This study examined potential predictors of nurses’ intentions to work during the 2009 influenza A (H1N1) pandemic.
A questionnaire was mailed to a random sample of 1,200 nurses chosen from all RNs and LPNs registered with the Maine State Board of Nursing during the second wave of the flu pandemic.
Of the 735 respondents, 90% initially indicated that they intended to work during a flu pandemic. Respondents were significantly more likely to work if provided with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) but significantly less likely without adequate PPE or if they feared family members could become ill with pandemic flu. They were also significantly less likely to work if assigned to direct care of a flu patient; if a colleague were quarantined for or died of pandemic flu; if they feared their own family members might die of pandemic flu; if they themselves were ill for any reason; if a family member or loved one were sick at home and needed care; if they lacked a written family protection plan; or if certain incentives were offered: antiviral medication or vaccine for nurse and family, double pay, or free room and board at work. About 7% of RNs reported that they would not be willing to work during a flu pandemic, regardless of incentives or other factors. An inverse relationship was found between the perceived level of threat posed by a flu pandemic and nurses’ willingness to work.
To maintain an adequate nursing workforce during a flu pandemic, employers should ensure that policies and procedures include providing adequate PPE for nurses and safeguarding the health of nurses and their families. The level of perceived threat is likely to affect the proportion of nurses willing to work. Some nurses will not work during a flu pandemic no matter what protections and incentives are offered; efforts intended to force or entice all nurses to work are unlikely to succeed.
Findings from this study suggest that planning for adequate resources during an emergency will not only ensure the safety of patients, nurses, and nurses' families, but may also increase nurses' willingness to work in times of crisis.
Sharon Dezzani Martin is a professor in the Department of Nursing at Saint Joseph's College in Standish, ME. Lisa M. Brown is an associate professor in the School of Aging Studies at the University of South Florida in Tampa, where W. Michael Reid is an emeritus associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. Contact author: Sharon Dezzani Martin, firstname.lastname@example.org. The authors and planners have disclosed no potential conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise.