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

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.


  1. 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 to bridge To RN and very expensive. Not to mention the castration of their careers whenever the wind changes. Talk about stress.
    I don’t know that having a degree will make your career more profitable, or even more fulfilling, I haven’t seen it, unless you are going for nurse practitioner or Anesthetist. But nurses are coming in and leaving in a much shorter time than the old veterans.

  2. 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 the RN to patient ratio standards maybe it would fix 90% of the overall problem.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 smarts, its compassion, service, empathy. No one asks why do you want to BE a nurse anymore! Money should NEVER be the answer! Nursing schools are trying to give a good education but not enough time in hospitals, clinics, facilities where the ill are located, turn out substandard nurses. Providers/facilities/clinics/offices trying to do more with less is unsafe for ALL involved, patient, facility, physician. Trying to use a Medical Assistant or CNA OR Allied Health Professional (technician with less education) to do jobs an RN SHOULD be to be doing leads to unsafe practices. Trying to give a nurse too many patients and make them work longer by cajoling is adding to burnout. The current nurse population is aging…. not enough is being done to bridge the gap…..There needs to be training and education for the new nurse to nurse retention to assisting the older experience nurse who is competent but cant physically do what she did in her 20’s. We need to use what experienced staff we have not kick them out because they cant work 14hr shifts anymore! Every Experienced Nurse needs to replicate her/him self through mentoring, precepting, buddying up what ever it takes before they retires or leave the profession. I’ll get off my soap box now!

  5. 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 of age with the skills and knowledge and still have workable years ahead, no one will even look at you. I can run circles around new nurses with my knowledge and experience in acute care nursing. I am more than “qualified,” yet I am not even looked at. Yes, burnout is a huge factor because we care for those we give care to. Because we are a mostly female occupation, we not only care for our patients/residents/clients, but our families, neighbors, friends. This increases burnout because we “can’t do it all” even thought that is the expectation. Men still make more money than we do as nurses in the hospital. For example, my husband, an electronic engineer always makes twice as much as I am able to, be it in the hospital, teaching, or in long-term care. We need to stop being submissive and have a backbone in our profession. Nursing is the largest health care provider in health care. Taking care of ourselves won’t do much of anything unless nurses and nurse leaders become assertive in the political arena and demand equal pay and respect for what we do as nurses. We don’t have that within nursing – we eat our young, ethnically diverse, and older nurses. I am ashamed of myself and our profession for we talk, but don’t act/do. Maybe that is what I can do now that I have been without a job for 6 months and have a PhD……

    • Well said Marcia. Nursing is my 3rd career of 14 years now. In my BSN program, We read about the persistent shortage of nurses to come, primarily attributed to the wider career choices for women over recent decades. I am a big proponent of recruiting more men to Nursing. We can’t continue to rely on only half the population, women, to supply the nursing workforce. Some estimates are only 6-9% of nurses are men. Not enough. It’s a rewarding career and more men need to share the burden with which predominantly women have been overburdened. I welcome ideas on how to recruit more men.

    • The Nursing Conundrum:
      #1 Nursing organizations push life-long learning, the MSN, the BSN (as the new standard) but they don’t talk to the employers who really want “cheap”.
      #2 The employer “raises the bar” by always telling candidates they are not qualified enough, but when they hire you, they “lower the bar”…………..they want cheap.

  6. 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.

  7. 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 horses.

  8. 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.

  9. 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??


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