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Job Satisfaction Statistics on Nurses

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No profession is perfect, and there will always be things that people like or dislike about their jobs. Registered nurses’ job satisfaction is based on a number of elements related to the job and the people with whom they work. Although job satisfaction is important for nurse retention, it also has an affect on patient outcomes, according to a May 2011 article in the “American Journal of Nursing.”

It's All About Relationships

RNs who were surveyed about job satisfaction in 2005 reported they were happy with their relationships with other RNs, professional status and professional development opportunities, according to an April 2005 article in “Nursing World.” Decision-making, tasks and pay were less satisfying, although to some extent it depended on the unit in which the nurse worked. Pediatric and maternal-child nurses were the happiest, while those who worked in medical-surgical units, step-down units and emergency rooms were the least happy. Most nurses -- 79 percent -- reported they had no plans to move to another nursing unit, although 8 percent planned to leave direct patient care or leave nursing entirely.

Teaching is More Satisfying

A 2006 survey reported in the “Journal of Nursing Scholarship” found that 1,538 RNs in 29 states were happiest with their jobs when they were white, felt themselves to be healthy, and were working in nursing education rather than clinical care. Other factors that affected satisfaction included supervisor support, the cohesiveness of the work group, variety and autonomy in the work and opportunities for promotion. Paid time off was the only employment benefit option related to job satisfaction.

The Team's the Thing

When nurses rate the level of teamwork high in their units and feel they are adequately staffed, they are likely to feel more job satisfaction, according to a June 2010 article in the “Journal of Nursing Management.” The study surveyed 3,675 nurses, nursing assistants and unit clerks in 80 inpatient care units across five hospitals. Nurses who felt that teamwork was good and that they had enough staff to do the job were happier with both their current positions and nursing in general. Other factors that influenced staff satisfaction with the occupation were education, gender and job title.

When Nurses Aren't Happy, Nobody's Happy

By 2011, nurses were more likely to be unhappy with health care benefits and retirement benefits, according to the “American Journal of Nursing.” Nurses in direct care were more likely to be dissatisfied than those nurses who were not at the bedside. Nurses who performed direct care in hospitals and nursing homes reported being burned out at a rate of 34 and 37 percent respectively. Other sources of unhappiness were salaries and few opportunities to advance. When nurses are unhappy, patients are also likely to be unhappy, a situation that may translate into poor quality of care, according to the article.

Taking a Different Path

A 2012 survey by health care recruiting firm AMN Health Care gathered job satisfaction data from 2,931 RNs across the country. AMN reports fewer nurses would be interested in finding a new place of employment than in their 2011 survey and that the overall job satisfaction rate was 91 percent. In 2011, 24 percent were planning to look for a new job, but in 2012, that figure had dropped to 17 percent. However, 31 percent planned to take non-clinical jobs or retire from nursing entirely, or to move into part-time or less demanding roles, a significant jump from 2005. In addition, a little less than 40 percent would not recommend nursing as a career choice and 44 percent would hesitate to enter the profession if they were making a career choice today.


Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.

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