Nurses leaving workforce due to COVID-19 stress, survey finds

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COID-19 sign (photo: courtesy of Waldemar)

In the USA, about 100,000 registered nurses left the workplace due to the stresses of the COVID-19 Pandemic, according to the results of a recent survey published by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. A news report stated that another 610,388 registered nurses, who had more than 10 years of experience and an average age of 57, said they planned to leave the workforce by 2027 because of stress, burnout or retirement. The same was true of 189,000 additional nurses with 10 or fewer years of experience and an average age of 36.

The survey found that there were over 5.2 million active registered nurses and 973,788 licensed practical nurses or vocational nurses in the US in 2022. The researchers analyzed data from 29,472 registered and advanced nurses and more than 24,000 licensed practical or vocational nurses across 45 states. More than a quarter of those surveyed said they plan to leave the industry or retire in the next five years, the study says.

About 62 per cent of the nurses surveyed said their workload increased during the pandemic, and 50.8 per cent said they felt emotionally drained at work.

Soon, the industry will rely on nurses with less than 10 years of experience to act as mentors, managers and leaders in nursing care, Alexander said. “It will send us into a health care crisis of huge proportions,” said Maryann Alexander, chief officer of nursing regulation at NCSBN and one of the authors of this study. She added that she is shocked by the findings of the study, especially in relation to younger nurses. She said that while it is common to see young nurses leaving the industry to go back to school and get more education, it is uncommon to see young nurses leaving due to stress and burnout. “That is a huge cause for concern,” Alexander said.

The researchers on the new survey say their findings pose a threat to the US workforce, especially among younger and less experienced nurses. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing says hospitals and policymakers should be quick to enact solutions and address these challenges.

The same is true for Jamaica where more than 700 nurses fled the industry to relocate overseas as revealed in prior weeks. Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton disclosed that he expects the exodus to increase. “[A]s the pandemic subsides, and the short-term economic shock takes hold, we will have a stronger migration pull, we believe, on our nurses and our health care workers. We do have health care workers that are world-known as being excellent and the demand for them…will only get greater and the impact on our system will be even more severe if we do not take some corrective measures,” he warned.

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