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

RNs' Perception of a Nursing Career

RNs were asked to indicate, independent of their present job, how satisfied they are with being a nurse? Data from among all respondents in both surveys (see Figure 3) showed that nearly nine in ten RNs (87%) were either very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with being a nurse. Notably, the percent of RNs who reported being very satisfied with being a nurse increased from 37% in 2002 to 46% in 2004. Although not reported in Figure 3, the same pattern was found when RNs were analyzed by different positions, including those working as researchers, managers, administrators, and RNs who worked in non-acute care settings: once again, the vast majority were very or somewhat satisfied with being a nurse, and more RNs in 2004 than in 2002 reported being very satisfied with being a nurse.

Registered Nurses' Satisfaction with Nursing as a Career, All Respondents, 2002 and 2004

As discussed earlier with respect to identifying the predictors of RNs satisfaction with their present job, correlation and multiple regression analyses were conducted to better understand what might explain RNs' satisfaction with nursing as a career. Nearly the same variables that were correlated with job satisfaction also were correlated with satisfaction with nursing as a career, although the magnitude of the correlations were lower for the latter. Results of the multiple regression analysis indicated that increases in satisfaction with a career in nursing (just like satisfaction with current job) were statistically significantly predicted by RNs who reported their organizations emphasized patient care, management recognized the importance of their personal and family life, satisfaction with salary and benefits packages, job security, positive relationships with other nurses and with management. In addition, opportunities to influence decisions in the workplace, recognition of accomplishments, overall physical health (healthier people reporting more satisfaction) also predicted satisfaction with nursing as a career. Decreases in career satisfaction were predicted by feeling stressed to the point of burnout in their current position, feeling burdened by too many non-nursing tasks, experiencing an increase in the number of patients assigned, and having a general negative overall view of the health care system.

In the 2004 national survey, we sought to obtain RNs' perceptions of some of the characteristics of people that would be a good match for a career in nursing. Table 3 shows that among all respondents, nine in ten RNs agreed that nursing was a good career for people who want a secure job, and eight in ten agreed that nursing was a good career for men. Fewer RNs, but still a solid majority, agreed that nursing was a good career for people who are good at science or who rank in the top 20% of their high school class. However, when asked about whether nursing was a good career for people who want respect in their jobs, less than half of RNs agreed with this statement.

Both surveys asked how likely RNs would be to advise a qualified high school or college student to pursue a career in nursing. Data in Table 4 show that among all respondents a majority (60% or above) of RNs in 2002 definitely or probably would recommend nursing, with even higher percentages (above 70%) in 2004. Moreover, across the different subsets of samples analyzed, the percentage of RNs who would definitely recommend nursing as a career grew significantly over time, nearly doubling from 17% in 2002 to 33% in 2004. The percentage of RNs who probably would not recommend nursing fell in 2004 compared to 2 years earlier. In addition, minorities in both surveys were significantly more likely to definitely recommend nursing as a career than their white counterparts.


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.