ANA surveyed nurses in 2011 to discover their concerns about health and safety in their work environments, document exposure to hazards, and measure changes in conditions since the last survey in 2001. A total of 4,614 nurses responded.
Workplace Conditions Improve
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Overall, the survey shows the work environment has improved over the last decade, with higher percentages reporting the availability of patient lifting and transfer devices,
the provision of safe needle devices,
a decrease in illnesses caused or made worse by nursing work, and reductions in physical assaults and verbal abuse or threats.
Some conditions have not changed or grew a little worse, however. Reports of on-the-job injuries increased slightly compared to 2001, and nearly all nurses still indicate that they have worked despite experiencing musculoskeletal pain, including 8 in 10 who say it is a frequent occurrence. More than half say they have experienced musculoskeletal pain caused or made worse by their job.
Nurses' Top Concerns
The top two health and safety concerns remain the same since the 2001 survey: the acute or chronic effects of stress and overwork (74 percent), and disabling musculoskeletal injury (62 percent).
Concerns about an on-the-job assault have increased from 25 percent to 34 percent, though a smaller percentage reported actually being physically assaulted compared to 2001.
On the positive side, concerns about contracting HIV or hepatitis from a needlestick, or developing a latex allergy, have declined considerably.
More Awareness and Education Needed
Although about two-thirds say that patient lifting and transfer devices are available, less than one-third say they use them frequently.
And though the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act of 2000 requires that nurses and other direct care workers help evaluate and select safe needle devices, 43 percent of nurses who had access to safe needle devices did not know if nurses were involved in the process.
Working Hours: Longer Shifts, Less Overtime
Just like in 2001, the largest percentage of respondents work 41 to 60 hours per week, but the percentage working more than 40 hours per week declined overall from 64 percent in 2001 to 55 percent in 2011.
Typical shift lengths have increased, with 56 percent saying their usual shift lasts 10 or more hours, compared to 48 percent in 2001.
Just more than half (53 percent) work some mandatory or unplanned overtime each month, compared to 68 percent in 2001.
Three in 10 nurses report working no overtime in 2011, compared to 2 in 10 in 2001.
Respondents' Profile: Older, More Experienced Hospital Workers
- 62 percent are age 50 or older.
- 36 percent have been working as an RN for more than 30 years.
- The majority (62.2 percent) work in a hospital setting, followed by ambulatory care/outpatient clinic (8 percent), academia (5.2 percent), and long term care (4.1 percent).
- Medical-surgical is the most common practice area, with 13.1 percent of respondents. Administration/management, critical care, educator, psychiatric/mental health and operating room each rank at between 5 percent and 10 percent.
- Nearly half of respondents were staff nurses, about 16 percent were managers, directors or supervisors, and 10 percent were educators. Another 10.5 percent were advanced practice registered nurses, mostly nurse practitioners.