- More than 22% of nurses say they may leave their current position within the year, with many planning to leave for another job outside of nursing or retire, according to a McKinsey report published Thursday.
- Nurses in long-term care settings were more likely to consider leaving their roles than those in inpatient settings, and female nurses were twice as likely to say they're considering leaving than male nurses.
- To recruit and retain more nurses, employers need to offer adequate compensation for expertise and effort, provide flexible scheduling options and give more support overall, McKinsey said.
The COVID-19 pandemic could drive a widespread exodus of nurses from the workforce, as insufficient staffing, workload and emotional toll are key factors pushing them to consider other jobs or check out of the labor force completely, the survey found.
McKinsey researchers surveyed 400 nurses across different settings in February and found a 60% increase in the number planning to leave compared with 2020's report.
More than half said they would leave for a role not involved in direct patient care or retire, "which was striking to us and just for the profession at large, which has had and will probably continue to have high demand for talent," Mhoire Murphy, a McKinsey partner and co-author of the report, said.
While nurses were hailed as heroes this past year, more appropriate and sufficient recognition topped the list of most desired initiatives — namely in the way of greater financial compensation that matches their experience and efforts.
They also said they needed more breaks to recharge either on the clock or through paid time off, and greater scheduling flexibility, especially through the use of new virtual care and remote work models.
Only about a quarter of respondents said they received mental health support during the pandemic, and many listed increased access to resources and active monitoring of nurse distress as key initiatives they'd like to see.
In another recent survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Washington Post, 60% of front-line healthcare workers said the pandemic negatively impacted their mental health, and many said they aren't getting needed services. Feeling embarrassed or being unable to afford or get time off work were cited as top obstacles.
Communication and transparency is another issue among nurses the pandemic brought into focus. Employers can work to repair it through shared councils and committees to solicit nurses' input on "really anything that happens at the facility," Gretchen Berlin, a registered nurse and senior partner at McKinsey who co-authored the report, said.
Berlin was surprised by one finding: 17% of nurses said they are more likely to stay in the nursing profession given their experience during COVID-19.
"That, I think optimistically, poses a real opportunity for health systems and other employers to engage that portion of the workforce, and really retain them," she said.