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Young nurses struggle with emotional challenges of their job

More than 40 percent of nurses aged under 30 say the realities of nursing differ from their expectations, in particular the emotional challenge of nursing is more than they expected and the pay progression less. More than half of young nurses feel they are not appropriately paid for their roles and responsibilities.

These are among the significant findings of a survey of young nurses conducted by NZNO late last year and released this week.

Bullying and harassment are features of 38.2 percent of workplaces and 10 percent of nurses aged under 30 are considering leaving nursing altogether in the next 12 months.

The online survey of nurses born between 1980 and 1994 was conducted by NZNO researchers Dr Jill Clendon and Dr Léonie Walker. It revealed that close to 46 percent felt there were insufficient nurses to provide safe care.

Many younger nurses felt the emotional challenge of nursing was more than they anticipated and that their education did not prepare them to cope with the challenges of conflict resolution, managing challenging behaviour and stress/emotional self-management.

The most common reasons given by those 10.3 percent considering leaving nursing altogether were a poor working environment, including poor pay, low staffing and compromised patient safety, and a lack of flexibility in the workplace to accommodate family needs. “Developing family-friendly workplace policies, including job share opportunities and more accessible and affordable childcare, will assist younger nurses to remain in the workplace” says Dr Clendon.

The two most important reasons that would contribute to these nurses staying in nursing were a pay increase and more recognition from their manager of their skills.

Just over a third of young nurses had changed jobs in the past 12 months, most commonly to gain different skills, although 16 percent of these nurses cited bullying as a problem in their workplace. Close to 50 percent of those who said bullying was a problem in their workplace were looking for a new job.

Of the respondents, 10.1 percent were male. National figures show 92.8 percent of nurses are female and 7.2 percent are male. Dr Clendon said the survey figures may indicate a growing number of younger males entering nursing. ”This is very positive as long-term shortages of nurses mean the nursing profession needs to increase recruitment. Men have traditionally struggled with entering nursing as a profession but these figures indicate we may be starting to see more men take up the challenge.”

Dr Clendon said a range of recommendations had been made as a result of the survey findings, including developing and implementing activities to address bullying in the workplace, improving the content of the undergraduate curriculum on managing the emotional challenges of nursing, and improving pay progression in employment agreements.

The researchers said further research was required to explore a number of the findings, including finding out what emotional stress younger nurses found most challenging.


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