Three Critical Challenges Facing Nurses Today

COVID-19 left no corner of healthcare untouched. In a recent survey, over 3,500 nurses shared some of the main challenges they’re seeing in the profession. Based on their responses, three critical nursing challenges rose to the surface.  

Critical nursing challenges: Short-staffing 

From the bedside to the clinic, nurses across the country have felt the sting of unsustainable nurse-to-patient ratios. “[I’m] concerned about burnout due to being short-staffed, overscheduled, and overworked,” said one of the respondents. “This leads to unsafe conditions and putting patient’s lives in danger.”  

59% of survey respondents said they are deeply concerned about current staffing shortages, lack of nurses, or nurse-to-patient ratios.  

“Everyone is tired of the mandates, the long hours, the state dictating the staffing ratio, understaffing, and underpayment,” said another respondent.  

Critical nursing challenges: Exhaustion 

Nursing has always been a hard profession. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated strains that were always in place.  

Short-staffed healthcare facilities scrambling to cover shifts are leaning on nurses to work longer shifts, with less time in between shifts. Increasing responsibilities, combined with limited administrative support, has led to an epidemic of burnout.  

59% of respondents said they have experienced burnout in the last year 

“Nurses are being asked to do more for less,” said one of the survey respondents. “There’s a lack of respect and increasingly difficult patients.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic took a terrible toll on our profession,” says Deborah Martin, DNP, MBA, RN, NE-BC, FACHE, Accredited Provider Program Director at Elite Healthcare. “We were face-to-face with the human impact of the ravages of the disease. Many nurses are suffering from PTSD and depression because of their experiences.” 

Leaving the profession 

Exhausted and feeling underappreciated, many nurses have decided to leave the profession they love. More than 100,000 nurses retired or left the profession in the wake of COVID-19. 

Over 40% of nurses engaged with the survey indicated that they’re considering changing professions within the next year, while 66% of respondents plan on retiring within the next five years. 

Finding the silver linings 

While the survey responses revealed a grim reality around critical nursing challenges, there were bright spots, including: 

  • Legislation to ensure safe staffing practices nationwide 
  • A new focus on mental health care for nurses 
  • Wellness and financial initiatives designed to support nurses