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Professional careers in nursing: A longitudinal study

At a glance



In Switzerland, no data of longitudinal studies to professional careers of nurses exist. Little is known about job retention as well as why nurses leave their profession.

This project is part of a cooperation between the Swiss Universities in Health to establish a competence center for workforce shortage among health professionals. Different sub-projects will develop basic knowledge and measures.


This study aims to close this gap by surveying a cohort of Swiss nurses having entered the profession six years ago. The objective of the study is therefore to learn more about the professional careers, specifically about factors influencing the careers in nursing or the decision to leave the profession.


One cohort of graduates of a study programs in nursing either at a University of Applied Science or at a Colleague of Professional Education and Training will be surveyed six years after graduation. These same graduates have already been surveyed in a first study with two waves of a survey at the end of their studies and one year after graduation and will now be contacted for a third online-survey. Further analyses will then be conducted in an integrated dataset with additional data of a study with health assistants FaGe (ASSC, OSS) conducted by the Swiss Federal University for Vocational Education and Training SFUVET.

More than 600 nursing graduates from the cohort graduating in 2011/12 took part in the third and final survey around six years after entering the profession. This corresponds to 38 percent of all graduates of this year at Swiss colleges of higher education and universities of applied sciences. With a response rate of 48 percent, healthcare assistants who were surveyed by the SFUVET five years after entering the profession responded more often. In the combined data set with nurses and healthcare assistants, there are around 1400 cases for which data are available from all three surveys.

As the findings show, that for many graduate nurses the first years of professional life represent a phase of intensive career development. They switch frequently between jobs and functions and deepen their professional knowledge in trainings and continuing education. The proportion of those who have already left the profession is still low, compared to later years. However, already in these early years, it is possible to identify the main reasons why nurses are leaving the profession or con-sidering doing so: The current conditions in the nursing profession are too stressful and contradict the main needs of nurses.

In summary, the results of this study show that with targeted measures it is possible to prolong healthcare professionals stay in their profession. First and foremost, the conditions for work-life balance need to be improved. Possible measures include flexible working time models adapted to the needs of the staff and greater regularity in working days and shifts. From the perspective of the nurses, other approaches could include reduction of stress at work, higher recognition in the companies and better wages.

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