2,000 Nurses Reveal The Realities of Nursing in 2023

9 Min Read Published March 8, 2023
The State of Nursing 2023
  • Nurse.org's new 2023 State of Nursing report revealed that while 60% of nurses love being a nurse, 62% are concerned about the future of nursing
  • Overall, nurses are doing better than in 2021, but they're still reporting high levels of burnout, mental health suffering, and lack of support
  • 39% of nurses feel dissatisfied with their current job, but this varied based on education level and specialty
  •  91% of nurses believe the nursing shortage is getting worse, and 79% report that their units are inadequately staffed
  • 55% of nurses saw a pay increase in the past year; however, 75% of nurses still feel underpaid

Nurse.org first released the State of Nursing report in 2022,  with the aim to understand the true state of the nursing profession – from how nurses are being treated to their feelings about the future of nursing to what nurses think needs to change. The report revealed some harsh truths about the profession, but also spoke to the strength, perseverance, and passion that nurses have for their work. We're proud it was also recognized with a Gold award in the Digital Health Awards, Best Media/Publications Article.

In late 2022, we relaunched an updated survey, asking more than 2,100 nurses about the real issues they were facing every day, then had a panel of nurses from different specialties and backgrounds peer review it. We’ve published the results in our 2023 State of Nursing report

The findings have shown that while nurses are still struggling in many ways, they are doing slightly better than they were in 2021, and the industry is not without hope. 

Download the state of nursing 2023 report

>> Download the 2023 State of Nursing Report

The 2023 State of Nursing Findings

The survey revealed that nurses continue to feel burnt out, overwhelmed with continued staffing shortages, and uncertain about the future. 

The survey looked at five key issues in nursing including: 

  • Why nurses do what they do
  • How nurses are feeling
  • Job (dis)satisfaction
  • Nursing shortage
  • Nurse salaries

Overall, the majority of nurses still love being a nurse but a large percentage are concerned about the future of nursing. There are endless possibilities and career opportunities for nurses, especially those with a BSN but a significant number of respondents are not optimistic about the future of nursing.

Nurses have mixed responses on how they feel about choosing nursing as their career. Only 36% of respondents are happy they chose the profession, while 40% are not. Unfortunately, it’s not surprising that a larger number of nurses are unhappy about choosing the profession, especially as more and more are leaving traditional bedside nursing for non-traditional roles. 

Compared to 2021, the 2022 survey found that a larger percentage of nurses are “thinking about changing jobs within the nursing profession” as well as “thinking about staying in healthcare but getting away from the bedside.” Interestingly, slightly more nurses said they were happier in their current positions in 2022 (16%) than in 2021 (12%).

There is a lot to unpack in the new survey. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the key aspects of the 2023 State of Nursing. 

1. Nurses Love What They Do, But Have Some Concerns About the Future of Nursing

Despite everything that's happened this past year, nurses still love what they do. In fact, 60% of nurses still love being a nurse. 


Chart explaining that 60% of nurses say they love being a nurse

Why Nurses Became Nurses

When asked why nurses got into nursing in the first place, the most popular answer by far was to help others. Some of the other popular reasons were due to the large number of career and specialty options to choose from, and because a friend or family member was a nurse. 


One responded by saying, “I became a nurse because I saw my grandmother care for so many people growing up.”  - Joelin

Another said, “I’ve always wanted to help people so I wanted to enter the health sector. While researching, I found out that nurses were the heart of the hospital. So, I decided to become a nurse to be the patient’s helping hand.” - Clare

The Majority of Nurses Have Concerns About the Future of Nursing

But even with all this love for their career, when asked "Do you agree or disagree with the statement, 'I'm optimistic about the future of nursing'?" 62% answered "Disagree" with only 18% replying "Agree."

2. Nurses Are Dealing With Slightly Less Burnout, Mental Health Issues, Lack of Support, and Workplace Violence Than in 2021

Rates of burnout, mental health suffering, and lack of support have all improved since 2021, but only marginally. 

45% of nurses have felt unsafe at work in the past year, which is down from 56% in 2021. Despite the fact that there have been numerous reports of violence against nurses this past year. 

  • A study done by Press Ganey’s National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators® (NDNQI®) for the second quarter of 2022 revealed a sobering statistic: on average, two nurses are assaulted every hour in the U.S. 
  • Some states, including Louisiana, created the Healthcare Workplace Violence Tasks Force led by Ahnyel Jones-Burkes, DNP to help make changes to the conversation regarding violence against healthcare workers.

Are Nurses Happy With Their Chosen Profession?

Nursing is an honorable profession and one that most are proud to be a part of. Unfortunately, this past year – in fact, the past several years – has been rough. And as a result, nurses have mixed feelings about choosing the profession: 

  • 36% are happy they chose it
  • 40% are not
  • 24% felt neither

3. 39% of Nurses Are Dissatisfied With Their Current Job, But Satisfaction Is Impacted by Education Level and Specialty

When asked how satisfied nurses are with their current job, 39% of nurses reported feeling dissatisfied, while only 28% are actually satisfied with their current job. 

Chart showing that 39% of nurses are dissatisfied

Job Satisfaction Varies Based on Level of Education and Specialty

Not all nurses are equally dissatisfied. In fact, nurses with higher levels of education reported higher satisfaction ratings. 

Nurses with a post-grad certificate or diploma had the highest levels of satisfaction 55%, followed by doctoral degree holders 35%, nurses with a master’s degree 34%, and bachelor’s degree-educated nurses 28%. 

The least satisfied nurses were those with a nursing certificate or diploma, with just 22% of them reporting they were satisfied with their jobs. 

When it comes to satisfaction rates by specialties, Non-bedside nurses are the most satisfied out of any nursing professionals. This is not surprising as more nurses left the bedside during the COVID-19 pandemic and found less traditional nursing professions. 

What is surprising is that obstetric nurses found their position the least satisfying. The list ranges from acute care to emergency medicine. The full list from most satisfied to least satisfied are: 

  • Non-bedside - 48% satisfied
  • Community Health - 43%
  • Ambulatory setting - 39%
  • Surgical - 31%
  • Pediatrics - 31%
  • Critical Care - 26%
  • Emergency - 23%
  • Acute Care - 23%
  • Long-term Care - 23%
  • Float Nurse - 23%
  • Obstetrics - 15%

4. Nurses Are Slightly Less Likely to Want to Change Careers in 2022, But More Likely to Want to Leave the Bedside 

When asked about their career plans, 16% of nurses reported being happy where they are versus 12% in 2021. But more nurses want to leave the bedside, 35% in 2022 vs. 29% in 2021. 

Nurses are leaving for a variety of positions away from the bedside. Some of the most popular responses for leaving the bedside were:

  • Retired
  • Nurse Educator
  • Back to School
  • Clinic/Outpatient
  • Case Management
  • APRN
  • Remote
  • Administration/Management
  • Self Employed
  • Travel
  • Home Health
  • Informatics
  • Aesthetic 

What Is the Impact of All These Nurses Leaving the Bedside?

Nursing is already seeing a significant shortage, especially in bedside positions. So, the fact that “retired” was the top reason for nurses leaving the bedside is a concerning finding.

The Baby Boomer generation is retiring and causing a further increase in the need for bedside nurses. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 6% from 2021 to 2031 and there is an expected need for an additional 195,400 nurses by 2031.

5. Nurses Think That the Nursing Shortage Has Gotten Worse

91% of nurses believe the nursing shortage is getting worse and that nurse burnout, poor working conditions, and inadequate pay are the primary causes.

Interestingly, the greater number of patients due to an aging population, changes to the medicare/healthcare system, and lack of nursing school educators/faculty got the least amount of responses; however, those factors directly impact the top responses chosen by nurses. 

Chart showing the primary causes of the nursing shortage

Staffing Remains an Issue

Staffing remains one of the biggest issues for respondents. 79% of nurses say their units are inadequately staffed, which is down just 1% from 2021. It seems that staffing will not get much better as the shortage only worsens. 

The nursing job that has seen the biggest staffing shortages was float nurses (90%). Float nurses typically work in multiple units throughout a hospital or healthcare system. This answer is slightly alarming because float nurses illustrate the overall shortage of a hospital and not just a specific unit. Other specialties that reported high levels of inadequate staffing are:

  • Long-Term Care Nurses - 88% replied “disagree” to feeling adequately staffed
  • Emergency Nurses - 87%
  • Acute-Care Nurses - 84%
  • Obstetrics Nurses - 83%

What Would Help the Nursing Shortage? Better Staffing Ratios, Better Pay, and Better Working Conditions

When asked to choose the factors that would make the biggest impact on the nursing shortage, the top responses were improved staffing ratios (71%), better pay (64%), and better working conditions (41%). 

The factors that got the least amount of votes were efforts to reduce workplace violence (11%), mental health support (10%), and efforts to increase the number of nurse educators and faculty (7%).  

6. Nurses Want Better Pay

Confirming nurses' reports that better pay would help the nursing shortage, the survey found that even though 55% of nurses saw a pay increase in the past year, 75% of nurses still feel underpaid. Additionally,  52% of nurses believe that their hospital does not pay nurses with similar experiences equally.  

How Much Do Nurses Make?

On average, nurses in 2023 earned between $61-80K a year. 


The list of nurses that feel underpaid is long and each of the positions had over 50% responding that they feel underpaid.

% of Nurses That Feel Underpaid by Job

  • Emergency - 83% feel underpaid
  • Long-term care - 80%
  • Obstetrics - 79%
  • Surgical - 78%
  • Pediatrics - 77%
  • Acute care - 77%
  • Critical care - 74%
  • Community health - 74%
  • Ambulatory setting - 70%
  • Float Nurse - 61%
  • Non-bedside - 60%

So, What Now?

Nursing has long been an admirable and trustworthy profession – ranked as the most honest profession 21 times. But nurses need help, now more than ever. 

Nurses need support from administrators, coworkers, and overall healthcare systems to help get them things like:  

  • Improved staffing ratios
  • Better pay
  • Better working conditions
  • More support staff
  • Better treatment by hospital administration

Regardless of what path your nursing career is headed, know that you are not alone. While you may be currently working long shifts in the ICU or overseeing hundreds of school students as a school nurse, your nursing trajectory might change. 

Nursing can open endless doors and possibilities. Always be ready for what could come next and along the way just know that you are doing enough for your patients, your families, and yourself. 

“Nurses, we need you. Nursing has always been the glue that holds healthcare together, and with continued strains on the profession, it's vital that we lean on our resilience, our community, and our ingenuity to  work towards change. 

The Covid-19 pandemic exposed problems not only in our healthcare system, but the unsettling work conditions that nurses face everyday. While there is still much work to do, we are starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel.  

We must not give up. We are being heard and must push forward to see the action through. Progress can, and is, being made, but we need everyone, so please hang in there and let's fight the good fight in unity.” 

Nurse Alice Benjamin, MSN, APRN, ACNS-BC, FNP-C, CCRN, CEN, CV-BC

>> Download the 2023 State of Nursing Report


State of nursing 2023 infographic

Kathleen Gaines
Kathleen Gaines
News and Education Editor

Kathleen Gaines (nee Colduvell) is a nationally published writer turned Pediatric ICU nurse from Philadelphia with over 13 years of ICU experience. She has an extensive ICU background having formerly worked in the CICU and NICU at several major hospitals in the Philadelphia region. After earning her MSN in Education from Loyola University of New Orleans, she currently also teaches for several prominent Universities making sure the next generation is ready for the bedside. As a certified breastfeeding counselor and trauma certified nurse, she is always ready for the next nursing challenge.

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