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Massive Shift in Nursing Tenures Indicates the 'New Nurse' is the New Normal

Analysis  |  By Carol Davis  
   June 06, 2022

The number of 12-hour shifts filled by nurses new to the organization within the last year rose by 55.5%.

In March 2021, the median years at an organization for nurses working 12-hour shifts was 3.6; by March 2022 the median years was 2.78, signifying a 19.5% drop, according to a new study by Epic Research.

The study sought to determine nursing staff turnover in healthcare organizations by evaluating data from more than 26 million 12-hour nursing shifts for 539,765 RNs across 189 U.S. healthcare organizations.

One of the study's measures of turnover is the median length of time nurses have been at their current organization, of which the findings indicated the 19.5% change.

Other key findings include:

  • While this decrease in median nurse tenure is seen across the United States, it is most prominent in the West.
  • The number of 12-hour shifts filled by nurses new to the organization within the last year also rose by 55.5%.
  • Shifts covered by nurses new to the organization in the last 30 days increased in all regions.

The median tenure in the West fell by 32.2%, compared to 17.7% in the Northeast; 16.4% in the Midwest; and 11.3% in the South, according to the study.

Another of the study's measure of nurse turnover is how many shifts are covered by new nurses—defined as a nurse who started at an organization in the last 30 days.

The percentage of shifts covered by new nurses increased across all regions, with the largest increases in the South (3.4%), followed by the Midwest (2.9%), the West (2.6%), and Northeast (2.6%), the study says.

The study also reviewed the distribution of shifts based on how many years the nurse had been at the organization. The greatest number of shifts—hundreds of thousands—were filled by nurses with less than one year of tenure, a number that rose by 55.5% from March 2021 to March 2022, according to the study’s data.

The change was consistent across all regions, but most pronounced in the West and South.

These findings show that nurses are leaving the profession or changing organizations more frequently, according to Epic Research, which highlights a crucial need for organizations to invest in retention and onboarding programs for nurses.

Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

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