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Arkansas State University

Job Satisfaction for Nurses Is Important

It stands to reason that a happier nurse is a better nurse. And now there’s research tying patient outcomes to how nurses feel about where they work.

One recent example compared nurses at Kaiser Permanente hospitals with other healthcare facilities in four states that provided a broad cross section of American hospitals: California, Florida, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The study, for Health Care Management Review (and conveyed on the Fierce Healthcare site), looked at “whether patient and nurse outcomes were better in Kaiser hospitals. Researchers questioned nurses about their work environment, level of education, job satisfaction and typical number of patients seen each day. In addition, the researchers referenced mortality data for each hospital.”

Happier Nurses Improve Patient Outcomes

A correlation was found between lower patient mortality rates and Kaiser’s better work environments, favorable staffing levels, and higher ratio of nurses with BSN degrees. In fact, the mortality rates were 20 percent lower at Kaiser — in large part attributed to the four-to-one patient ratio, versus the five to one at other hospitals. However, the implications section of the study’s abstract noted that “An important element in Kaiser’s success is its investment in professional nursing, which may not be evident to systems seeking to achieve Kaiser’s advantage.”

There are studies, unfortunately, that show the converse is true — that unhappy and even unsettled nurses can have a negative impact on patient care and patients’ perception of that care. A recent article covered studies that should give pause to healthcare administrators and professionals alike.

Longer Shifts Lead to Burnout

In one, researchers found that as the proportion of nurses working more than 13 hours in a shift (if you can imagine that) increased, patient satisfaction dropped. Even nurses who work shifts lasting longer than 10 hours reported being two-and-a-half times as likely to experience burnout as those who don’t. The study went on to show the connection between stress and turnover, and how long shifts over time can lead to higher numbers of nurses quitting their jobs.

Patients Know When Nurses Aren’t Happy

Another study, from the American Nurses Association, showed that a 25 percent increase in “nurse job enjoyment” correlates to a 5 to 20 percent increase in overall quality of care perception.

Yet another study showed that improving conditions for nurses at just one hospital where morale was low led to better outcomes, including fewer medication administration errors from the nursing staff.

A nurse’s job satisfaction, job security, and ability to contribute to the healthcare facility has much to do with education. RNs with BSNs generally have more pathways to advancement, and therefore have more opportunities to effect change in policy.

RNs with BSNs also have opportunities to move between units and even other healthcare facilities. While it’s hard to quantify how many more opportunities, healthcare is moving more and more to RNs with BSNs. Many healthcare facilities have embraced the goal of 80 percent RNs with BSNs in the American nursing workforce by 2020.

While a BSN doesn’t guarantee job satisfaction, it gives a nurse better tools to stay happy in a job or to move to a new job.

Learn more about A-State’s online RN to BSN program.


FierceHealthcare: Satisfied Nurses Improve Hospital Outcomes, Mortality

NCBI: Achieving Kaiser Permanente Quality

National Academy of Medicine: The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health

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