Results of new survey reveal extreme pressure nursing staff are feeling

28 Nov 2019

Nursing staff don't have enough time to provide the care they would like and feel they are under too much pressure at work, according to the results of a new survey by the RCN.

Nursing staff in Scotland are feeling under enormous pressure at work and too busy to provide the level of care they would like. This is the overwhelming message from the findings of a new survey by the RCN, published today (28 November).

The survey was carried out in a year when record vacancy levels for NHS nursing staff were recorded, with over 4,000 posts unfilled.   

Key findings from the survey include:

  • 60% of respondents agree they are under too much pressure at work
  • 60% report feeling too busy to provide the level of care they would like
  • 52% work beyond their contracted hours on every shift or several times every week
  • 69% of respondents stated they had experienced verbal abuse by patients/service users or relatives 
  • 37% of respondents had experienced bullying.

As one Band 5 staff nurse who responded to the survey put it:

“The most upsetting and stressful part of my job is being unable to give good patient care due to poor staffing levels … and unfortunately it has become ‘normal’ to work under this constant stress. Never have I felt pressure like this in my career and have never felt so undervalued.”

Theresa Fyffe, RCN Scotland Director, said that messages of increased demand and workforce pressures must not be accepted as simply the status quo. 

“Across both acute and community settings, there are simply too few nursing staff and working in such a depleted workforce is like having an arm and a leg tied behind your back,” Theresa said. “Nursing staff really need the long-anticipated Integrated Workforce Plan to match Scottish Government’s stated aspirations for the health and care workforce, but it’s now more than 12 months overdue.” 

The RCN also today published UK-wide results from the survey, and commenting, RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said:
“Our 2019 Employment Survey should be required reading for all politicians who want to form the next government. The findings lay bare the serious consequences for both patients and nurses of the huge number of vacant nursing posts across the UK. Yet failure to increase nurse numbers isn’t inevitable, but a political choice.”

Theresa Fyffe added:

“At its best, nursing gives people a sense of identity, pride, achievement and huge fulfilment – almost three quarters of respondents view nursing as a rewarding career. But it’s clear that nurses and health care support workers are feeling overworked in under-resourced environments. 

“It’s time to make staff wellbeing a major priority and the first step is to safeguard staff psychological health through the guidance and implementation for the safe staffing act.” 

  • 1,916 RCN members in Scotland responded to the online survey sent out to a sample of members in January 2019.
  • The survey asked questions about nurses’ experience across five different subject areas: working patterns and workload; pay and additional work; the nature of work, and respondents’ views about nursing; physical and verbal abuse and bullying; and education and training.
  • This survey is the latest in a long running series undertaken with RCN members, including registered nurses and health care support workers. Where possible, findings from surveys undertaken since 2013 are compared. 

Page last updated - 27/04/2020