Issues that keep nurses up at night, according to recent survey

Common signs of nursing burnout

When the pandemic first hit, most of us had to get used to working from home, getting groceries delivered and helping our kids adjust to online school. Nurses, on the other hand, had to do that, plus contend with even longer shifts, clothing that could infect their families and the very real chance of getting COVID-19.

In December, NurseGrid — an app that gives staff, departments and entire organizations better command over schedule distribution and communication — conducted a follow-up survey to surveys that were done the previous April and September. The findings were published recently.

“The results of this survey demonstrate the tremendous emotional toll the pandemic is having on the nursing profession as self-assessments of burnout and mental health have increased dramatically, to the extent that nearly one in five nurses plans to leave bedside nursing altogether by the end of 2021,” the report stated.

More than 10,000 nursing professionals responded to the December survey, stating that although they feel more confident when treating COVID-19 patients, they still worry they will infect their friends and family.

Here are some other concerns nurses have:


More than four in 10 nurses (42.7%) say their organization has an adequate supply of PPE, but there are several indications that many nurses are either reusing PPE (52.6%) or using their own (18.7%). In fact, 52.6% said their facility was reusing PPE.

Megan Brunson, a night shift supervisor in the cardiovascular ICU at Medical City Dallas Hospital, told Forbes she takes issue with the term “adequate.”

“When asking if we have ‘adequate PPE,’ there is an assumption that this is okay,” she wrote in an email to the magazine. “The better question to ask is if we are at the level recommended by the manufacturer for the PPE per use.”

For example, Brunson said, an N95 mask should be used for no more than eight hours, while a surgical mask is recommended for 15 minutes. These materials “are one-time use, not for a full day or to be used in/out of rooms and multiple patients.”


Although their concerns about being infected and infecting others has declined since the September survey, concern over burnout more than doubled. In September 2020, just 25% of the respondents said they were worried about burnout. By December, that number had climbed to 61%.

Joseph Falise, a nurse manager for University of Miami Hospital and Clinics, told Forbes that working more than 60 hours a week is common.

“This is more than I worked prior to COVID because I was asked to assume oversight of the COVID unit while maintaining my previously assigned areas as well,” he said.

More nurses — 40% — said they were concerned about their mental health, too. In September that number was 24%.

“The risks of long shifts and many hours for this intense kind of work are well known and could lead to errors, breaches in PPE, practice, and exhaustion,” Falise said. “One approach we’ve taken to mitigate this concern is to not allow anyone to work five to six shifts per week and to bring in additional staff as needed.”

After the pandemic

Almost three-fourths (73.1%) of nurses say they will not alter their future career plans because of their pandemic experience. Yet, a substantial number state they will either leave bedside care (18.0%) or completely change their career (4.1%).

This is “an exodus the industry can ill-afford, the report stated, “as the pre-pandemic nurse shortage looms. The devastation of long-term taxing environments will ultimately influence career longevity, work engagement, and patient care.”

The report concluded that nurses’ sense of well-being and career fulfillment have declined during the pandemic. “The fallout from the trauma they will have incurred for more than a year will be extraordinary. Without immediate relief, it is highly likely these indicators will continue to erode and cause additional nurses to question their role in nursing and possibly their career path.”

You can read the full report on the survey here.