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How Covid-19 Changed Nurse Life

Three hundred nurses were surveyed about life during the pandemic. Here's what they shared about hours, workplace, and career.

Nurse life changed because of the pandemic: the hours, the job, the career. A new survey sheds light on what it’s like to be a nurse in the time of Covid-19. Between July 30th and August 11th, 2020, The Harris Poll, on behalf of the University of Phoenix, conducted an online survey of 300 full-time nurses who are US residents, ages 18 and older. Questions focused on employment, career, relationships, and Covid-19. Here’s what they found.

Hours Increased for Some, and Job Security Became a Concern

On average, nurses reported working 42 hours a week. Approximately a third of nurses saw their hours increase because of the pandemic. Other reasons for the increase included:

  • 37% because other staff members had their hours cut, were furloughed, or reassigned
  • 36% experienced an overflow of non-Covid-19 patients coming in from other hospitals
  • 28% because other staff members quit
  • 8% traveled to another location to help out an area that was hard hit by Covid-19

However, others saw hours reduced which caused them to worry about job security. This sample was less than 100 respondents, but the following found more time on their hands:

  • 65% because fewer patients are willing to come into the office/hospital
  • 42% saw fewer elective surgeries/traumas scheduled
  • 36% had their workplace close or take fewer patients
  • 15% had employers who were struggling financially

More than half of the nurses whose hours have decreased say they are concerned about job security.

Jobs Changed, but Career Options Remained About the Same

Working hours are just one thing that has changed for nurses. Nearly two-thirds of nurses reported changes in their job since the pandemic began in the US, including:

  • Job duties/responsibilities
  • The type of patients they see
  • Work setting
  • Salaries or hourly wages
  • Their titles

While half of the nurses say they have about the same career options now as they did before the pandemic began, more than one-quarter feel they have fewer options. Notably, 20% of nurses say they now have more options than before the pandemic.

More Nurses Have Taken Leadership Roles

About three-quarters of nurses said they have taken on more leadership responsibility since the Covid-19 pandemic began and felt like other staff looked at them as leaders. In addition, 61% say their colleagues have valued their opinion more since the pandemic started.

However, 55% of nurses say their voice is not being heard in this crisis, and 84% wish nurses had a more substantial leadership role during this crisis.

Nurses Feel Less Respected

While nurses believe their employer treated them fairly and cared about their employees, 80% and 77%, respectively, said they feel there is a respect gap between doctors and nurses. Specifically:

  • 65% believe their employers view doctors and nurses differently
  • 63% of nurses think doctors do not respect nurses as much as they respect other doctors
  • 75% believe patients appreciate nurses and doctors differently

Nurse Life is More Balanced Than Before the Pandemic

Although it hasn’t been business as usual for the majority of nurses since the pandemic began in the US reported, their work-life balance has improved. Specifically:

  • 58% feel that they have become a better professional in their industry
  • 58% think that they are a better team member to their colleagues
  • 55% feel that they are a better human being
  • 39% believe that they’ve become a better spouse/partner/significant other
  • 38% believe that they’ve become a better friend
  • 27% believe that they’ve become a better parent

This is the Most Challenging Time to be a Nurse

Nearly a third feel they have been able to maintain their mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic, though more than half of nurses admit their mental health has deteriorated.

More than three-quarters of nurses say that working during the pandemic has been the most challenging time in their career, and nearly half of the nurses have contemplated quitting their job at some point. Still, despite feelings of exhaustion, fear, and risk of Covid-19 exposure, approximately 90% of nurses say they like and are satisfied with their job. They also agree that their job is more important than ever right now.

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