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Let’s Take a Census in the Hospital

Let’s Take a Census in the Hospital 

After a recent discussion among colleagues, the question was raised- Why do nurses have a fear of job security? Have you ever thought about how many staff nurses are at any given hospital? There seems to be a disconnect between the two. There is an entire army of nurses and simultaneously not enough to fill all of the positions, but they still live in fear of their job. Let’s look at some statistics and try to unpack this phenomenon.

Just How Many Nurses are in a Hospital?

Hospitals employ a lot of people. From physicians and administration to support staff and environmental services, there are hundreds to thousands of people on any hospital’s payroll. But how many of those employees are nurses? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurses are the largest occupation in hospitals as of 2019, making up 30 percent of total employment.  


Here are some other interesting statistics

There are three times as many RNs as physicians in the United States.

Nurses occupy the largest component of the workforce in healthcare and lead hospital and long-term patient care.

Registered nurses as a position have a projected growth in employment higher than the average for most applications and are expected to continue to grow because of the baby-boom population, increasing chronic conditions, and furthering preventative care.

Most if not all healthcare services involve nurses in some form or fashion.

Turnover and Job Security

With so many nurses, why is there such a turnover and fear of job security? There are an estimated million registered nurse vacancies that need to be filled. And yet, registered nurses are fearful of their jobs. 

A study done in Iran showed that just under 30% of nurses reported low job security and just over 30% said they would take another opportunity if offered. Factors behind nurses’ turnover thoughts included relationships with management, workplace environment and experience, organizational justice, and stability. 

Though this study wasn’t done in the United States, the concepts are certainly reflected here. In fact, the statistics may even be higher in the US. Talking to nurses working in hospitals every day, these numbers are confirmed. There is a lot of hesitation among nurses in the workforce. They don’t feel supported, heard, safe, or secure. So then what’s the answer? Unions? Protests? Walkouts? Legislation? 

Unions, Protests, Legislation: Are they the answer?

There are three main solutions that are talked about when the topic of unsafe work conditions, unfair pay, or staffing shortages comes up regarding nurses. Those are unions, protests, and legislation.


When talking about unions as a solution, many people think that they are a good thing that do a lot of work, and it’s true, they can. But the reality is that unions are a double edge sword. Unions have a good and a bad side. For the good, they hold enough power to make a change against an administration. However, on the bad side, they induce unsustainable wages for administrations which ultimately can hurt more than it helps. There is such a thing as too much change. Unions can create in the end a turnover as the administration goes from satisfying the desires of nurses to replacing them and restructuring to save money. Unions aren’t all bad, but there seems to be an unbalance with them. 


Protests are something we are seeing more and more frequently about all sorts of important matters. However, when it comes to healthcare protests, it begs the question- are they really helping? Well, on one hand, they are bringing light to real problems, but it doesn’t always translate to actual change in the workplace. Additionally, unions are usually the ones leading the protest, so there’s an added complication.


Legislation might be the answer, after all, it did work in some ways for California. Legislation can be the answer for a lot of the factors that lead to turnover and job security like work environment, unsafe staffing, and more. Though the legislation is hard to pass which creates a problem for it being a solution. Creating job security among nurses ultimately is more than just legislation.

Nurses Hold Power

The reality is that nurses hold far more power than they think. With the largest workforce in the hospital, it can hardly be ignored that there is power in numbers. There are multiple questions surrounding this topic, but one thing is for sure, the first thing that nurses must consider regarding job security is their power in numbers.


What do you think about this? Do you feel you have job security? Let’s start a conversation around this hard topic.

Katelyn Johnson

Katelyn Johnson


Katelyn has a Master’s in Healthcare Administration and five years of clinical experience. She has made the shift to full-time freelance writing and enjoys covering topics on nursing careers, lifestyle, and community. Her goal is to help start a conversation and spread awareness around the many ups and downs of the healthcare field.


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