Answer: Between 10%-14%
According to some wild new research from NYU, out of all the nurses who began their careers between 2006 and 2016, 10-14% of them are working second jobs to make ends meet. This statistic is somewhat mindblowing seeing as how nursing is one of the most in-demand jobs in the United States and looks to remain that way with an aging population. Despite the demand, those in the field say their salaries aren’t enough to compensate for the stressful work-day, or work-night depending on when they need to fill a shift. Unsurprisingly, student loan debt is crippling these nurses as well, and a combination of all these problems is leading to emotional burnout according to the news editor at LinkedIn, Jaimy Lee. That dissatisfaction has pushed some nurses to seek out additional work to make ends meet or, in some cases, build careers that mean they can leave the grind of patient care.”
So what jobs are these nurses taking on to earn a little extra cash? Well besides taking overtime shifts (only expediting the burnout), a lot of them are turning to the gig economy. Uber is a popular option, especially in cities with college or professional football teams. People who have been drinking need to get to and from the game. It can’t hurt to have a nurse behind the wheel. Others are turning to sites like Etsy, the more intimate version of eBay where people can sell homemade and handcrafted goods. Lastly, to the extent these nurses have extra rooms, Airbnb has been a viable option to earn a couple extra bucks.
The big picture, as Lee points out, is that this mental wear and tear isn’t unique to nurses. This past year we’ve seen multiple teacher walk-outs in states like West Virginia, Colorado, and Oklahoma. Both groups have long days, deal with a demanding clientele, and feel they aren’t paid fairly for their work.
So what can be done? Well, in an effort to first address the mental strain, some nurses want to focus on the number of hours worked. They advocate that “patient-to-nurse” staffing ratios would be a good start. This means is that nurses would have a maximum amount of patients they would be responsible for during their shifts. While this idea may sound like a no-brainer it hasn’t been widely adopted. In fact, California is the only state so far to mandate staffing ratios for nurses according to the same report. The counter-argument is that a “one-size-fits-all” requirement would add billions of dollars in costs to hospitals.
In terms of addressing pay, and the need for second jobs something more grandiose needs to be done, potentially only a policy level. Here’s why: “the U.S. [is contending] with regional nursing shortages that call for an estimated 1.1 million additional nurses in the workforce by 2026” Lee notes. The demand is only going to continue to grow for these valuable members of our society. Simple economics would suggest that the market would satisfy the demand with higher salaries, but sadly right now, that is not the case.