Nurses Place Improving Workplace Conditions, Safety, on Top of Priority List

Washington nurses say that working conditions and safety are two of the main reasons that nurses are leaving the profession.

A recent report from the Washington State Hospital Association and the Association of Washington Public Hospital District titled "Who Will Care for You?" is earning praise from the Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA).

The group says the report is "a first step toward the examination of and solutions for the health care workforce shortages in Washington state." While there are more than 50,000 licensed registered nurses in Washington state, only 80 percent are employed in nursing and of those, only 54 percent are working full-time.

"I am very pleased to see the Hospital Association explore various ways, both within the workplace and through public policy, to recruit and retain qualified nursing staff to meet the needs of our growing community. There are many areas of common interest, especially those surrounding recruitment efforts, for collaboration in addressing this critical issue," said Judy Huntington, MN, RN, executive director of WSNA.

Working conditions, including health and safety issues, is at the top of the agenda for most state and national nursing organizations. According to a September 2001 American Nurses Association (ANA) survey, 88 percent of nurses reported that health and safety concerns influence their decision to continue working in the field of nursing and the kind of nursing work they choose to perform.

Over 70 percent of nurses cited acute and chronic effects of stress and overwork as one of their top three concerns. More than two-thirds of the nurses surveyed reported that they work some type of mandatory or unplanned overtime every month, mainly due to the shortage of nurses that is plaguing the country.

Louise Kaplan, PhD, ARNP, president of WSNA, stresses the need for hospitals to address workplace conditions, pointing out that nurses are working in high stress and dangerous environments.

"We will not be able to retain today''s practicing nurses or attract people into the profession if working conditions, compensation, and health and safety concerns are not properly addressed," says Kaplan.

by Sandy Smith

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