Recent Research About Nursing, May 2012

Researchers offer a snapshot of California's tight job market for new nurses, and "presenteeism" and its effect on care.

    • May 29, 2012

Tough Job Market for California's Newly Licensed RNs

New survey research from California suggests that the lingering effects of the recession continue to suppress hiring of new nurses.

The California Institute for Nursing & Health Care conducted the survey, gathering data from almost a fifth of nurses licensed in the state between April 2010 and August 2011. Key findings include:

  • Newly licensed RNs “are having difficulty finding employment as nurses.” According to the survey, 43 percent of RNs licensed in the state in the 18 months immediately prior to the survey were not yet employed as RNs. Last year's survey showed a similar result, suggesting that the nation's improved economic outlook has not yet translated into jobs for newly licensed RNs in the Golden State.
  • The 57 percent of newly licensed RNs who had found jobs reported that it took a while to land them. Forty percent found jobs in less than three months; 30 percent found jobs in three to six months; 15 percent in six to nine months; 10 percent in nine months to a year; and 6 percent looked for more than a year.
  • "The demand for more nurses with a minimum of a baccalaureate degree in nursing is a growing trend expressed by employers. Forty-two percent of new graduates who are not yet working indicate the lack of a baccalaureate degree to be a reason they are not yet employed."

Results from the survey are based on responses given in the fall of 2011 from 1,492 newly licensed nurses in the state.

Nurse 'Presenteeism' and Its Effect on the Quality of Care

A number of studies in recent years have demonstrated that nurse staffing levels have an effect on the quality of care hospital patients receive. But new research funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative (INQRI) explores what happens when nurses come to work despite personal health problems, asking how such so-called "presenteeism" affects the quality of care?

Susan Levtak, PhD, led a group of researchers collecting survey data from 1,171 hospital nurses in North Carolina. The survey asked nurses about their workplace, including questions about patient safety and the quality of care. It also asked about nurses' own health while on the job, with questions focused on depression, because it can cause workers to be distracted on the job, and physical pain from musculoskeletal problems that might restrict nurses' activities in the hospital.

The researchers found that 71 percent of nurses in North Carolina hospitals reported working while suffering from musculoskeletal pain, with nearly 18 percent working through pain that they rated as a "5" on an 11-point scale. Similarly, 18 percent of nurses in the study reported suffering from depression, greatly exceeding the 9 percent rate cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the U.S. population in general. The researchers also found that nurses' health affected the quality of care. They wrote: "Our most significant finding was that nurse presenteeism was significantly associated with nursing-sensitive quality-of-care indicators. Specifically, presenteeism was associated with an increase in medication errors and patient falls, and with lower self-reported quality of care…. [Our study] demonstrates that nurses' health affects work productivity, which in turn affects quality of care. Clearly, then, keeping RNs healthy and addressing presenteeism should be priorities."

The study appears in the February issue of the American Journal of Nursing.

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