According to a survey conducted by a national nursing journal, in Australia, 32% of nurses are actively looking to leave the profession. And worse still, for than 50% were hesitant about voicing their concerns over unsatisfactory working conditions.
We must ask why this is.
Why are nurses feeling more positive about the prospect of changing careers than the prospect of current conditions improving?
For me, the more interesting revelations from the survey show that graduate intake has not declined, meaning there are still plenty of young people wanting a career in nursing. But the likelihood of them staying in their jobs, so it seems, is getting lower and lower by the year. The survey, conducted by Nurse Uncut, has been running every three years since 2011. In 2016, 3000 nurses were surveyed and the results, compared to the previous two surveys, painted a picture of more intensified job requirements and less supportive conditions.
From what I can glean from the survey, and this seems to be reflected in many other reports I have read, is that healthcare workers are wanting to leave jobs because of:
Let’s look at where this comes from, and how we can possibly combat these feelings.
In the same survey from Nurse Uncut, 71% of the 3000 nurses surveyed said they had more work on their plate than they could do well. And nurses want to do their job well. If you’ve entered a career like nursing, most likely you are a compassionate and caring person who wants to help people, so imagine the job dissatisfaction if you can’t even perform the tasks you are required, to the standards you feel comfortable with. It’s an incredible ask.
Along with the long (and crazy) hours and strenuous work, the sort of malaise that comes with job dissatisfaction is what leads to burnout. Burnout affects a huge percentage of healthcare workers in Australia (along with social workers), and it’s not only detrimental to the individuals, but it is also a crisis for the industry. Especially when we are seeing staff numbers dropping because of it.
Perhaps with the current staff ratios and depleting workforce, it is hard to manage the burnout as an employer, but something employers and managers can do to help nurses are to make themselves more approachable and offer more support services to cope with the stressors of the career. As we saw in the survey, over half of the nurses would rather leave their job than approach management with their concerns. This is a major problem, but I believe, a redeemable one.
So how can we show our hard-working nurses more support and will it help?
Staff retention can be improved by improving and opening lines of communication. According to Forbes one of the top 3 reasons employees leave a job is manager relationships (as well as lack of career development and work-life balance). So, perhaps when we see figures such as these above, we look less at the numbers that want to leave and more at the numbers that are finding it hard voicing concerns, because the facts are if they haven’t left yet there’s still a chance to retain them with the right approach. It’s definitely worth a try.