Remember last week when Spark Hire discussed current teachers and their job satisfaction? According to the latest MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, only 44 percent of teachers in the United States are currently satisfied with their current job. Back in 2009, the teacher satisfaction level was at 59 percent. Over the course of two to three years, their satisfaction has plummeted. On the contrary, however, the satisfaction nurses have in their current jobs has increased and their commitment to their employers is much greater than it was in years’ past when the economy and job market were in better shape.
The results on nurse satisfaction are part of the RN Work Project, a ten-year study of newly licensed registered nurses which began back in 2006. The project is part of an attempt to learn more about the career patterns among nurses as well as turnover and satisfaction. The nurse satisfaction findings come from two different surveys conducted on RNs across 15 different states at two different times. The first survey was taken in 2006, when the recession hadn’t yet kicked in, and the later survey is from 2009, in the midst of the Great Recession. The results were interesting and perhaps very surprising to many.
It may be easy to assume that the satisfaction levels among nurses from the 2006 group were probably higher than those surveyed in the middle of the recession in 2009. However, the survey’s results showed that the nurses surveyed in 2009 reported a better health status. In fact, 23 percent of these nurses rated their health as excellent while only 19 percent said the same in 2006. Plus, the nurses in the 2009 group reported less strains, fewer needlestick injuries and fewer sprains as well. At the same time, the nurses in the 2009 group reported working 52 hours less than the nurses in the 2006 group. They also reported better relationships with physicians and a better work environment than those surveyed in 2006.
These findings may be a bit peculiar since we would assume that worker satisfaction would decrease as the the Great Recession began, as it did with the majority of industries in the U.S. However, the reports show quite the opposite. Even though we are well aware that the healthcare industry has fared quite well during the recession in comparison to other industries, these results are still a bit surprising. Perhaps these results can be attributed greatly to the nursing shortage that was taking place around 2006. As a result, more RNs at that time had to work longer hours or pick up more shifts. This can greatly affect a worker’s happiness as well as their satisfaction with their work.
As the recession began, older nurses had to delay their retirement or come out of retirement to meet their financial needs. This allowed for the nursing shortage to be abated a bit. Plus, since there was a known nursing shortage, the amount of students studying to be a nurse likely increased as the need for jobs was increased during the recession. With more people filling jobs in the field in 2009, there could be better schedules and increased satisfaction among those workers.
While nurses in 2009 expressed a greater intent to stay in their current positions than those in 2006, that can be attributed to their perception of the number of jobs that were open and available to them then. As conditions in the market improve, it is likely that more nurses will change jobs or companies in order to be more satisfied with their work. Christine Kovner, professor of nursing at New York University, believes that this is is the time for health care organizations to start improving their working conditions for RNs across the board. “Health care organizations should take this opportunity to continue to improve RNs’ working conditions and wages, and to implement programs that will increase retention,” she said.
Although nurses may start to think about moving around the industry more, it is refreshing to see that the satisfaction levels among all workers in the U.S. have not decreased as a result of our weak economy and job market. The healthcare industry still seems to be a bit invincible when it comes to the Great Recession and the satisfaction of one of it’s largest group of employees, RNS, only works to support that claim.