Survey: New Jersey Nurses are Overworked to the Brink of Exhaustion

Nov. 26, 2007
According to a survey released by Rutgers College of Nursing, registered New Jersey nurses “are teetering on the brink of exhaustion” because of heavier work loads, and as a result feel they aren’t able to provide proper care to patients.

Rutgers assistant professor Linda Flynn, who conducted the survey, said the problem is exacerbated because there is little support given by management at hospitals and health centers.

Flynn presented the findings at the Preparing New Jersey Nurses for the 21st Century conference in Woodbridge, N.J. on Nov. 16. The 11-page survey – “The State of the Nursing Workforce in New Jersey” – received 21,000 responses from nurses, making it the largest and most comprehensive survey of New Jersey nurses ever conducted.

The survey also indicated that nurses face frequent and chronic exposure to verbal abuse, complaints and work-related injuries and one in three nurses reported that their work loads are so heavy that they actually miss important changes in their patients’ conditions. More than 50 percent said that there was not enough staff to get the work done.

Retirees, Dissatisfied Nurses to Contribute to Nursing Shortage

In addition, the survey reported that the state of New Jersey will need to replace a third of its nursing workforce over the next 10 years just to maintain the current nurse supply and does not reflect the additional number of nurses needed to meet the demand of an increasing aging population.

Flynn emphasized that the problem is worsening as many dissatisfied nurses are moving on to non-nursing positions and qualified students are being turned away from New Jersey nursing schools because of a faculty shortage.

“This is going to be a huge loss of nurses,” Flynn said. ‘We have to do something to increase our educational capacity and hiring more nursing faculty to meet this demand.”

Flynn suggested that health organizations should re-examine the responsibilities of the registered nurses to ensure that their time and specialized skills are used for essential patient care.

The survey also noted that even with a significant increase in nursing graduates, it is unlikely that the projected deficit in New Jersey between the supply and demand for registered nurses will be eliminated over the next decade and beyond.

Flynn pointed out that health organizations should explore incentives for older nurses to postpone retirement, including short work shifts, flexible scheduling and assigned activities with low physical demands such as patient teaching and monitoring.

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