Objective: In an effort to better understand turnover rates in hospitals and the effect of new nurses on them, this study sought to describe the characteristics and attitudes toward work of newly licensed RNs, a population important to both the nursing profession and the health care system.
Methods: A survey was mailed to a random sample of new RNs in 35 states and the District of Columbia. A total of 3,266 returned surveys met the inclusion criteria, for a response rate of 56%. RNs who qualified had completed the licensing examination and obtained a first license between August 1, 2004, and July 31, 2005. Data pertaining to four areas were collected: respondent characteristics, work-setting characteristics, respondents' attitudes toward work, and job opportunities. Respondents who were not working were asked to specify why.
Results: Of the eligible newly licensed RNs, 58.1% had an associate's degree, 37.6% had a bachelor's degree, and 4.3% had a diploma or a master's or higher degree as their first professional degree. They were generally pleased with their work groups but felt they had only moderate support from supervisors. About 13% had changed principal jobs after one year, and 37% reported that they felt ready to change jobs. More than half of the respondents (51%) worked voluntary overtime, and almost 13% worked mandatory overtime. Also, 25% reported at least one on-the-job needlestick in a year; 39%, at least one strain or sprain; 21%, a cut or laceration; and 46%, a bruise or contusion; 62% reported experiencing verbal abuse. A quarter of them found it “difficult or impossible” to do their jobs at least once per week because of inadequate supplies.
Conclusions: This study provides descriptive evidence that a majority of newly licensed RNs are reasonably satisfied and have no plans to change jobs, but the group is not homogeneous. The negative attitudes expressed in response to some survey questions suggest that newly licensed RNs may not remain in the acute care settings where they start out. Investing in better orientation and management may be the key to retaining them in hospitals. The authors will be following these RNs for two years and will develop predictive models of turnover rates.