Gen Z Nurses Report Struggles with Stress, Trauma, and Workplace Violence

Gen Z Nurses Report Struggles with Stress, Trauma, and Workplace Violence

On Tuesday, the ANA American Nurses Foundation (the Foundation)  released new survey findings from nearly 12,000 nurses nationwide, revealing that younger nurses are struggling more with mental health challenges and that nurses are experiencing an increase in workplace violence as the nation enters year three of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mental Health and Workplace Violence

Nurses’ mental health and well-being has been and remains a pressing issue, with the ongoing stressors of the pandemic taking a significant toll on younger nurses. Nearly half of nurses surveyed under age 35 said they have sought professional mental health support since March 2020. Of the survey respondents under age 25, 69% say they have been suffering from burnout, which is more than double than those older than 25 (30%). Additionally, nurses under age 25 (47%) and nurses between 25- 34 (46%) consider themselves as being not or not at all emotionally healthy compared to nurses over the age of 55 (19%) and were more likely to have experienced an extremely traumatic, disturbing, or stressful event due to COVID-19. The number of workplace violence incidences against nurses are on the rise, according to the survey. Specifically, 2/3 of nurses surveyed said they have experienced increased bullying at work while 1/3 of nurses report increased incidents of physical violence at work.

“Mental health challenges endured by nurses is a serious ongoing dilemma that will have long-term impacts on the profession as this younger generation of nurses have been hit the hardest, as noted in the survey. As we think about the future of nursing, this is particularly disturbing because nurses are our most valuable resource in health care, remaining a constant force in the recovery efforts to end this relentless pandemic by administering COVID-19 vaccines, educating communities, and providing safe and quality patient care to millions. The key to ending this pandemic is having and sustaining a robust nursing workforce operating at peak health and wellness,” said Foundation Board of Trustees President, Wilhelmina M. Manzano, MA, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN. “The Foundation continues to be committed to providing resources and the necessary support to all nurses through the Well-Being Initiative and the Coronavirus Response Fund for Nurses. We need to ensure nurses are consistently and completely protected and supported. There is too much on the line.”

Lack of robust support systems feeds staffing crisis

Among respondents who say that their organization is experiencing a staffing shortage (89%), more than half (53%) say that it is a serious problem. Younger nurses are leaving their current positions and roles in increasing numbers. According to the survey findings, nurses ages 25-34 and 35-44 were more likely to change positions than nurses over age 55. Similarly, 60% of nurses under age 25 and 57% of nurses 25-34 do not believe their organization cares about their well-being and generally feel unsupported. The lack of support and work negatively affecting their mental health and well-being were major contributing factors to this sentiment of younger nurses who were more likely to experience negative and unhealthy emotions.

“As we enter the third year of this incessant pandemic, the survey findings are even more alarming than what we found in the survey done last year.  It’s extremely disheartening that we are still seeing and hearing about the same issues nurses have been burdened with since the start of the pandemic in 2020,” said Foundation Executive Director, Kate Judge. “Nurses are still struggling with mental health issues, feeling unsupported, and suffering from severe burnout and post-traumatic stress because of their sustained response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The nurse staffing shortage has had a domino effect on the profession and it’s only going to worsen if we don’t address the chronic, underlying work environment issues. The Foundation continues to work tirelessly on behalf of the nation’s nurses who deserve our full support and respect for their efforts in improving public health and pulling our nation out of the grip of this pandemic.”

Nurses cannot solve the longstanding challenges facing the profession alone. It is imperative that the Administration and all other stakeholders utilize all available authorities to address these issues and collaborate with nurses to forge a path forward to ensure a strong nursing workforce now and in the future.

The full survey results and findings are available online (PDF).

*Data collected through a non-incentivized survey administered by the American Nurses Foundation. Between January 8 – January 29, 2022 – 11,964 nurses completed this survey. *