Hope for the Future of Nursing

The challenges of the last few years have tested nurses in unprecedented ways. In our recent State of the Profession survey, 40% of the over 3,500 respondents indicated that they’re considering a change of profession within the next year. 66% of respondents said they plan on retiring within the next five years.

Leaving the profession 

Of the nurses who said they planned to retire soon, many cited lack of staffing, low salaries, and feeling undervalued as reasons for wanting to leave. “There’s a mass exodus of nurses due to inadequate pay yet increasing responsibilities and burnout, plus lack of support from leadership,” said one respondent.  

“People are not seeking out the nursing profession and the baby boomers are retiring, leaving a big gap in the number of practicing nurses,” said another respondent. 

Reasons to hope 

Even so, in the midst of incredible difficulties, nurses continue to love their profession. Among those nurses who plan to retire within the next five years, 86% said they intend to maintain their nursing license even while not practicing.  

Additionally, 61% of all nurses who responded to the State of the Profession survey would encourage new graduates to join the nursing profession, despite the challenges. 

“Being a nurse gives you front row access humanity,” said Jannah Amiel, MS, BSN, RN, Senior Director of Course and Curriculum for Elite Learning. “In my opinion, there’s no more buzzing intersection than where people and healthcare meet, and nurses are the guardians of that intersection. You’ll see all walks of life at all stages of life, all converging at a single point: ‘I need healthcare.’  

“Nurses can meet people where they’re at, during their most fragile times, to fundamentally change the lives of our patients through something we are uniquely positioned to do—caring for the whole patient, not just the medical need,” Amiel said. “We see the person; we see the problem, and we exactly where these two things align.” 

Current state of the profession: Career mobility within healthcare 

Experienced nurses highlighted the flexibility within the profession as one of its unique draws. Even amidst the restrictions of the pandemic, nurses were able to implement innovative ideas that allowed for safer monitoring of critically ill patients. The rise of telemedicine has also opened new avenues of practice, allowing nurses to provide care in places they might not otherwise be able to reach. 

“What we do matters on an even bigger scale than we might even recognize,” said Amiel. “It took me many years to realize that being a nurse extends well beyond the bedside. Those critical thinking and problem-solving skills are the same skills that we bring to all aspects of our lives. We show up to advocate for legislation, we’re sitting in board rooms, we’re volunteering in our communities. We represent nursing everywhere we go and that doesn’t go unnoticed.” 

In response to the survey, San Jose University Nursing Instructor Joey Noël, RN, CCRN, CNRN, also advised current and potential nursing students to explore their options within the profession. “Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and go for it!” he said. “Don’t let anyone get in the way of your goals. Challenge and change are good, and in the end, it will make you a better nurse.”