NCSBN Research Projects Significant Nursing Workforce Shortages and Crisis
CHICAGO – Today, NCSBN unveiled its research, titled “Examining the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Burnout & Stress Among U.S. Nurses,” in a panel titled “Nursing at the Crossroads: A Call to Action” in Washington, D.C. at the National Press Club at 9:30 am EST.
For the first time, the research findings reveal how the nursing workforce was impacted by the pandemic and how many left the workforce in this period, and forecast how many nurses in the U.S. have an intent to leave the workforce. The research also examined the personal and professional characteristics of nurses experiencing heightened workplace burnout and stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The study is considered to be the most comprehensive and only research in existence, uncovering the alarming data points which have far reaching implications for the health care system at large and for patient populations. The research was gathered as part of a biennial nursing workforce study conducted by NCSBN and the National Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers.
Key findings include:
- Approximately 100,000 registered nurses (RNs) left the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic in the past two years due to stress, burnout and retirements.
- Another 610,388 RNs reported an “intent to leave” the workforce by 2027 due to stress, burnout and retirement.
- 188,962 additional RNs younger than 40 years old reported similar intentions.
- Altogether, about one-fifth of RNs nationally are projected to leave the health care workforce.
- 62% of the sample reported an increase in their workload during the pandemic.
- A quarter to half of nurses reported feeling emotionally drained (50.8%), used up (56.4%), fatigued (49.7%), burned out (45.1%), or at the end of the rope (29.4%) “a few times a week” or “every day.”
- These issues were most pronounced with nurses with 10 or fewer years of experience, driving an overall 3.3% decline in the U.S. nursing workforce in the past two years.
- Licensed practical/vocational nurses, who generally work in long-term care settings caring for the most vulnerable populations, have seen their ranks decline by 33,811 since the beginning of the pandemic. This trend continues.
Research also suggested that nurses’ workloads and unprecedented levels of burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic played key roles in accelerating these workforce trends and threatening the future of the U.S. nursing workforce, particularly for younger, less experienced RNs. Further, high levels of turnover were seen with the potential for even further declines in a post-pandemic nursing workplace as disruptions in prelicensure nursing programs have also raised concerns about the supply and clinical preparedness of new nurse graduates. Early career data for new entrants into the profession suggest decreased practice and assessment proficiency. Coupled with large declines among nursing support staff, NCSBN calls for significant action to foster a more resilient and safe U.S. nursing workforce moving forward.
“The data is clear: the future of nursing and of the U.S. health care ecosystem is at an urgent crossroads,” said Maryann Alexander, PhD, RN, FAAN, NCSBN Chief Officer of Nursing Regulation. “The pandemic has stressed nurses to leave the workforce and has expedited an intent to leave in the near future, which will become a greater crisis and threaten patient populations if solutions are not enacted immediately. 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.”
The research findings and proposed solutions were presented in a panel discussion today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
- Antonia Villarruel, Dean of Nursing at University of Pennsylvania
- Gay Landstrom, Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer at Trinity Health System
- Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester, U.S. Representative of Delaware
- Robyn Begley, CEO of the American Organization for Nursing Leadership and CNO/Sr. VP for the American Hospital Association
- Rayna M. Letourneau, Board of Directors, National Forum for State Workforce Centers
The study examines a subset of the 2022 National Nursing Workforce Study for analysis. Reported trends represent population-based estimates. There were 29,472 registered nurses (including advanced registered nurses [APRN]) and 24,061 licensed practical nurses/vocational nurses across 45 states included.
Empowering and supporting nursing regulators across the world in their mandate to protect the public, NCSBN is an independent, not-for-profit organization. As a global leader in regulatory excellence, NCSBN champions regulatory solutions to borderless health care delivery, agile regulatory systems and nurses practicing to the full scope of their education, experience and expertise. A world leader in test development and administration, NCSBN’s NCLEX® Exams are internationally recognized as the preeminent nursing examinations.
NCSBN’s membership is comprised of the nursing regulatory bodies (NRBs) in the 50 states, the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories. There are five exam user members and 25 associate members that are either NRBs or empowered regulatory authorities from other countries or territories.
The statements and opinions expressed are those of NCSBN and not individual members.