Nurses and caregivers around the globe have persevered in the face of enormous challenges, playing a crucial role on the front lines of the pandemic. From working long hours caring for patients to providing emotional support to families impacted by COVID-19, they’ve done it all while dealing with emotional burnout and risking infection. 

For National Nurses Week, which runs from May 6 to 12, we celebrate and honor all the nurses who protect the health and safety of their communities every day — especially during this challenging past year. 

Indeed wanted to know how nurses are feeling about their jobs right now, as well as what employers should know about hiring these essential workers as we begin to emerge from the pandemic. So we surveyed more than 7,800 U.S. nurses and caregivers with the job titles Registered Nurse (RN), Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN), Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and Home Health Aide (HHA). We also surveyed 379 healthcare employers who work in hospitals, acute care facilities, skilled nursing/nursing homes and home health/hospice. Here’s what we found.

65% think their employers are taking appropriate COVID-19 precautions

More than one year into the pandemic, how are nurses and caregivers feeling about working in this crisis? Interestingly, many seem to have quickly adapted to their new situation. When we asked respondents to rate their current level of comfort with working during the pandemic on a scale of 1 to 5, only 4% answered 1, or “completely uncomfortable,” while 34% answered 5, “completely comfortable.” 

This attitude may partially come from healthcare employers’ creating safe environments for nurses, caregivers and other workers during COVID-19. When we asked respondents how they felt about their personal health and safety at work, 65% of employees “somewhat agreed” or “strongly agreed” that their employers are taking appropriate measures to keep them protected. 

Looking at the employer side, the majority of healthcare employers we surveyed say they provide personal protective equipment for staff (98%); require all employees to wear face masks (96%); promote social distancing when possible (94%); and actively encourage sick employees to stay home (92%). 

Some employers also regularly deep-clean common areas (82%); check employee temperatures at the beginning of their shifts (81%); and have arranged COVID-19 vaccines for staff (81%). In addition to these measures, 71% of employers limit the capacity of visitors at the hospital or facility; 65% provide COVID tests to employees; and 60% established flexible, nonpunitive policies for sick leave. 

Nurses are interested in opportunities that provide higher salaries, more flexibility or career growth 

So after this challenging past year, how satisfied are nurses and caregivers with their current employment? 

Many workers (94%) express interest in new opportunities. This does not mean that they are all dissatisfied — of these respondents, 42% say they’re happy in their current roles but are “open” to new opportunities. A further 6% say they’re happy in their current jobs with no plans to look for new ones. However, 17% are seriously considering leaving but haven’t yet begun to apply or interview, while 35% are actively seeking new opportunities. 

For respondents who are considering a move, their top reason is wanting to grow or change their career path (36%). Others seek better compensation or benefits (35%). And, given this turbulent year, it’s no surprise that 29% want more flexibility with work hours or schedules. 

Flexibility is a common theme. When asked to imagine receiving two job offers for similar positions at different companies, 61% of respondents say they’re “somewhat likely” or “much more likely” to accept a 10% lower salary in exchange for greater scheduling flexibility. Just 16% are inclined to accept the higher-paying job. 

These are important findings for healthcare employers who want to attract or retain nurses and caregivers. In either case, good compensation, increased flexibility and opportunities for growth or career change could help you land your next hire — or keep existing employees happy.  

82% say company reputation is crucial when evaluating new jobs

Although many nurses and caregivers are interested in new opportunities, that doesn’t mean they’ll go just anywhere. In fact, 82% of respondents say it’s “very important” or “extremely important” to consider the company’s reputation when applying for or evaluating a new job — highlighting how crucial it is to have a strong employer brand

Employer brand is how your organization is perceived by people such as your current employees and potential candidates. As nurses and caregivers look to change careers, they’re paying close attention to your organization’s reputation, evaluating the risks and rewards of working for you. 

You can check in on your employer brand in a few ways: Have a well-written career page and job descriptions that convey the benefits of working at your organization. If possible, reevaluate your benefits package to ensure it’s still competitive, adjusting if needed. Review what current employees are saying online about working for your organization and the actions you took in response to the pandemic. These are all cues for candidates on the kind of experience they’re likely to have.  

Salary, flexibility and benefits are the most important job factors

Considering today’s unique environment, we wanted to understand what factors are important to respondents when evaluating current jobs and new opportunities. To do this, we asked them to rank 11 factors in order of greatest to least importance. We then looked at each factor to determine what percentage of respondents ranked it among their top three considerations when reviewing a current or future role. 

An overwhelming 72% of respondents rank salary or hourly wage among their top three considerations, followed by flexible schedules or shifts (49%) and benefits (40%). Fourth on the list is feeling appreciated by coworkers and supervisors, with 27% of respondents ranking this in their top three considerations, followed by workplace culture (25%) and feeling trusted by coworkers and supervisors (24%).  

The least important factors respondents consider when evaluating current roles or new opportunities are tuition reimbursement, with only 5% ranking this in their top three considerations, along with sign-on bonuses (10%) and overtime pay (13%). 

But how much will the pandemic impact these preferences? We asked respondents to predict whether these same factors will be more, less or equally important to them when considering a new job after the pandemic is over. 

Nearly all respondents (98%) say salary or hourly wage will be equally, if not more, important to them postpandemic. Similar numbers agree that feeling trusted (97%) and appreciated (96%) by coworkers and supervisors will be equally or more important going forward. 

Meanwhile, at the bottom of the list, 74% of respondents predict tuition reimbursement will be equally or more important after the pandemic, followed by sign-on bonuses (79%) and overtime pay (89%).


After the events of this last year, hiring the post-COVID nurse will no doubt look different. Nurses and caregivers will consider a variety of factors, such as salary, benefits and a healthy work environment, when evaluating a job offer — but they’ll also prioritize jobs that offer flexibility, even at the expense of extra pay. 

To attract and support these workers, healthcare employers should offer competitive salaries, flexible scheduling and good benefits — while cultivating a healthy workplace and company culture. Telling the story of that culture as part of your employer brand efforts is also key. Get these factors correct and you will have a good combination for both attracting and retaining talent.

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