Compared with six years ago, newly licensed RNs have greater job commitment but are more likely to work part-time, and to report that they had fewer job opportunities, according to a study.
Researchers with the RN Work Project, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, compared a group of nurses licensed in 2004-05 with a group licensed in 2010-11 and found that those in the later cohort were less likely to work in hospitals, special care units and direct care. They were more likely to work as managers, be enrolled in formal education programs and have positive views of their work environments.
While most NLRNs still begin their nursing careers in hospitals, fewer nurses in the 2010-11 cohort (77.4%) than in the 2004-05 cohort (88.8%) reported working in a hospital, the researchers reported in the February issue of the American Journal of Nursing.
Those in the later cohort who did work in a hospital were more likely to work in a Magnet hospital (13.5% of the 2010-11 cohort, compared with 10.3% of the 2004-05 cohort). They also were less likely to work in ICUs (18 % of those in the 2004-05 cohort, compared with 11.6% in the 2010-11 cohort) and more likely to be working part-time as a nurse (10.5% of the later cohort, compared with 7.8% of the earlier one).
The later cohort was more likely to be enrolled in a formal education program (16.6%, compared with 11.4% in the earlier cohort), but also report that there were fewer job opportunities. Of those who reported being unemployed, 31.1% of the 2010-11 cohort said they could not find an entry-level RN job in their area, compared with only 11.8% in 2004-05. Nearly one in 10 of the later cohort gave the reason for unemployment as unable to find the type of RN job I want. No one cited that reason in the 2004-05 survey.
There have been several changes in the years between when these nurses passed their licensing exams, and those changes appear to have had an important impact on nurses behaviors and goals, Christine T. Kovner, RN, PhD, FAAN, professor at the College of Nursing, New York University, New York City, said in a news release.
Kovner said the increase in newly licensed RNs who have BSNs and are enrolled in formal education programs might stem from the recommendation in the Institute of Medicines 2010 Future of Nursing report for 80% of nurses to have BSNs by the year 2020. There is also anecdotal evidence that hospitals are preferentially hiring RNs with BSNs, Kovner said.
There has been a decrease in the number of NLRNs reporting having some significant employee benefits. While the majority of 2010-11 cohort reported benefits were important to them (78.5% said it was somewhat or very important), they were less likely than the 2004-05 cohort to report having health insurance (91.9%, compared with 97.2%) or tuition reimbursement (69.4%, compared with 86.4%).
Given the increased emphasis on encouraging nurses to earn BSNs and the interest this later cohort of nurses expresses for ongoing formal education, employers should consider offering tuition reimbursement as a benefit, Carol Brewer, RN, PhD, FAAN, professor at the School of Nursing, University of Buffalo, said in the news release.
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, from 2010 to 2011, enrollments in RN-to-BSN programs increased by 15.8%. Employers should do more to support their nurses who want to get more education and also to encourage them to do so.
The authors also found that some problems persist with patient safety. More than one in four nurses (26.4%) in the 2010-11 cohort disagreed with the assertion that patient safety is never sacrificed to get more work done, and 15.3% did not agree that procedures and systems are good at preventing errors. Significant investments by the government and the healthcare industry in patient safety have not altered this perception, the study authors noted.
Other study investigators were Farida Fatehi, MS, BDS, data analyst at New York University; and Carina Katigbak, RN, PhD, assistant professor at the Connell School of Nursing, Boston College.
Kovner and Brewer direct the RN Work Project, a 10-year study of NLRNs that began in 2006. It is described as the only multi-state, longitudinal study of new nurses turnover rates, intentions and attitudes including intent, satisfaction, organizational commitment and preferences about work. The study draws on data from nurses in 34 states, covering 51 metropolitan areas and nine rural areas.
More on the RN Work Project: www.rnworkproject.org/