By Sylvia Foley, AJN senior editor

It’s no surprise that the recent economic recession caused many older nurses to return to the workforce or to delay retirement and work longer hours, thus easing the projected nursing shortage—at least for the time being. But nurse researcher Carol S. Brewer and colleagues wanted to understand how the recession affected new nurses’ work attitudes and behaviors, in particular those related to turnover. What they found has many implications, both now—although the recession is reportedly over, we’re still in an economic slump—and as the economy recovers.

To learn more, Brewer and colleagues compared data for two cohorts of newly licensed RNs. The first cohort consisted of 983 new nurses licensed between August 2004 and July 2005 who were surveyed before the economic downturn; the second cohort consisted of 1,765 new nurses licensed between August 2007 and July 2008. The survey tool included questions on attitudinal variables in four areas: personal characteristics, work attributes, work attitudes, and job opportunities. The researchers report the results in this month’s CE–Original Research feature, “New Nurses: Has the Recession Increased Their Commitment to Their Jobs?”

Among the key findings:

  • Commitment to the profession was high in both cohorts. Most (82%) of the RNs in each cohort strongly agreed with the statement that within one year they planned “to have a job that requires an RN license.”
  • Income and job satisfaction levels were about the same in both cohorts.
  • Nurses in the 2007–2008 cohort were significantly more likely to be searching for a new job, although they also  reported a significantly greater intent to stay with their current employers than the 2004–2005 cohort did.
  • The 2007–2008 cohort perceived significantly fewer job opportunities, both locally and nonlocally, than did the 2004–2005 cohort.

The researchers concluded that

despite some improvements in working conditions, newly licensed RNs may just be waiting for the recession to end before changing jobs. Health care organizations’ efforts to improve RNs’ working conditions and wages, and to implement or support existing programs aimed at increasing retention, should be continued.

For more study results and an intriguing discussion about what it all means, read the article (for easier reading, open the PDF). And if you’re a newly licensed RN (or if you’re not, but this topic resonates for you), please weigh in here—how has the continuing economic slump affected your job satisfaction and intent to stay?

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