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Nursing shortage collides with rising baby boomer population

Flexibility and work-life balance had the most influence for 39% and 31% say compensation and benefits were the biggest concern.

Amid a nursing shortage, hospitals are struggling to hire and keep nurses, with burnout and workplace violence cited as contributing factors, according to a new survey.

Flexibility and work-life balance had the most influence for 39% of nurses in whether they decided to stick with a job, though 31% say compensation and benefits were the biggest driving factor, according to AMN Healthcare's 2019 Survey of Registered Nurses.

The survey analyzed 19,967 completed responses from nurses across the country. While 81% said they were satisfied with their career choice, 44% said they often feel like resigning.

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More than one in five nurses say they are working two nursing jobs. Seven percent said both jobs are full-time.

The pressures of the job are raising concerns among nurses for their own well-being, as well as their ability to balance their work life with personal time. Sixty-six percent of nurses said they were worried their job was affecting their health. With nurses working longer hours today than before, one in four said working more than one job influenced their driving after their shift, which the survey cited as a "major concern."

The survey also describes workplace violence as a "chronic and deep-seated problem" in the nursing field, pointing to data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that shows healthcare workers are subject to half of all workplace assaults.

Forty-one percent of nurses said they have been victims of bullying, incivility or other forms of workplace violence, and 63% said their organization didn't handle it well. Nurses and nurses aides have the highest rates of assault, according to AMN, particularly in emergency departments and psychiatric units.


Hospitals have a chronic nursing shortage, and this is expected to impact margins for the next three to four years, Moody's said last year.

A third of the nurses who took the survey are baby boomers and 20% of survey takers said they planned to retire in the next five years. More than a quarter, 27%, said they were unlikely to be working at their current job in a year.

The shortage threatens to collide with the impending retirement of the baby boomers, all of whom will be 65 years old by 2030, said the survey titled "A Challenging Decade Ahead." People over 65 are hospitalized three times as often as middle-aged individuals, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.


Fifty-two percent said the nursing shortage has continued to worsen at a time when the population is aging faster than the job market is filling these positions. Forty-one percent of nurses said they did not have the time they need to spend with patients.

At the same time, the size of the college-aged and middle-aged nursing population is remaining relatively static, meaning the pool of replacement nursing candidates will be limited down the road.


"This report identifies many warning signs of pressures and challenges facing nurses related to rising demand for healthcare services coupled with growing shortages of nurses along with other workplace and industry issues," wrote AMN Chief Clinical Officer Cole Edmonson, "All of which will likely get worse in the coming decade."

Max Sullivan is a freelance writer and reporter who, in addition to writing about healthcare, has covered business stories, municipal government, education and crime. Twitter: @maxsullivanlive