Nurses are the mainstay of our health care system. Unfortunately, job satisfaction among nurses, especially registered nurses working in hospitals and nursing homes, has been dropping for decades. Moreover, despite efforts from government and private industry, the rate of job dissatisfaction for nurses continues to increase in the 21st century. The statistics have become alarming enough that the issue of burnout in the nursing profession is finally garnering significant public attention.
Job Dissatisfaction Statistics
Job satisfaction or dissatisfaction is typically measured by questionnaire-based surveys and by examining turnover rates among nurses. Studies presenting statistics on low rates of job satisfaction among nurses stretch back to the 1980s; AMN Healthcare conducted a survey in June 2011 showing that 25 percent of registered nurses expected to seek a new place of employment that year because of job dissatisfaction.
Digging in the Data
One trend that has stood out in a number of studies is that direct care nurses, particularly those employed in hospitals and long-term-care facilities, report the highest levels of job dissatisfaction. Nurses working in the pharmaceutical industry or doctors' offices typically report higher job satisfaction. While not really surprising given the reasons for nurse job dissatisfaction, it is a wake-up call as the aging of the baby boomer generation creates a significant need for long-term care.
Factors Affecting Job Satisfaction
Lack of productivity and an inability to provide high-quality bedside care have both been identified as factors leading to job dissatisfaction among nurses. According to a study by D.K. McNeese-Smith in 2001, lack of productivity was related to "being overloaded," "difficult patients" and "lack of teamwork," and led to decreased job satisfaction. A study by Linda H. Aiken, Ph.D., R.N., published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association" in 2002 also demonstrated correlations between high patient-nurse ratios, patient outcomes and nurse job satisfaction. Lack of empowerment in the job has also been reported as a factor in nurse job dissatisfaction by a number of researchers.
Given that job dissatisfaction among nurses is caused by myriad factors, solutions should be broad in scope and not just single-issue "band aids" to individual problems. One step that can be taken is increasing the nurse-patient ratios, but financial constraints limit this solution. Other important steps to increase nurse job satisfaction include creating a positive team environment at the workplace, and empowering nurses by giving them more input in patient care decision-making.
- HealthAffairs: Nurses’ Widespread Job Dissatisfaction, Burnout, And Frustration With Health Benefits Signal Problems For Patient Care
- The Journal of the American Medical Association: Hospital Nurse Staffing and Patient Mortality, Nurse Burnout, and Job Dissatisfaction
- Fierce Healthcare: One-fourth of Nurses Seek New Jobs After Dissatisfaction
- University of Nevada Las Vegas: Factors that Contribute to Nursing Job Satisfaction at Valley Hospital
Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.