Australian nurses overworked, with more than a quarter considering leaving: survey finds

Nursing survey

Australia’s nurses and midwives are overworked, undervalued and in danger of burning out, with 32 per cent considering leaving the profession, according to the bleak findings of a Monash Business School survey of nurses and midwives’ wellbeing.

Globally recognised for its leading research capabilities, Monash Business School’s Australian Consortium for Research on Employment and Work (ACREW) has undertaken the survey every three years since 2007. It found already high workloads had increased and many nurses felt silenced by management.

A potential shortage in nursing and midwifery is looming, with the majority of the nursing/midwifery workforce in Australia already aged 47 years or older and set to retire in the next decade, against a backdrop of declining nursing enrolments.

The survey, “What Nurses & Midwives Want: Findings from the National Survey on Workplace Climate and Well-being,” was undertaken by Associate Professor Peter Holland, Ms Tse Leng Tham and Dr Fenella Gill, who is also a research fellow at Curtin University.

The research, which builds on two previous surveys charting the wellbeing of Australian nurses, sounds a warning call to those charged with managing this workforce and this sector, according to the report’s co-author, Associate Professor Holland.

The report’s findings included:

  • 32 per cent indicated they have considered leaving the nursing/midwifery profession and 25 percent reported they were either likely or very likely to leave the profession, compared to an industry average range of between  three to six percent.
  • 85 per cent of respondents felt that their jobs required them to work very fast, very hard and there is often a great deal to be done at work at least once or twice per week to several times per day. In the three years since the last study, all indicators have increased in terms of work intensification.

Nurses reported feeling that they lacked management support when it came to flexible work arrangements, staffing, workload management and the handling of cases of physical, verbal and sexual harassment directed at them.

Such negative perceptions were most prevalent in New South Wales and in the areas of mental health, critical care and emergency, maternity care and aged care.