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March 30, 2023

Union survey: Mass. nurses report feeling quality of care has worsened

Photo | WBJ File Central Mass. healthcare providers are struggling with shortages of both doctors and nurses.

A new survey from the Massachusetts Nurses Association delivers a grim outlook on the healthcare system, particularly among newer nurses. Results of the survey overall indicate participating nurses feel the quality of care has worsened, and that staffing shortages are a major factor.

Results of the survey align with the MNA and state legislator’s earlier introduction of legislation that would mandate patient-to-nurse ratios at hospitals.

The "State of Nursing in Massachusetts" survey of 531 Massachusetts registered nurses was conducted over a week-long period beginning Feb. 28, via a text message invitation. According to the MNA, most nurses who participated in the survey were not members of the association. This survey has been conducted 11 times since 2003.

A key question in the survey asked respondents to finish the sentence “Has Quality of Hospital Care in MA Gotten…” with “better” or “worse”. Some 85% said “worse,” continuing an upwards trend in survey data since 2017. This is at an all-time high, according to MNA data. Only 3% of reponsends suggested the quality of care has gotten better.

Responding nurses were asked to select what are the major challenges of the moment. In the results, 72% selected “Not having time to provide each patient with care and attention they need,” and “Having to care for too many patients at one time.” 

The MNA survey suggests newer nurses are feeling these issues more acutely; 63% of nurses with zero to five years of experience say understaffing is their biggest obstacle to providing quality care, compared to 56% of all nurses surveyed. Of respondents who said they intend to leave the field of nursing in the next two years, 67% of newer nurses say they look outside of health care, compared to 31% overall.

In the 2019 survey from the MNA, 10% of respondents indicated they intended to leave nursing within two years. In the 2023 version, that number was 18%. The MNA suggests this increase is caused by stresses of understaffing and safety concerns, though the survey does not control for age or number of years of employment of respondents.

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