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Medscape Nurse Career Satisfaction Report 2021

John Watson, Roni Robbins; Sarah Lesser; Mary McBride; Emily Berry | December 29, 2021 | Contributor Information

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Medscape Nurse Career Satisfaction Report 2021

John Watson, Roni Robbins; Sarah Lesser; Mary McBride; Emily Berry | December 29, 2021 | Contributor Information

As a profession, nursing is exhibiting the tell-tale symptoms of stress and fatigue. Due in no small part to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, reports of workplace violence against nurses are increasing, nursing professional societies have described their members as being at a breaking point, and even the general public believes them to be underpaid. These overlapping tensions have undoubtedly contributed to nursing shortages at various hospitals.

But what do nurses themselves make of the current moment in their profession's history? Over the summer of 2021, Medscape invited nurses practicing in the United States to answer questions about these issues. When the poll closed, we had responses from 10,788 licensed practical nurses (LPNs), registered nurses (RNs), and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) — a group encompassing nurse practitioners (NPs), nurse midwives (NMs), clinical nurse specialists (CNSs), and certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs).

Here's what they had to say about the effects of the pandemic, personal experiences with workplace abuses, and their general satisfaction with their chosen profession.

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Medscape Nurse Career Satisfaction Report 2021

John Watson, Roni Robbins; Sarah Lesser; Mary McBride; Emily Berry | December 29, 2021 | Contributor Information

Healthcare workers have made the ultimate sacrifice in their de facto role as the first line of defense against the various waves of the COVID-19. Although, thankfully, only a minority of nurses reported personally knowing a healthcare provider who died of COVID-19, the percentage of those who did was not insubstantial, ranging from 14% for NMs to as high as 25% for CRNAs.

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Medscape Nurse Career Satisfaction Report 2021

John Watson, Roni Robbins; Sarah Lesser; Mary McBride; Emily Berry | December 29, 2021 | Contributor Information

It is difficult to account for how disruptive the pandemic has been on nurses' lives, personally and professionally. At least 25% or more of respondents reported that the pandemic decreased their satisfaction with being a nurse, with NMs and RNs among the nurses most likely to report this (41% and 40%, respectively).

On the opposite side of the spectrum, for the second year in a row, CNSs were the most likely among the six nursing professions tracked in this poll to report that the pandemic actually increased their career satisfaction, up from 14% in 2020 to 23% in the current survey.

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Medscape Nurse Career Satisfaction Report 2021

John Watson, Roni Robbins; Sarah Lesser; Mary McBride; Emily Berry | December 29, 2021 | Contributor Information

The solid majority of respondents were fully or partially vaccinated against COVID-19. In fact, for 5 out of the 6 nursing specialties polled, the rates of full vaccination were in excess of 85%, with CNs most likely to fall into this category (95%). By comparison, a November 2021 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that approximately 30% of hospital workers were unvaccinated.

Conversely, LPNs were most likely to say that they are not vaccinated and have no plans to be (18% vs 10% or less for all other nursing specialties).

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Medscape Nurse Career Satisfaction Report 2021

John Watson, Roni Robbins; Sarah Lesser; Mary McBride; Emily Berry | December 29, 2021 | Contributor Information

Respondents were asked to rate their level of burnout through the pandemic. At least 1 in 5 nurses described themselves as currently being very burned out/burned out, the highest level among the options. RNs and LPNs were among those reporting the highest level of burnout.

The definition of burnout may vary among nurses, but for the second year in a row, it's clear that the pandemic is taking a considerable toll on their mental health.

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Medscape Nurse Career Satisfaction Report 2021

John Watson, Roni Robbins; Sarah Lesser; Mary McBride; Emily Berry | December 29, 2021 | Contributor Information

The abuse experienced by healthcare workers is a growing concern, and one that has only accelerated in light of the ongoing pandemic. As such, this year's survey sought to determine the scope of abuse that nurses face, and if possible, determine what kinds of abuse nurses were experiencing.

For example, the survey asked whether nurses had experienced emotional abuse within the past year, and at least 31% stated that they had. Managers/administrators were the most commonly cited sources of emotional abuse by all nurse groups, with the exception of CRNAs, who attributed it primarily to their physician colleagues.

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Medscape Nurse Career Satisfaction Report 2021

John Watson, Roni Robbins; Sarah Lesser; Mary McBride; Emily Berry | December 29, 2021 | Contributor Information

When it comes to physical abuse, the base sizes for CNs, CRNAs, and NMs who experienced this abuse were too small for reporting. However, about 1 in 5 RNs and LPNs reported having experienced physical abuse in the past year. Among nurses reporting this, patients are overwhelmingly the leading perpetrators across all groups.

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Medscape Nurse Career Satisfaction Report 2021

John Watson, Roni Robbins; Sarah Lesser; Mary McBride; Emily Berry | December 29, 2021 | Contributor Information

At least 40% of nurses have experienced verbal abuse in the past year, with RNs reporting particularly high rates (58%).

Among those nurses who experienced verbal abuse, patients were the most cited sources for nearly all groups. The exception was CRNAs, who said that verbal abuse was slightly more likely to come from physicians than from patients (61% vs 58%, respectively). Another statistical outlier was found among RNs, who were significantly more likely to experience verbal abuse from visitors than other nurse groups.

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Medscape Nurse Career Satisfaction Report 2021

John Watson, Roni Robbins; Sarah Lesser; Mary McBride; Emily Berry | December 29, 2021 | Contributor Information

The majority of nurses (84%-91%) in this poll said they have not personally experienced sexual abuse, harassment, or misconduct at their workplace in the past year. However, considering that past surveys have indicated that nurses are particularly at risk of experiencing sexual harassment, these numbers bear further study and comparison with other healthcare professions.

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Medscape Nurse Career Satisfaction Report 2021

John Watson, Roni Robbins; Sarah Lesser; Mary McBride; Emily Berry | December 29, 2021 | Contributor Information

One dismaying finding of our questions about abuse was that among nurses who reported experiencing an instance of sexual harassment or abuse, the solid majority did not report it to their managers or administration.

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Medscape Nurse Career Satisfaction Report 2021

John Watson, Roni Robbins; Sarah Lesser; Mary McBride; Emily Berry | December 29, 2021 | Contributor Information

A possible contributor to the decision not to report was found in responses to our final question about abuse. For the nurses who did step forward and report the abuse they experienced, most said that the issue was not resolved to their satisfaction (Note: There were not enough data from CRNAs and NMs to calculate their outcomes in this area.)

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Medscape Nurse Career Satisfaction Report 2021

John Watson, Roni Robbins; Sarah Lesser; Mary McBride; Emily Berry | December 29, 2021 | Contributor Information

A more encouraging finding of this year's poll was the agreement among RNs and LPNs that helping people/making a difference was the most rewarding aspect of their job, which was cited by about a third of respondents. LPNs are more likely to cite their relationships with patients and being proud of being a nurse compared with RNs, whereas RNs are more likely to cite having a good work-life balance, relationships with coworkers, mentoring/teaching, and the amount of money they make compared with LPNs.

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Medscape Nurse Career Satisfaction Report 2021

John Watson, Roni Robbins; Sarah Lesser; Mary McBride; Emily Berry | December 29, 2021 | Contributor Information

Unsurprisingly, and in line with last year's survey, LPNs and RNs asked to identify the least satisfying aspects of their jobs were most likely to cite administration and workplace politics. LPNs are more likely than RNs to note the amount of money they are paid, patient load, and lack of respect from physicians, managers, or colleagues as the least satisfying. For their part, RNs are comparatively more likely to cite the amount of documentation, emphasis on patient satisfaction, and lack of work-life balance.

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Medscape Nurse Career Satisfaction Report 2021

John Watson, Roni Robbins; Sarah Lesser; Mary McBride; Emily Berry | December 29, 2021 | Contributor Information

APRNs were also most likely to cite helping people and making a difference as the single most rewarding aspect of their job, with the exception of CRNAs, for whom the number-one choice was working at a job they like.

Compared with other APRNs, NMs more often cite relationships with patients as the most rewarding compared with the other APRNs, whereas CRNAs more often note working at a job they like and the amount of money they make.

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Medscape Nurse Career Satisfaction Report 2021

John Watson, Roni Robbins; Sarah Lesser; Mary McBride; Emily Berry | December 29, 2021 | Contributor Information

An APRN's type of advanced practice determines what they find least satisfying about their job. CNSs and CRNAs most often cite administration and workplace politics as the least satisfying aspect of their job; for NMs, it's the pressure to see a certain number of patients each day; and for NPs, it's the amount of documentation required.

CRNAs are more likely than the other APRNs to report not being able to practice to the full extent of their education, certification, and licensure.

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Medscape Nurse Career Satisfaction Report 2021

John Watson, Roni Robbins; Sarah Lesser; Mary McBride; Emily Berry | December 29, 2021 | Contributor Information

Although this year's survey clearly signaled that nurses can experience myriad hardships in their work, this doesn't appear to have caused them to reconsider their occupation. Over 90% of all nurses surveyed said they're glad they chose their profession, with APRNs slightly more likely to say so compared with RNs and LPNs.

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Medscape Nurse Career Satisfaction Report 2021

John Watson, Roni Robbins; Sarah Lesser; Mary McBride; Emily Berry | December 29, 2021 | Contributor Information

Being satisfied with what you have is one thing. But if given the opportunity to start all over again, how many nurses would choose nursing as their career? Most of them, it turns out.

Over 70% of respondents in each of the six nursing specialties said they'd still pick a career in their chosen field. Among those saying this, CRNAs are more likely to say they'd choose the same educational preparation than all other nursing specialties.

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Medscape Nurse Career Satisfaction Report 2021

John Watson, Roni Robbins; Sarah Lesser; Mary McBride; Emily Berry | December 29, 2021 | Contributor Information

Even among those respondents who did say they regret their career choice, a large proportion wouldn't want to entirely change professional paths. When those self-described as dissatisfied were asked for their plans within the next 3 years, RNs, NMs, and NPs were most likely to respond that they will pursue a new path within nursing. The most common response for LPNs was leaving nursing to pursue other employment; for CNSs it was retiring earlier than planned; and for CRNAs it was reducing their hours at their current position.

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Medscape Nurse Career Satisfaction Report 2021

John Watson, Roni Robbins; Sarah Lesser; Mary McBride; Emily Berry | December 29, 2021 | Contributor Information

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