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Working conditions influence intensive care unit nurses' decision to leave their current position

In a national survey, nearly one-fifth (17 percent) of intensive care unit (ICU) nurses indicated that they intended to leave their current position in the coming year, with 52 percent citing working conditions as the reason. The survey included 2,323 registered nurses (RNs) from 66 hospitals and 110 critical care units. The average RN was nearly 40 years old, had over 15 years of experience in health care, and had worked in their current position for 8 years.

Nurses who intended to leave their current position rated organizational climate factors lower than those who intended to stay. Those who intended to leave rated professional collaboration, nurse competence, and staffing/resources lower than did nurses who were staying. While nurses viewed lack of nurse competence a problem, their perception of a nursing shortage did not seem linked to their intention to leave. However, nurses with less tenure in their current positions were more likely to indicate a desire to leave due to working conditions.

Past estimates of the cost to replace one medical or surgical RN range from $30,000 to $50,000 and closer to $65,000 for critical care nurses. Improving nurses' perceptions of professional practice in the work environment and the clinical competence of nurses, as well as finding ways to support new hires may reduce turnover. It may also help ensure a stable and qualified workforce. This is particularly important given the projected increasing shortage of qualified nurses, note the researchers. Their study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS13114).

See "Organizational climate and intensive care unit nurses' intention to leave," by Patricia W. Stone, Ph.D., Elaine L. Larson, Ph.D., Cathy Mooney-Kane, M.P.H., and others, in the July 2006 Critical Care Medicine 34(7), pp. 1907-1912.

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