Registered Nurses' Perceptions of Nursing

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


Nurs Econ. 2005;23(3):110-118. 

In This Article


Part 1 of this six-part series of articles on the state of the registered nurse (RN) workforce in the United States (Buerhaus, Donelan, Ulrich, Norman, & Dittus, 2005a) focused on determining the perceptions of RNs on the extent and severity of the current nursing shortage, reasons for the shortage, its impact on hospitals and nurses, awareness and effect of hospital recruitment and retention strategies, and how to solve the shortage. Briefly, findings from these surveys indicate that although the gap between supply and demand for nurses had narrowed between 2002 and 2004, most RNs working in direct care positions in hospitals perceived the nursing shortage still existed in the hospitals where they were employed. The majority had observed the shortage exerting a negative affect on their clinical practice, including the ability to maintain the quality and safety of patient care, and on hospital processes, such as a reduction in the number of available hospital beds, increased patient wait time for surgery or tests, and delayed discharges. In the 2004 survey, RNs perceived most recruitment and retention strategies implemented by hospitals had been effective, and reported that mandatory and total overtime hours had decreased. The majority of RNs believe that improving the work environment and increasing wages and fringe benefits would help resolve the shortage. However, most RNs do not hold optimistic expectations about where the shortage will lead to in the future.

In this article, we shift away from RNs' perceptions of the nursing shortage and focus on RNs' perceptions of nursing. Among other things, RNs' satisfaction with their jobs in general and on specific elements of their work experiences, including the quality of professional relationships, are investigated. We also examine satisfaction with a nursing career and whether RNs would recommend nursing to others. As in Part 1 of this six-part series, results from both the 2002 and 2004 national sample surveys are compared to determine if trends are getting better or worse over this time period.


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