It wasn’t unusual for US nurses to consider quitting even before the pandemic. Employers pointed to the nursing shortage.
Even though there were over 3 million nurses in the US in 2019, the field isn’t growing at the same pace as the aging population needing care, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
Burnout was the primary factor driving nurses to quit before the pandemic, according to a study in the journal Health Policy. Of the over 418,000 registered nurses who quit in 2017, over 30% of them said they left because of burnout, citing stressful work environments and inadequate staffing.
Such was the case for Megan Chao Smith, a nurse in Minneapolis who worked on an end-stage heart failure floor. Nurses there helped patients eat, breathe and use the restroom.
When her hospital cut staff, her workload doubled, and she often had to be in two rooms at once to keep her patients alive.