AMA-led study: 2 in 5 nurses intend to leave practice within two years

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Reducing burnout and improving sense of feeling valued might help retain health care workers

One in 5 physicians and 2 in 5 nurses said they intend to leave their current practice within two years, a new American Medical Association-led study found.

From July 1 to Dec. 31, 2020, health care workers were surveyed about their fear of viral exposure or transmission, COVID-19–related anxiety or depression, work overload, burnout, and intentions to reduce hours or leave their jobs.

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Among 20,665 respondents at 124 institutions, 40% of nurses, 33% of advanced practice providers, 29.4% of clinical staff and 23.8% of physicians said they intend to leave their practice within the next two years.

In addition, 33.7% of nurses and 31.4% of doctors plan to reduce their hours in the next 12 months.

The aim of the study was to evaluate the intentions of U.S. physicians, nurses, advanced practice providers and other clinical roles, in addition to clerical workers, housekeepers and administrators.

“We hypothesized that stress, burnout and the factors that could lead to them (anxiety and depressive symptoms, fear of exposure or transmission, and work overload) would be associated with greater intention to reduce work hours or leave current practice,” the researchers wrote.

“Because multiple studies have demonstrated that intent to leave among physicians correlates with actual departures, these findings are of concern,” the study stated. “Costs of replacing healthcare workers are also substantial. Replacing a nurse may cost up to 1.2 to 1.3 times their annual salary. Replacing physicians may cost $250,000 to more than $1 million per physician. The aggregate cost of physicians reducing or cutting back attributable to burnout alone is estimated at $4.6 billion annually in the United States.”

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The AMA stated that feeling highly valued by the respondent’s organization was strongly associated with a lower intention to reduce work hours and leave their current practice.

Study authors concluded that “reducing burnout and improving a sense of feeling valued may allow healthcare organizations to better maintain their workforces post-pandemic.”

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