NEW YORK NURSE: July/August 2008
by Joely Johnson
More than 5,000 RNs in over 100 metropolitan New York hospitals responded to a survey recently conducted by the Center for Health Workforce Studies, a non-profit research group devoted to understanding the healthcare workforce. The study was designed to paint a picture of today’s N.Y. nursing workforce and will help to direct future research.
Room for improvement
The study exposed some aspects of today’s nursing environment that indicate needed improvement. Not surprisingly, many of the challenges nurses face have increased: RNs report higher patient acuity, more patients per nurse, more RN turnover, more frequent use of agency nurses, greater need for second-language skills, and more inadequate staffing.
In addition, experienced RNs said they usually or often feel burdened by the requirement to help prepare new nurses. Only 15.7% said that they feel properly trained to serve as preceptors.
The good news
The survey also provided some positive insights about the future of nursing in New York City. Only 2% of hospital RNs say they are planning to take a job outside of nursing in the next three years. Three-quarters report they have no plans to leave their current nursing position within that same time frame. And only 5% said they plan to leave their job in the next six months.
According to the findings, prior experience in the healthcare field is a strong avenue into registered nursing for Blacks and Hispanics. Half of Black and Hispanic nurses said they were working in health care right before they started their first RN education program.
The New York City population of nurses is much more racially and ethnically diverse than hospital RNs nationwide. Despite this diversity, the recent Hospital Nursing Workforce Survey pointed out a pay gap between the salaries of White and non-White nurses working in and around Manhattan. Regardless of their years of experience, the data indicate that non-Hispanic White RNs make more money than their minority counterparts.
The finding has gotten people talking – and thinking. Some are understandably concerned that racial discrimination is still at work, meting out undue punishments to certain groups. The reality, however, is likely more complex than any simple “black or white” answer.
“This is a jumping off point for more research,” said Jean Moore, director of the Center for Health Workforce Studies, which conducted the survey. As an example, she pointed to previous studies showing underrepresented minority physicians and nurse practitioners are more likely to work in primary care or with underserved communities – settings known for being less lucrative. “Minority nurses’ decisions not to specialize may be related to a lack of minority faculty members in those areas who can inspire and encourage them on.”
The survey also indicated that Black nurses are more likely to be interested in or actively pursuing advanced nursing education. “So we need to think of better ways to help them complete those advanced degrees,” said Moore, “and then groom these RNs for the leadership and faculty positions where they are needed.”
If you belong to a NYSNA bargaining unit and you suspect you have been a victim of discrimination in your workplace, contact your nursing representative.