Survey: Majority of nurses eyeing the exits if staffing shortage not corrected

While other sectors have recovered from the pandemic, nursing enters a new, dangerous chapter of burnout and staff resignations

January 19, 2023

WASHINGTON—The American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment today released the findings of its annual nationwide survey of 500 foreign-educated registered nurses showing widespread alarm among clinicians about the worsening healthcare staffing crisis, its effect on patient care and provider wellbeing, and its long-term implications for workforce development.


"While most industries have rebounded from the initial interruption and economic shock of the pandemic, nursing will bear the scars of the last three years for decades to come—and at great cost for ordinary patients," AAIHR President Patty Jeffrey said. "Even before the first wave in 2020, hospital bedsides were understaffed. Now, 75 percent of practicing registered nurses say they might leave medicine long-term if the shortage isn't finally corrected. That’s going to mean more closed beds for everyone from expecting mothers to dialysis patients, and the problem will only compound.”

Model nurse staffing mix is one of the strongest predictors of positive patient outcomes. One study by the National Institutes of Health found that increasing a nurse’s workload by just one patient increases the risk of patient mortality by seven percent. Understaffed units carry increased patient safety events, morbidity, and mortality but the triple crises of covid burnout, staff nurse resignations, and Baby Boomer retirements have pushed hospitals—and their patients—to the brink.

Key survey findings:

  • • Seventy-five percent of nurses say their long-term plans to remain in the practice of medicine will be negatively impacted if the staffing shortage is not corrected, up from just one-third of respondents in a 2021 AAIHR survey. An exodus of this size would catastrophically interrupt the safe delivery of healthcare in the United States.
  • • Ninety-three percent of nurses say their hospital is experiencing a shortage, up from 59 percent of respondents in a 2020 AAIHR survey. Asked to identify the causes, 53 percent pinpointed burnout while another 37 percent blamed staff nurse resignations.
  • • Forty percent of nurses say their hospital has been forced to close beds because of an inability to staff them. 
  • • Sixty percent say the shortage has worsened in the previous year. Roughly the same say the staffing shortage is a "serious problem." Another 30 percent described it as a "moderate problem."
  • • Only 28 percent said their hospital could provide adequate care to patients with current nurse staffing levels.
  • • Sixty-one percent say workplace stress negatively affects their life outside of the hospital. Asked to describe their emotional state, nurses painted a bleak picture: exhausted (79 percent), burnt out (69 percent), undervalued (45 percent), fearful (44 percent), and sad (40 percent).

The survey, conducted by the AAIHR, sampled the opinions of 500 registered nurses between December 1-31, 2022.


The American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment (AAIHR) is the preeminent advocate for the ethical international recruiting industry. Our members are integral to the delivery of quality health care to Americans in every corner of the country.

Is your hospital experiencing a nurse staffing shortage?

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Has the staffing shortage worsened over the last year?

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How would you rate the current staffing shortage?

91 percent rate the staffing shortage as a moderate or serious problem. Fewer than one half of one percent say it's not a problem at all.

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Has your hospital closed beds because it was unable to staff them?

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Can you provide adequate care to patients under current staffing levels?

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If the nurse staffing shortage does not improve, will it negatively impact your long-term plans to remain in the practice of medicine?

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Which factor best explains why the shortage has worsened?

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How often does your unit have the necessary number of nurses with the right skills and experience?

Majority of nurses report their units have the necessary number of nurses with right skills and experience less than half of the time.

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How would you rate your current emotional health?

Fewer than one in three nurses say they are emotionally healthy or extremely emotionally healthy

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Is work stress negatively impacting your life outside the hospital?

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In the past 14 days, have you experienced any of the following at work?

Respondents overwhelming supplied negative responses.

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