Younger Nurses Are Leaving the Profession Because of Emotional Health

April 07, 2022 by Alec Stone MA, MPA, ONS Public Affairs Director

Young nurses are “less emotionally healthy and less optimistic about the future,” even after accounting for age and years of nursing experience, according to findings from a 2022 study conducted by the American Nurses Foundation. High levels of burnout correlate with drones of professionals leaving the nursing field, the foundation said in its Pulse on the Nation’s Nurses Survey Series: COVID-19 Two-Year Impact Assessment Survey.

“For all nurses, 30% said they are ‘not emotionally healthy’ or ‘not at all emotionally healthy.’ For nurses under 25, that number is 46%, and for 55 or older, 19%,” the foundation said. “This same trend applies to years’ experience as a nurse. For nurses with less than five years’ experience, 40% are not or not at all emotionally healthy. For nurses with more than 40 years' experiences, it’s only 13%.”

The foundation said that when asked why they are considering leaving the profession, the top reasons nurses cited were insufficient staffing and work negatively affecting their health and well-being. In fact, 9 out of 10 nurses reported that their organization was understaffed and that a lack of solutions such as increased wages or incentives, changed or adapted staffing models, increased number of nurses or support staff, and adequate time to take breaks and days off contributed to an inability to deliver quality care was a deciding factor in whether to leave the profession.

In addition, nurses indicated that bullying and incivility has increased in the profession, with 66% reporting increased bullying at work that negatively affected their emotional health and well-being.

“These are challenging and uncertain times for the nursing profession and the entire healthcare delivery system,” the foundation said. “Most of America’s nurses feel stressed, frustrated, and exhausted. Feelings of motivation, empowerment, and confidence have dropped in the past six months. Reports of feeling happy have dropped by one-third, and reports of feeling betrayed, undervalued, and under supported have risen. With hope and optimism also deteriorating, and 60% of acute care nurses now reporting burnout, there is no doubt that hospitals and healthcare facilities are facing extraordinary workforce challenges and a difficult future.”

ONS has a plethora of materials available to help nurses combat burnout, build resilience, and improve well-being. Nurses can use resources such as ONS’s Nurse Well-Being Learning Library and browse well-being articles from ONS Voice to care for their emotional health as they navigate the mental difficulties of the profession.

“Ultimately, change requires acceptance. Acceptance that the last two years have been an emotional journey for the entire world, for the nation, and for communities and families. Acceptance that the last two years have taken a toll on the healthcare delivery system and that the weight of the world has rested on the shoulders of healthcare professionals,” the foundation concluded. “With the data behind the problem no longer coming as a surprise, it is time to assess the damage and begin the important work of renewal. The goal now is for policymakers, professional organizations, health systems, and leadership to act. The journey will be made easier when all healthcare professionals come together with unified direction. There is no perfect one-size-fits-all solution to solve all of today’s problems, but there are imperfect solutions that can provide relief and mark the beginning of much needed change.”


Copyright © 2022 by the Oncology Nursing Society. User has permission to print one copy for personal or unit-based educational use. Contact pubpermissions@ons.org for quantity reprints.