Report: Gen Z nurses are coming into the workforce stricken by staffing scarcity nervousness

The staffing crisis among U.S. healthcare workers continues to make headlines, with senior care and nursing suffering the worst employee deficits. More than 100,00 registered nurses left the workforce in 2021, the worst exodus the career had seen in more than four decades.

The workplace climate of excessive burnout and rapid turnover is causing new graduates to enter the nursing profession in a state of anxiety, according to a recent report from nurse staffing platform Incredible Health. The two main sources of this anxiety are worries about inadequate onboarding processes and being overworked as a result of staffing shortages, said Incredible Health CEO Iman Abuzeid.

To conduct its study, Incredible Health analyzed data from recent nursing graduates and 400,000 nurses on its platform. Most of these recent graduates and new nurses were part of Gen Z.

Sufficient training is one of the most important aspects Gen Z nurses are looking for in a job, the report found. Since Gen Z nurses are young, career-oriented individuals, they want their training to not only be comprehensive and unhurried, but also open up a clear path towards eventually becoming a specialized nurse, according to Abuzeid.

“Many new graduate nurses have aspirations to move very quickly into specialty areas, such as an emergency medicine program,” she said. “So training programs that emphasize specialized skills tend to be what they prefer, and the ability for nurses to enter those areas sooner rather than later is definitely a preference.”

The report showed that nearly eight in every 10 nurses entering the field have found their training to be overwhelming, rushed or not as informative as they had hoped. Some Gen Z nurses also lamented the fact that they were not trained by experienced nurses, but rather fellow recent graduates. 

This anecdotal data is concerning, especially because 41% of new nurses reported that onboarding training was the most important resource their employer can provide, Abuzeid pointed out. One respondent said staffing shortages are the clear culprit that have forced hospitals to forgo the resources they would usually give new nursing hires, leaving herself and her peers without “a formal orientation that’s long enough for a new graduate.” 

The report also found that two-thirds of new nurse graduates feel burnt out within their first six months of employment. Staffing shortages cause new nurses to take on an excessive amount of overtime shifts that lead not only to stress and anxiety, but could also lead to diminished care quality, Abuzeid pointed out.

“When you’re overworked as a nurse, you’re more likely to make mistakes, and your patient mortality can go up,” she said. “Frankly, that’s very stressful. Nurses care about patient safety, and it tends to decrease in understaffed units.”

Nursing is already a stressful and high-stakes job, and the added stressors of its workforce crisis are causing many new nurses to rethink their career choice — 55% of new nursing graduates said they do not plan to stick with the profession until retirement.

In order to reverse this trend, Abuzeid thinks employers will have to adapt to Gen Z nurses’ needs quickly. To do this, providers must first ensure they can offer comprehensive training led by experienced nurses. They must also invest heavily in career advanced training in order to be able to hire and retain more nurses, Abuzeid said.

Photo: Hiraman, Getty Images

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