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


That more RNs in 2004 were very satisfied with nursing and would recommend a career in nursing than in 2002 have several important implications. With respect to recruiting people into nursing, in a 2003 survey of nursing students we found that information or advice from practicing nurses was identified by 65% of nursing students as a factor positively influencing their decision to become a RN (Buerhaus et al., 2005c). Simil arly, a study of perceptions of parents and their teenage children about a career in nursing (Donelan, Jackson, & Hermman, 2005) found that teenagers had more contact with guidance counselors in discussing careers than with nurses; yet, when teens did talk with nurses, the nursing profession was highly recommended. Thus, nurses themselves are key influencers of teenagers and adults considering their career choices. Because so many RNs are satisfied with nursing, as found in both surveys and particularly in the 2004 survey, it is important that initiatives to attract people into nursing include exposing them to nurses. Moreover, the increase in minority nurses who would recommend nursing is an especially important finding that should be emphasized in recruitment activities and materials. For those contemplating career choices, the more contact with nurses, the better the chance of positively influencing their decision to become a nurse.

Newspaper and other media stories about nursing are frequently based on interviews of individuals or on results of trade association, union members, or state-level surveys. Too often stories convey a negative depiction of nurses' job and career satisfaction. Yet, our analysis of national random surveys of RNs shows just the opposite. The upswing in job satisfaction and in the number of RNs who would recommend a career in nursing is positive news that should be highlighted in media stories. These results should bring encouragement and a sense of accomplishment to the many public and private sector organizations, policymakers, hospital managers, and nursing associations who have been working hard to resolve the current nursing shortage and improve the workplace environment. The rise in RN satisfaction with their jobs and in their nursing careers suggests that when groups and individuals who are concerned with the well-being of nursing come together, take constructive actions, and remain committed, positive outcomes can be achieved. The improvements in nursing found in this analysis of the 2002 and 2004 national surveys should be broadly communicated not only to energize individuals and organizations to continue their efforts to improve the workplace environment, but to challenge the many individuals in the nursing profession who hold onto a sense that nothing will ever improve in their organizations.

In Part 3 of this six-part series (July/August 2005), RNs' awareness of and reactions to the Johnson & Johnson Campaign for Nursing's Future will be examined. This national campaign began in early 2002 and is perhaps the largest and most significant example of the private sector working to help strengthen the nursing profession in the past 50 years.


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