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Hospital nurses dissatisfied with jobs, certain benefits


Some nurses are dissatisfied with the quality of their employment benefits and express low levels of job satisfaction, according to a new study. In a comprehensive survey of 95,449 nurses in 614 American hospitals and health care settings, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found nearly 41 percent were dissatisfied with their health care benefits—more than double that of nurses working elsewhere, showing broad-based disincentives to attracting nurses to work at the bedside.

“This suggests that nurses in caregiving roles are experiencing a distinct disadvantage relative to their peers and others in the broader workforce—a disadvantage that is likely to affect the stability of the nurse workforce in the future,” wrote lead author, Matthew McHugh, PhD, JD, MPH, RN, CRNP, and colleagues from the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at Penn’s School of Nursing. The demand for nurses to work in hospitals is expected to grow as baby boomers age, requiring more hospital stays and additional days of long-term care causing a projected shortage of nurses worldwide as today’s nurses retire.

The study, published in the policy journal Health Affairs, found that, among nurses working directly with patients, 24 percent of hospital nurses and 27 percent of nursing home nurses reported dissatisfaction in their current jobs, compared to just 13 percent of nurses working in other settings.

The researchers cited previous studies showing the work environment and staffing levels are chronic stressors that cause burnout.  Nurses working under those conditions feel over-extended and depleted of emotional and physical resources.

The study by five professors in Penn’s nursing school found that, among nurses working directly with patients, 34 percent of hospital nurses and 37 percent of nursing home nurses reported feeling burned out in their current jobs, compared to 22 percent of nurses working in other settings.

Nurses’ dissatisfaction also affects patient satisfaction with the care they receive, according to the study. Researchers found that the percentage of patients who would definitely recommend a hospital to friends or family decreased by about 2 percent for every 10 percent of nurses at a hospital reporting dissatisfaction with their job.

Health care and retirement benefits also are an issue. Forty-one percent of hospital nurses and 51 percent of nursing home nurses who provide direct patient care were dissatisfied with their health care benefits. Nearly 60 percent of nurses in nursing homes and half of nurses in hospital are dissatisfied with retirement benefits.


The authors of the study, McHugh; Ann Kutney-Lee, PhD, RN, an ANA member; Jeannie Cimiotti, DNS, RN and Linda Aiken, PhD, RN, FAAN, FRCN, both Pennsylvania State Nurses Association member; and Douglas Sloane, PhD, conclude that improving nurses’ working conditions may improve the work experience of nurses and the patients’ experience in the hospital.

The article is available online at http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/30/2/202.full.html.

Susan Trossman is the senior reporter for ANA.

15 Comments. Leave new

  • I also hate 12 hr shifts nursing is not mother friendly despite 90% are women and now 12hr shits and mandatory overtime this alone is to make nurses quit. Sure the pay is good in some areas but when will the nurses unit and stand up for better working conditiond no 12hr shifts. If all the nurses took a day off including agency wow management and governmnet would seek answers from bedside nurses and nut nurses sitting behind a desk. Young nurses who like 12 hr shifts but not when family comes.

  • 12 hour shifts is what keeps me sane. otherwise, I have to work 6oo many days in a row plus i have to switch back and forth from day/evening shifts and that wears me out too much. I am a great bedside nurse and work critical/acute care hospital nursing but how many patients is too many for primary care? I give the bath, change the bed, pass the meds, get the patient ready for tests and follow out physician orders and sometimes have to feed the patient. 5 patients @ a time, more/shift if d/c.

  • June 19th 2011
    June 19, 2011 7:37 am

    I hate to say this folks but this is the sad reality as to what nursing has come too. I can sit here and write too you of the horror stories that I go through in my nightly tours regarding team work and delegating issues with the nursing team at my institution. Nurses get burned out because we have to take a more overwhelming responsibility when some of our colleagues are not doing their part to make things run smoothly. My only consolation you all feel my pain and can relate too my issues.

  • I work in a hospital in Washington State. We (nurses) are now pickiting, not over any increase, just not to have a pay cut, especially to senior nurses, benifit cut and increase in patient load. Our hospital is trying to be a first in the state to make major cuts to nursing(no kidding)And they expect to attract more nurses in this atmosphere after we are gone?

  • I don’t agree with the above. I think that the more professional development or nursing certication and education, and the resulting higher nursing knowledge, the better care for patients should be. There is literature that supports this. As a member of a Magnet organization, I know this is true. Our patients get better quicker, and with fewer complications-partly because we value professional development and have a committment to safety and high quality care.

  • Nursing stopped being bedside nursing when the Diploma/Hospital programs ended. Potential nursing students are feed the idea that they must be BSN, MSN, and so forth to enter the hallowed halls of patient care, or even worse, the will not be respected by adm and MD’s unless they have a wagon load of letters behind their names. That is not true. People respect people who know what they are doing, have compassion, and see themselves as worthy.

  • I agree! The beginning of 12 hour shifts and the loss of the Head Nurse role was the demise of nursing that “worked”! I ahve no answers but am terrified about the future of hospital nursing…

  • As a “dinosaur diploma grad of 1974” I read these comments and wonder “Where are the nurses who will take care of me after I have put in my time?” Frankly, after 37 years as a registered nurse and having worked in almost every avenue of medicine, I think I should be able to step out of the way and let the younger set with more energy take over. However, I am truly concerned about the quality of care that will be provided to me in light of all the pressures placed on nurses of today.

  • Wake up RNs. Hospital admins are all about profit margins & our wages and benefits comprise a large percent of budget expenses. Just like the rest of of the privileged elite they don’t believe they should suffer a loss of profits when those losses can so easily be absorbed by chewing away at the benefits and earnings of the disorganized majority. I only wish we didn’t make it so easy for them to do.

  • Hospitals could care less about studies like this. There is no incentive for them to change. There are always new nurses to hire and there will always be patients. As long as they can get the work of 2-3 nurses out of one–that is what they’ll do. Plus more hiring of techs. Nurses are being outsourced while fighting over the BSN issue. It is divide and conquer as usual. I am quite pessimistic about the future of healthcare, unfortunately.

  • I absolutely agree!! Until nurses join together and agree that enough is enough…patient care, patient outcomes, patient and NURSE satisfaction will not improve. Look at the profits these institutions are making off our backs and you mean to tell me they can’t afford better nurse patient ratio’s, and take better care of their nurses. Nursing has always been a predominantly female profession and nurses have continued to be the martyr’s. If we don’t fix it nobody will, so let’s get together!!!

  • How much of the dissatisfaction is caused by working 12 hour shifts. I think this is inhumane. As far as joining a union…I’d die first. I hope that’s clear enough. I am not a thug and will not give dues to bigger thugs. Wake up, people!

  • Yes, it is a reality! Hospitals stink as far as keeping nurses happy. If the health care system would reward nurses based on their credentials and what they put into their profession some of these issues could be canged however this is clearly just the tip of the ice burg…

  • I agree with the survey. I changed jobs in December and I am already unhappy. Not enough staff, patients who are more critical than we expected, and doctors who cuss you out!!!! Never in 34 years have I seen such conditions in a hospital.

  • This is a reality! Until we unite, and speak up it will not change.


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