May 6 through the 12 is National Nurses Week!

It’s National Nurses Week, a week designated to show our appreciation and thank nurses for all that they do. But as more and more nurses leave the profession due to poor working conditions the national nurse shortage continues to grow.  

Although the national nursing shortage dates back decades, study shows that it’s been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to a new survey from AMN Healthcare, close to a third of nurses nationwide say they are likely to leave the profession for another career due to stress and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The survey showed that about 94% of nurses said that there was a severe or moderate shortage of nurses in their area, with half saying the shortage was severe. Around 89% of registered nurses (RNs) said the nursing shortage is worse than five years ago. Moreover, the report shows that at least 80% of those surveyed expect the shortage to get much worse in another five years.

Additionally, the AMN Healthcare survey findings indicated younger nurses were also less satisfied with their jobs compared to older generations and were least likely to recommend the job to others. Only 42% of Gen Zers and 43% of millennials said they would encourage their peers to pursue nursing as a career, compared with 62% of baby boomers.

“Our survey data illustrates the growing dissatisfaction and wellbeing struggles among nurses — and the workforce challenges that this is escalating,” Landry Seedig, AMN Healthcare’s chief operating officer, told NBC News

A higher percentage of nurses also reported dealing with a greater deal of stress at their job than in previous years, the survey said. Four in five nurses experience high levels of stress at work, which is an increase of 16 points from 2021.

Jennifer Mensik Kennedy, a 26-year nursing veteran and president of the American Nurses Association told NBC News “didn’t get a break” in between the surge of Covid patients and as those patients started to decrease.  “As Covid patients started to decrease, we started to get people coming back to the hospital who held off their medical treatments” during the pandemic, Kennedy said. “Now they’re even sicker than they would have normally been.” 

This overload of patients contributed to the nurse’s decision to go on strike back in January.  Around 7,000 nurses in New York went on strike over a contract dispute with hospitals in the city.  The nurses were looking for higher wages, safer working conditions, and an increase in staffing to ease the shortage. 

National Nurses United (NNU), the largest union of registered nurses in the U.S. has lobbied Congress hard to pass legislation that addresses staffing ratios and improves workplace safety provisions.

According to the NNU, the problem is a staffing crisis rather than a shortage of nurses. 

Scripps News reports that NNU Co-President, Jean Ross says hospitals have been adding more ancillary staff—other licensed or certified personnel that help nurses—to protect their bottom line.

“The staffing crisis didn’t just happen. It’s been around for years. Unions have been sounding the alarm that organizations were putting profits before patients,” RN and President of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, Jane Hopkins said. Employers “had cut staffing so bad, that there was no room for flexibility” she continued.                                                         

Ross says that the hospital industry has “engineered” the nursing staffing crisis. “It’s a constant struggle to get them to not try to replace us with non-registered nurse personnel, but it isn’t going to help the situation that we’re in now when there are enough registered nurses in this country. But they’re refusing to hire them because it affects their bottom line,” she said.

According to NNU President, Deborah Burger, low staffing leads to a heavier workload, more stress, and burnout for the remaining staff, as well as a negative impact to patient care.

This National Nurses Week, National Nurses United is pushing for better working conditions by lobbying in support of five bills on Capitol Hill, including one that addresses nurse staffing standards.

The bill, S. 1567, would establish minimum registered nurse-to-patient staffing ratio requirements in hospitals, resulting in higher-quality care for patients according to one of the bill’s sponsors.

“There is an urgent opportunity today for health care systems, policymakers, regulators, and academic leaders to coalesce and enact solutions that will spur positive systemic evolution to address these challenges and maximize patient protection in care into the future,”  said Maryann Alexander, NCSBN chief officer of nursing regulation.