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Nurses report an improved work-life balance, even in the time of COVID-19

Nurses report an improved work-life balance, even in the time of COVID-19

By University of Phoenix

  • Oct 27, 2020
  • 6 min read
Media Resources
Being a nurse in the time of COVID-19

While many nurses say their hours have increased during the pandemic due to the number of COVID-19 cases coming in, others report their hours being reduced due to fewer elective surgeries/traumas and as a result, worry about their job security.

Although it hasn’t been business as usual for the majority, many report their work-life balance has improved and they’ve become a better team member and professional in their industry.

On average, nurses report working 42 hours/week. However, nearly a third of nurses (31%) say since the COVID-19 pandemic began in the US, the number of hours they work has increased, primarily due to the increase in the number of COVID-19 patients coming in (78%).

Other reasons nurses report their hours have increased include:

    • Other staff members having their hours cut, being furloughed, or reassigned (37%)
    • An overflow of non-COVID-19 patients coming in from other hospitals (36%)
    • Other staff members quitting (28%)
    • Because they travelled to another location to help out an area that was hard hit by COVID-19 (8%)

For the 21% of nurses who say their work hours have decreased* since the COVID-19 pandemic began, it is mainly because fewer patients are willing to come into the office/hospital (65%), but also because:

    • There have been fewer elective surgeries/traumas scheduled (42%)
    • The physical location where they work was closed/seeing fewer patients (36%)
    • Their employer was struggling financially (15%)

And, more than half of nurses whose hours have decreased (54%) say they are concerned about their job security.

Nearly 2 in 3 nurses (64%) say that working during the pandemic has not been business as usual for them. Many nurses report changes at their job since the pandemic began in the US, including:

    • Their job duties/responsibilities (49%)
    • The type of patients they see (39%)
    • Their work setting (37%)
    • Their salary/hourly wage (13%)
    • Their title (3%)

While half of nurses (52%) say they have about the same amount of career options now as they did before the pandemic began, more than 1 in 4 (28%) feel they have fewer options. Notably, 20% of nurses say they have more options now than before the pandemic began and 22% of nurses say their work life balance has gotten better since the pandemic began.

Since the pandemic began in the US, more than half of nurses say:

    • They’ve become a better professional in their industry (58%)
    • A better team member to their colleagues (58%)
    • A better human being (55%)

Fewer report they’ve become a better spouse/partner/significant other (39%), friend (38%), or parent (27%).


Amplifying nurse voices

Despite taking on more leadership responsibilities since the pandemic began, nurses feel less respected than doctors and like their voices aren’t being heard.

While the majority of nurses believe their employer treats them fairly (80%) and cares about their employees (77%),  nurses believe there is a respect gap between how nurses and doctors are viewed by their employer (65%).

The majority of nurses also feel doctors do not respect nurses as much as they respect other doctors (63%) and that there is a respect gap between how nurses and doctors are viewed by patients (75%).

About 3 in 4 nurses say they have taken on more leadership responsibility since the COVID-19 pandemic began (73%) and feel like other staff look at them as a leader (78%). In addition, the majority (61%) say their opinion is valued more by their colleagues since the pandemic began.

However, many nurses say they feel like their voice is not really being heard in this crisis (55%) or that no one has taken their opinions/concerns seriously in this crisis (41%). Further, the vast majority (84%) wish nurses had a stronger leadership role during this crisis.


More than just a job

Despite feelings of exhaustion, fear, and risk of COVID-19 exposure, the majority of nurses are proud of what they do and would choose the same profession if they had to do it over again.

Many nurses rate their physical health (52%) or emotional/mental health (45%) as excellent/very good right now. Still, many exhibit mixed feelings about being a nurse right now. Since the pandemic began, nurses report feeling:

    • Exhausted (65%)
    • Fearful (49%)
    • Underappreciated (36%)
    • Depressed (30%)
    • Expendable (24%)
    • Underutilized (8%)

But they also report feelings of being:

    • Hopeful (35%)
    • Valued (32%)
    • Grateful (30%)
    • Supported (26%)
    • Motivated (20%)
    • Confident (13%)

About 3 in 4 nurses say they have taken on more leadership responsibility since the COVID-19 pandemic began (73%) and feel like other staff look at them as a leader (78%). In addition, the majority (61%) say their opinion is valued more by their colleagues since the pandemic began.

However, many nurses say they feel like their voice is not really being heard in this crisis (55%) or that no one has taken their opinions/concerns seriously in this crisis (41%). Further, the vast majority (84%) wish nurses had a stronger leadership role during this crisis.

While nearly a third of nurses (31%) say the ability to maintain their mental/emotional health has stayed the same since the COVID-19 pandemic began, more than half of nurses (58%) admit it has become worse. And more than 3 in 4 nurses (78%) say that working during the pandemic has been the most challenging time in their career.

The majority are concerned about:

    • Their risk of exposure to COVID-19 (88%)
    • Their organization’s ability to keep up with a surge of COVID-19 patients (63%).

In fact, nearly half of nurses (46%) thought about quitting their job at some point during the pandemic. Still, about 9 in 10 nurses say they like their job (90%) and are satisfied with their job (88%). The overwhelming majority (87%) agree that their job is more important than ever right now.

Virtually all are proud of the work that they do (99%) and believe that being a nurse is not just a job, it is a calling (96%). And, most nurses (86%) say if they had to do it all over again, they would be likely to choose the same profession again, with 63% saying they would be very likely to do so.


Preference for a gift of thanks

Although nurses are split between a small gift of thanks or a large gift if an organization planned to give a gift to the field of nursing, nurses’ top priorities are workplace safety and their own physical and mental health.

Nurses report their top three priorities as a nurse right now are workplace safety (71%), their own mental health (52%), and their own physical health (43%), with maintaining their income/compensation/benefits (42%) following closely behind.

Other priorities include:

    • Their own self-care (28%)
    • Adequate staffing (26%)
    • Protection from workplace violence (from patients and residents) (11%)
    • Maintaining their work hours (8%)
    • Having a voice (8%)
    • Career progression (8%)

If an organization planned to give a philanthropic gift to the field of nursing, about half of nurses (52%) say they would most prefer a small gift of thanks distributed to individual nurses. The other half of nurses (48%) would most prefer a large gift, either to advance the nursing profession (31%) or to benefit a non-profit/charity in healthcare (17%).

Of those who would prefer a small gift of thanks distributed to individual nurses, nearly 3 in 5 would most prefer it in the form of a monetary gift of cash or a gift card (58%), followed by:

    • Personal supplies such as scrubs, shoes, or office supplies for their job (18%)
    • An electronic gift such as a tablet, fitness tracker, or smartwatch (13%)
    • A personal wellness gift such as bath supplies, meditation set or access to fitness classes (7%)
    • Educational resources to continue their education such as books, access to online courses or reference guides (2%)

Of those who would prefer a large gift to advance the nursing profession*, 54% would most prefer a gift to an organization that provides for the mental health and emotional needs of nurses, followed by a gift to a professional organization that advocates for nurses in legislative issues (20%), a gift to a professional organization that provides continuing education in nursing (16%), or a gift to a professional organization that promotes diversity and inclusion in nursing (5%).

Of those who would prefer a large gift to benefit a non-profit/charity in healthcare*, 55% would most prefer a gift to a charity/non-profit that serves the public health needs of the underserved, followed by:

    • A gift to a charity/non-profit that serves the mental health needs of the underserved (32%)
    • A gift to a charity/non-profit that provides health outreach in times of disaster or a catastrophic event (10%)
    • A gift to a charity/non-profit in medical research (3%)

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of University of Phoenix between July 30 – August 11, 2020, among 300 nurses who are US residents, ages 18 and older, and currently employed full-time as a nurse.

Figures were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact media@phoenix.edu.


* Caution: Small base size (less than 100)