals are causing there own staffing problems by not embracing the old work… Read more »

Barbara McKeiver Douglas
4 years ago

I just suffered a stroke with hardly any residual….I am certain that half of the cause was Stress from my nursing career.The other half is: not taking the best care of myself, but giving 100% to others -Professionally and personally.

4 years ago

The term I saw a number of times in this article was “qualified” nurses. Article speak for BSN or greater.
That is going to be the Crux of the problem in the future. It may be nice to have a BSN or greater but is it REALLY necessary for most nursing jobs??