Only 11% of Nurses Plan to Pursue Leadership Roles as a Career Path

By Carol Davis

Just one in 10 nurses (11%) says their idea of a successful career in nursing involves advancing into nurse administration and leadership roles, a new survey says.

Additionally, only 7% of nurses say they plan to move into nurse leadership in the next three years, which will create a vacuum at the top, according to the 2021 Nurse Career and Satisfaction Survey released by Trusted, a healthcare workforce management platform.

The survey was conducted by Trusted in October 2021 with a sample of 3,357 nurse respondents, of whom 54% currently work as travel nurses, 37% as staff nurses, and 9% in per-diem or other types of nursing roles.

Instead of pursuing leadership roles, the nurses surveyed intend to take other career paths:

  • 28% want to deepen their clinical care experience
  • 20% are not sure what they’ll do
  • 16% want to obtain an advanced practice nursing degree

The remaining respondents indicated they want to move into nursing leadership (7%) leave nursing for another profession (6%), move into education or research (6%), move into non-clinical nursing opportunities (6%), move into nursing-related entrepreneurship (5%), and move into outpatient practice (5%).

Nursing politics/culture (66%) is the main reason nurses are not pursuing nurse leadership, according to the survey.

The nurses see leadership as a trade-off between what attracted them to the profession in the first place—patient care—and more exposure to nursing politics and the headache of staffing and scheduling, the survey said.

Other reasons they are not pursing nurse leadership include:

  • Poor experiences with nurse leadership (37%)
  • No desire to manage people (27%)
  • Don’t want to be associated with a single hospital/clinic system (21%)
  • Don’t want to step back from direct patient care (21%)
  • Believe leadership spends too much time on staffing/scheduling (14%)
  • Would only consider nurse leadership if money/skills were not factors (11%)
  • No leadership options have been discussed (7%)
  • Not enough training/support offered for leadership (5%)

Introducing better incentives for leadership, is one solution for creating a stronger nurse leader pipeline, the survey recommends.

Hospitals need to root out cultural issues—including bullying and incivility—within their nursing staff, the survey recommends, so they can draw younger nurses into leadership and embrace technology that frees nurse leaders from the challenges of staffing and scheduling so they can have time for more meaningful work.

Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.