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Where have all the nurses gone?

According to a new study by the Florida Center for Nursing, nurse attrition is a real problem. Florida gained 27, 000 Registered Nurses over the past two years — but lost over 16,000 RNs in that time, for a net gain of only 11,000. LPN losses were even worse.

Nurses who leave the profession contribute to the looming nursing shortage, while the nurse shortage continues to drive nurses out of the professon.  With fewer nurses on staff, the remaining nurses often feel overworked and overburdened,  a combination that causes many nurses to call it quits.  When researchers asked over 600 nurses why they left their first job before their second year, thirty-seven percent of nurses cited stressful working conditions.  Thirteen percent reported episodes of mandatory overtime.

While some nurses move on to other nursing positions, some step outside of nursing all together. According to one poll by the American Nurses Association, nearly 20% of licensed nurses are not working in  clinical nursing at all. Their absence affects all remaining nurses, but few nurses or administrators seem to know how to stem the exodus. Do you have any ideas?

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Jennifer Fink, RN, BSN

Jennifer is a professional freelance writer with over eight years experience as a hospital nurse. She has clinical experience in adult health, including med-surg, geriatrics and transplant; she also has a particular interest in women’s health and cancer care. Jennifer has written a variety of health and parenting articles for national publications.
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3 Responses to Where have all the nurses gone?

  1. Mimi Franco

    You are kidding, right? If there is a nursing shortage I’d like to know what planet it is on because it is not here in southern California. I have been seeking employment since December when I graduated (as have many others).

  2. Mimi Franco

    So…to answer the question of what can be done to keep nurses at the bedside? Hire the new grads that are pouring out of the nursing schools. There is a common misperception that new grads have no experience but that is patently false. What do you call 2-4 years of clinical rotations at the bedside in acute care facilities doing “hands-on” patient care?” Really, I’d like to know how to differentiate between that experience and “experience.” If I (and my peers) were not safe we would have been yanked from the floors and the states we reside in would have never issued us our licenses. Many, if not all of us had to rotate between different hospitals. In addition to learning the charting systems for one institution, we had to be flexible enough to learn the charting systems, hospital, and unit protocols for multiple institutions. Not to mention adhere to JCACH requirements. And we had to do it with the watchful eyes of not only the hospital staff but also those of our instructors while balancing our course work and home lives. At graduation, we know more about all of the respective disciplines in nursing than those who are actually on the floor. This is because the NCLEX exam require that we have knowledge in all fields, not just for the unit we are working on or hope to work on. Again, where is the inexperience?

    While I have forcefully advocated for new grads it would remiss of me not to touch on the topic of lateral harrassment. As the ANA and JCAHO have already begun to address this, perhaps we should touch on this. Nursing is notorious for “feeding on its young.” This has to be addressed and prominently so. While nursing has made great strides in addressing issues such as work hours and compensation, they have ignorned the lateral harrassment that occurs on a daily basis amongst floor nurses, and to an extent nursing schools.

    Perhaps if some of these issues could be addressed there can be a leveling off of the exodus of experienced nurses. If they are not things will remain the same; lots of new grads with no prospects and those with experience vacating their positions.

  3. Mary

    The hospitals and doctors office need to start recognizing LPN’s. LPN’s work at bedside with patients and everybody talks and honors the RN. When nurses day comes along, articles are all about RN’s ( I have friends who are RN’s and I know they do their job and deserve to be recognized…I am not saying that) But LPN’s are out there working very hard, understand the nursing process. What really urks me is that a certified Medical Assistant gets paid athe same as an LPN, and does not understand anything they are doing. They are giving medicine, injections, treatments, etc…and have their own day to be recognized…but he LPN is ignored on nursing day…sorry to vent