Is the Shortage of Hospital Registered Nurses Getting Better or Worse? Findings from Two Recent National Surveys of RNs

Peter I. Buerhaus; Karen Donelan; Beth T. Ulrich; Linda Norman; Robert Dittus

Disclosures

Nurs Econ. 2005;23(2):61-71,96. 

In This Article

Methods

In 2001, NurseWeek and the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) employed Harris Interactive to conduct a national survey of RNs to learn more about the nursing shortage from the perspective of nurses. RNs were surveyed on their perceptions of the shortage and its impact, experiences in their work environment, and their career plans. The survey was conducted from October 24, 2001, through March 13, 2002, among a nationally representative sample of 7,600 RNs who were randomly selected from a list of all RNs licensed to practice in the United States. Respondents were invited by mail to participate in the survey and given the option of completing the questionnaire either on paper or via the Internet. The questionnaire took approximately 20 minutes to complete. Respondents were offered two different incentives to participate: continuing education credits valued at $35; and the opportunity to be entered into a lottery drawing for one of three travel vouchers for work-related travel. A total of 4,108 RNs completed the survey for a response rate of 55% (177 of the 7,600 were determined to be ineligible).

The 2004 national survey of RNs was funded by Johnson & Johnson and Nursing Spectrum (the latter had acquired NurseWeek ) and Harris Interactive was once again employed to conduct the survey. The survey contained many of the same questions used in the earlier NurseWeek /AONE questionnaire, and included several new questions aimed at exploring new areas and probing certain aspects of the workplace environment in greater depth. The survey was conducted from May 11 through July 26, 2004, among a nationally representative sample of 3,500 RNs who were randomly selected from a list of all RNs licensed to practice in the United States.

Respondents were invited by mail to participate in the survey and given the option of completing the questionnaire either on paper or via the Internet. The questionnaire took approximately 20 minutes to complete. Respondents were offered 2 hours of complimentary continuing education units (CEUs) from Nursing Spectrum/NurseWeek's online course offerings in exchange for participating in the survey. As an additional inducement to participate, respondents who completed the survey were entered in a drawing for one $1,500 travel certificate. A total of 1,783 RNs completed the survey for a response rate of 53% (108 of the 3,500 were determined to be ineligible because they were deceased, no longer licensed to practice, or otherwise unable to complete the survey). Institutional review boards at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Massa chusetts General Hospital ap proved the investigators' secondary analysis of the de-identified survey data.

The data in both surveys were weighted by respondent age and region of the country using demographic data from the 2000 federal government's National Sample Survey of the Population of Registered Nurses to reflect the national distribution of nurses in the United States. SPSS version 11.5 (SPSS, Chicago, IL) was used to analyze the data and calculate descriptive statistics and t tests for differences in proportions.

All surveys are subject to sampling and nonsampling error and thus results may differ from what would be obtained had the entire population of RNs been surveyed. Sampling errors in a population of this size can be said, with 95% confidence, to have a maximum margin of sampling error of plus or minus six percentage points. Possible sources of nonsampling error include nonresponse bias, question wording, and ordering effects. Efforts to minimize nonsampling error included pretesting, checks for internal consistency and reliability, review of the instrument by multiple experts, and use of instruments and questions tested previously for other studies.

This analysis is restricted to RNs who reported their current nursing position was in direct patient care in hospitals in 2002 (n=1,442) and in 2004 (n=657). Sample characteristics are presented in Table 1 and show that, in both samples, most RNs are white and female, and the majority are married and working in hospitals located in urban and suburban areas. More than two-thirds (69%) of RNs were over the age of 35, with more RNs between 35 and 49 years of age than any other age category; the average age in both surveys was 41. More than 70% of RNs in both surveys perceived their health as excellent or good. Essentially the same percentage (38%) reported an associate or baccalaureate degree as the highest nursing degree received; fewer (11%) RNs in 2004 compared to 2002 (19%) reported a diploma certificate as their highest nursing education. The majority of RNs worked 3 or more days per week, and in 2004 the mean number of hours worked per week was 36.3, with overtime averaging 4.4 hours per week. The average hourly wage in 2004 was $27.10, and most RNs reported total income working as a nurse between $25,000 and $75,000 (see Table 1 ).

Comments

3090D553-9492-4563-8681-AD288FA52ACE
Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.
Post as:

processing....