Nurse Turnover’s Impact on Patients’ Health

Table of Contents

A low rate of qualified nurses’ retention in the healthcare sector is a significant issue of concern because the lack of professionals negatively affects workgroup processes. There are a plethora of different factors that may contribute to practitioners’ decisions to leave their jobs or quit the profession. They include dissatisfaction with work due to excess workload, lack of professional support, improper work-life balance, and so forth.

Nevertheless, regardless of the reasons for increased nurse turnover, it always has a negative impact on patients’ health. High turnover undermines the ability to meet various patients’ needs and foster their satisfaction with rendered services because unfavorable workplace conditions reduce the emotional and physical availability of practitioners, compromising the possibility to interact with all customers well.


Since the workforce is one of the primary assets in any company and any sector, the lack of a sufficient number of employees negatively affects organizational performance. In the healthcare industry, nursing care is regarded as key to care quality and patient safety, whereas nurse turnover and inadequate staffing interfere with the timeliness of interventions and result in increased patient morbidity and mortality (Cho et al., 2015).

Organizational contexts (namely, social networks, workplace structures, and so forth) and individual psychological processes are deeply interrelated in the forming of practitioners’ intentions to leave (Halter et al., 2017). It means that the strategies for improving staff retention and quality of care should primarily focus on the modification of hospital environments (Qualifier).

1st Pro-Point

To provide different types of services properly, there must be a sufficient number of nurses in a shift. According to Kim and Lee (2015), nurses’ work implies both emotional and intellectual labor. At the same time, Martsolf et al. (2016) note that understaffing is positively correlated with low scores in practitioners’ responsiveness to patient needs, quality of practitioner-patient communication, pain management, and other performance categories. It is clear that inadequate staffing limits nurses’ emotional and physical availability to patients by putting excess pressure on them. Thus, hospitals should aim to adjust the number of nurses per patient to achieve improvements.

2nd Pro-Point

To ensure high-quality nursing care, it is pivotal to achieve a sufficient level of job satisfaction among nurses. Halter et al. (2017) state that job satisfaction is defined by such job-related determinants as promotional opportunities, rewards, workload, work content, and so forth, as well as interpersonal determinants as employee relationships, leadership styles, and others. According to Nantsupawat et al. (2016), job dissatisfaction is directly linked to nurses’ burnout and turnover.

For instance, when a practitioner performs a role with high responsibilities but does not receive sufficient reward for it, it is likely that he/she will be dissatisfied. Similarly to understaffing, decreased job satisfaction and excess stress may reduce nurses’ responsiveness to patients as they may lack motivation to perform well.

3rd Pro-Point

To reduce potential negative effects of nurse turnover on patients’ health, it is essential to develop nurses’ commitment to the organization where they work. Halter et al. (2017) describe commitment as a positive psychological experience manifested in long-term, occupational relationships with an organization. Overall job satisfaction and corporate culture contribute to the organizational commitment the most (Halter et al., 2017). For example, sometimes nurses may be dissatisfied with an inability to provide high-quality care due to the lack of a supportive culture. Thus, the integration of patient safety and care quality values in the hospital culture may be a significant factor in minimizing the risk of nurse turnover.


Quality of nursing care depends on the capability of meeting both physiological and psycho-emotional needs of patients. At the same time, due to increased turnover, practitioners may fail to meet every individual’s interests. It is observed that the main factors contributing to workforce shortage are inadequate staffing, job dissatisfaction, and the lack of organizational commitment among nurses. Considering this, it can be suggested for hospitals to address existing gaps in these areas. By doing so, it will be possible to improve employee retention and consequently patient satisfaction and overall outcomes.


Cho, E., Sloane, D., Kim, E., Kim, S., Choi, M., & Yoo, I.,… Aiken, L. H. (2015). Effects of nurse staffing, work environments, and education on patient mortality: An observational study. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 52(2), 535-542.

Halter, M., Boiko, O., Pelone, F., Beighton, C., Harris, R., Gale, J., Gourlay, S., … Drennan, V. (2017). The determinants and consequences of adult nursing staff turnover: a systematic review of systematic reviews. BMC health services research, 17(1), 824.

Kim, S., & Lee, M. (2014). Effects of emotional labor and communication competence on turnover intention in nurses. Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing Administration, 20(3), 332-341.

Martsolf, G. R., Gibson, T. B., Benevent, R., Jiang, H. J., Stocks, C., Ehrlich, E. D., Kandrack, R., … Auerbach, D. I. (2016). An examination of hospital nurse staffing and patient experience with care: Differences between cross-sectional and longitudinal estimates. Health Services Research, 51(6), 2221-2241.

Nantsupawat, A., Kunaviktikul, W., Nantsupawat, R., Wichaikhum, O., Thienthong, H., & Poghosyan, L. (2016). Effects of nurse work environment on job dissatisfaction, burnout, intention to leave. International Nursing Review, 64, 91-98.

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