NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Crisis Looming As Nurses Quit In Frustration

May 7, 2001

One of every three U.S. nurses under age 30 plans to leave his or her job within the next year. That is one conclusion of a wide-ranging study conducted by a team from the University of Pennsylvania.

Researchers interviewed over 43,000 registered nurses working in 711 hospitals in five countries -- the U.S., Canada, England, Scotland and Germany.

  • More than 43 percent scored high in a "burnout inventory" used to measure emotional exhaustion and the extent to which they felt overwhelmed by their work.
  • Some 41 percent of U.S. nurses interviewed said they were dissatisfied with their jobs -- compared to 32.9 percent in Canada, 36.1 percent in England, 37.7 percent in Scotland and 17.2 percent in Germany.
  • Of the U.S. nurses, 44.8 percent said quality of care at their hospitals had deteriorated in the past year -- compared with 44.6 percent in Canada, 27.6 percent in England, 21.5 percent in Scotland and 17.2 percent in Germany.
  • Over half of the nurses in the U.S. and Canada said they were verbally abused on a regular basis.

An earlier and separate study predicted that by 2010 more than 40 percent of the U.S. nursing workforce will be older than 50 -- and by 2020 the number of registered nurses will fall short of demand by 20 percent.

Starting salary for today's nurses is roughly $35,000. Salaries generally top out at about $47,000.

Sources: Kathleen Fackelmann, "Nursing Burnout May Lead to Major Health Care Crisis," USA Today; and Associated Press, "Nurses' 'Ward Rage' on the Rise," Washington Times; both appeared May 7, 2001.


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