Mar 15, 2021

Studies have revealed the top reasons nurses quit their jobs


Nurses are a vital part of the world.

They provide services and care when people need it most, and over the last 12 months, their importance to society has been shown even further as many have gone above and beyond the call of duty, demonstrating their incredible care and passion for their jobs and the people they care for. 

However, in 2018, over 400,000 nurses in the US quit their jobs. Of those, around one third stated their reasons for quitting as burnout.

A study published this month researched the reasons nurses were quitting, and why the rates of burnout are so high in nurses. 

Researchers at Emory University in Georgia, USA, using data that was collected by Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration between April 30, 2018, and October 12, 2018, began to look into the prevalence and the factors surrounding nurse burnout, and why it was causing so many nurses to quit their professions. 

Out of 3,957,661 respondents, with a mean age of 48.7 years old, 10.6% (418,769 respondents) had quit their jobs, with 31.5% reporting burnout as a reason for leaving their position.

The other top four reasons for leaving their jobs were:

  1. a stressful work environment,
  2. lack of good management or leadership,
  3. inadequate staffing, and
  4. finding better pay/benefits elsewhere.

Researchers found that stressful work environments and lack of good management or leadership were the top two reasons for quitting, both coming with at 34% of nurses citing those as their reasons, followed by burnout at 31.5%, inadequate staffing came in at 30% and finally finding better pay/benefits with 26%. 

The study also found that of the entire group of over 4 million surveyed nurses, nearly 17% (676,122 respondents) – said that they had considered quitting their jobs.

Of those, 43.4% said that their reason for considering leaving was due to burnout. 

“Health care professionals are generally considered to be in one of the highest-risk groups for experience of burnout, given the emotional strain and stressful work environment of providing care to sick or dying patients.

Previous studies demonstrate that 35% to 54% of clinicians in the US experience burnout symptoms,” said researchers. 

“The recent National Academy of Medicine report, “Taking Action Against Clinician Burnout: A Systems Approach to Professional Well-Being,” recommended health care organisations routinely measure and monitor clinician burnout and hold leaders accountable for the health of their organisation’s work environment in an effort to reduce burnout and promote well-being.”

The data used in the study was collected well before the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, and the researchers acknowledged that following the incredible stresses of the last 12 months on those working in the healthcare sector, the rates of burnout are likely much higher. 

“As the workloads on health care systems and clinicians have grown, so have the demands placed on nurses, negatively affecting the nursing work environment. When combined with the ever-growing stress associated with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, this situation could leave the US with an unstable nurse workforce for years to come,” they said. 

“Given their far-ranging skill set, importance in the care team, and proportion of the health care workforce, it is imperative that we better understand job-related outcomes and the factors that contribute to burnout in nurses nationwide.”

However, researchers made a number of recommendations following the research outcomes to help ease the stress placed on nurses, and help maintain this highly skilled workforce. 

“Legislation that supports adequate staffing ratios is a key part of a multitiered solution,” the researchers wrote. 

“Solutions must come through system-level efforts in which we reimagine and innovate workflow, human resources, and workplace wellness to reduce or eliminate burnout among frontline nurses and work toward healthier clinicians, better health, better care, and lower costs.”

Are you a nurse or healthcare worker who has experienced burnout?

Have you considered leaving your job, or actually quit due to your burnout symptoms? Let us know in the comments. 

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  1. Burnout is a problem but the real problem is interpersonal violence. This includes bullying, assault, sexual assault, exposure to horrific and traumatic events and a culture which says that violence is acceptable. When this is coupled with long hours, few breaks, unpaid overtime and a shortage of staff and resources it becomes a turbo charged mix of toxicity. This system is not going to change anytime soon because most people are on short term contracts and if they complain their contract will not be renewed. People need to start working collectively rather than individually. Safe work and safe care go hand in hand. People are always stronger and better when they are part of something bigger and hopefully better.

  2. I have worked in carer role in aged care for 14 years, but it has definitely crippled me. I am 57 but feel that if I had not worked in this job I would currently be in better shape physically with less pain than I am now. The workload is relentless with never a quiet day. Often having to do things alone that should be done with 2 workers – but sometimes there is no-one available and the stress of the patient / resident is such that it requires immediate help. Many times one has to work short-staffed or with a less than capable / willing worker and over the years it has severely taken it’s toll on my body.

    1. So true Christel. I have Bursitis from yrs of heavy workloads in aged care. CMs are.always saying don’t do double assists on your own but the reality is very different in aged care. Never enough staff! Staff have now got shorter shifts and go home hrs earlier. Different 7 yrs ago when everyone had a full shift. Showering so many in the morning and making beds then hoisting so many and bending up and down to pull underwear! Pads up. Your body is constantly being abused due to the nature of the job. The younger staff don’t notice it yet! They haven’t had babies yet and this is also when a woman’s body is at it’s most sensitive for a while. Some young women need to come back within 6 myths of giving birth and alot are still breast feeding. They are exhausted. So many sickndays at my place due to the shortage of staff and the extra workloads. RNs hardly ever work on the floors to assist at any given time. PPE is also a negative atm. The swear just drips off your face and the plastic shield masks fog up when showering residents. A couple of ains have almost passed out from the heat and lack of oxygen having to wear two masks.

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