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Survey shows more nurses facing staffing concerns, workplace violence and moral distress

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Silver Spring, MD — Around 7 out of 10 recently surveyed nurses say staffing has gotten slightly or much worse recently, while nearly half of hospital nurses report an increase in workplace violence.

Those results are from a nationwide survey of nearly 2,600 union and nonunion nurses conducted earlier this year by National Nurses United. The survey is the seventh conducted by NNU, the nation’s largest union of registered nurses, since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Sixty-nine percent of the nurses reported that staffing issues have worsened in recent months – a 20.2% increase from NNU’s most recent survey in September. More than a quarter (26.5%) of the nurses said they are being “floated” or reassigned to care for patients in a clinical area that requires new skills or is outside of their competency – up from 17.8% in September.

Meanwhile, 48% of hospital nurses reported a small or significant increase in workplace violence – up from 30.6% (a 57% increase) in September and 21.9% (a 119% increase) from March 2021.

Results also show significant increases in all of the mental health impacts of the pandemic reported in the September survey:

  • 68.7% of the nurses said they feel sad or depressed more often than they did before the pandemic – a 64.6% increase.
  • 83.5% feel stressed more often than before the pandemic – a 56.1% increase.
  • 77.2% feel anxious more often than before the pandemic – a 53.2% increase.
  • 74.6% fear they’ll transmit COVID-19 to a family member – a 47.4% increase.

Of the hospital nurses, 68% said their facility doesn’t have a sufficient stock of personal protective equipment to protect staff members from a rapid COVID-19 surge. Additionally, 76% reported that their hospital doesn’t have an overflow plan in place for additional, trained staff to safely care for isolated COVID-19 patients.

“We are now more than three years into the pandemic and not only is staffing worse, but workplace violence is increasing,” NNU President Zenei Triunfo-Cortez said in a press release. “Nurses are experiencing alarming levels of moral distress and moral injury due to unsafe working conditions.”

NNU strongly advocates federal safe nurse-to-patient ratios legislation and OSHA to issue a permanent standard to protect nurses and health care workers from COVID-19 at work.

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