(HealthDay News) — There is no evidence that large numbers of nurses left health care or hospital practice during the first 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published in Nursing Outlook.

Linda H. Aiken, PhD, RN, from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in Philadelphia, and colleagues conducted a study involving 151,335 registered nurses in New York and Illinois and a subset of 40,674 staff nurses from 357 hospitals.

The researchers sought to examine whether hospital nursing care shortages are mainly due to the pandemic or due to hospital understaffing and poor working conditions that predated the pandemic. The pre-pandemic data were collected between December 15, 2019, and February 24, 2020. The pandemic data were collected between April 13, 2021, and June 22, 2021.

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Between the 2 periods, there were no significant changes in employment status for the nurses studied (P =.133). The proportion of registered nurses employed in a hospital was 43.9% in the pre-pandemic period and 43.7% during the pandemic. The proportion employed in health care but not a hospital was 32.5% and 32.6%, respectively. The proportion employed outside of the health care field was 3.4% and 3.2%, respectively. The remaining registered nurses were retired (14.7% pre-pandemic and 15.1% during the pandemic) or not currently employed (5.5% for both periods).

The researchers also found significantly better outcomes during the pandemic for nurses working in hospitals with better nurse staffing and more favorable work environments prior to the pandemic.

“The good news from the study is that hospitals reported by their nurses prior to the pandemic to have evidence-based nurse staffing and good work environments fared significantly better during the pandemic in terms of their nurses reporting less burnout, less job dissatisfaction, less intent to leave, and better quality and safety of patient care,” Dr Aiken said in a statement.

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