A study in the current issue of Policy, Politics & Nursing Practice estimates 17.5% of newly licensed RNs leave their first nursing job within the first year and 33.5% leave within two years, according to a news release. The researchers found that turnover for this group is lower at hospitals than at other healthcare settings.
The study, which synthesized existing turnover data and reported turnover data from a nationally representative sample of RNs, was conducted by the RN Work Project, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The RN Work Project is a 10-year study of newly-licensed RNs that began in 2006. The study draws on data from nurses in 34 states, covering 51 metropolitan areas and nine rural areas. The RN Work Project is directed by Christine T. Kovner, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor at the College of Nursing, New York University, and Carol Brewer, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor at the School of Nursing, University at Buffalo.
“One of the biggest problems we face in trying to assess the impact of nurse turnover on our healthcare system as a whole is that there’s not a single, agreed-upon definition of turnover,” Kovner said. “In order to make comparisons across organizations and geographical areas, researchers, policy makers and others need valid and reliable data based on consistent definitions of turnover. It makes sense to look at RNs across multiple organizations, as we did, rather than in a single organization or type of organization to get an accurate picture of RN turnover.”
According to the release, the research team noted that, in some cases, RN turnover can be helpful — as in the case of functional turnover, when a poorly functioning employee leaves, as opposed to dysfunctional turnover, when well-performing employees leave. The team recommends organizations pay attention to the kind of turnover occurring and point out their data indicate that when most RNs leave their jobs, they go to another healthcare job.
“Developing a standard definition of turnover would go a long way in helping identify the reasons for RN turnover and whether managers should be concerned about their institutions’ turnover rates,” Brewer said in the release. “A high rate of turnover at a hospital, if it’s voluntary, could be problematic, but if it’s involuntary or if nurses are moving within the hospital to another unit or position, that tells a very different story.”
The RN Work Project’s data include all organizational turnover (voluntary and involuntary), but do not include position turnover if the RN stayed at the same healthcare organization, according to the release.