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New RNs more committed to employers during recession


During the recent recession, newly licensed RNs perceived fewer job opportunities but reported higher commitment to their employers, a better work environment and fewer injuries, and worked fewer hours than newly licensed RNs reported during better economic times, according to a study.

The results of the study, part of a work project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, came from two surveys of new RNs in 15 states, one conducted in 2006 before the recession and one conducted in 2009 during the recession.

Although the two groups of nurses were demographically similar, the 2009 group reported significantly better health (23% rated their health as excellent, compared with 19% of the first group) and fewer needlestick injuries, sprains and strains. That group also reported working an average of 52 fewer hours during the year, reported better nurse-physician relationships and perceived the work environment as significantly better.

“Employers may have made some strides in addressing work-life issues during the three years between surveys,” the authors wrote in the study, which appears in the March issue of the American Journal of Nursing.

“On the other hand, if this were true, it would follow that job satisfaction should also have risen, and this was not the case.”

The 2009 group of RNs reported a higher level of intent to stay in their current jobs, but were more likely to be searching for a new job than the RNs surveyed in 2006. They also perceived fewer job opportunities than the earlier group.

This perception possibly “made those nurses more reluctant to leave a secure job,” the authors wrote. “This lack of job options might have led newly licensed RNs to feel more organizational commitment [and the]perceived improvements in working conditions may have been just too small to influence job satisfaction.”

The recession led many older RNs to delay retirement or return to nursing, the researchers noted. As the economy improves, many of those nurses will retire, creating greater demand for new graduates.

“As the recession eases and the job market opens up again, it’s likely that nurses who have been delaying changing jobs will begin looking for new positions, which could dramatically increase staff turnover,” study investigator Christine T. Kovner, RN, PhD, FAAN, professor at the College of Nursing at New York University, said in an RWJF news release.

“Healthcare organizations should take this opportunity to continue to improve RNs’ working conditions and wages, and to implement programs that will increase retention.”

The study is part of the RN Work Project ( The 10-year longitudinal study seeks to learn more about nurses’ career patterns, including turnover.

An earlier project study found nearly a quarter of newly licensed RNs leave their first hospital job within two years, and nearly one in five leave within a year. Nine in 10 of those who leave stay in the nursing field.

The RN Work Project is the only multi-state, longitudinal study of new nurses’ turnover rates, intentions and attitudes such as satisfaction, organizational commitment and preferences about work, according to the RWJF news release. To date, researchers have learned that a vast majority of RNs work in hospitals early in their careers.

Subsequent studies will examine why nurses stay in or leave their jobs, what influences their first job choice, how the job settings they work in vary over time and whether they move in and out of nursing.

To read the latest study, visit


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