Majority of Medical and Nursing Students Planning Careers Outside Patient Care, as Fears of Burnout and Clinician Shortages Leave Them Worried about the Future

Elsevier Health’s first global “Clinician of the Future 2023: Education Edition” highlights students’ deep concerns about balancing their commitment to patient care with their own well-being. The report also identifies key insights into students’ excitement and fears toward technology and AI in healthcare education

Today, Elsevier Health a global leader in evidence-based clinical practice content, research publishing and information analytics, releases its Clinician of the Future 2023: Education Edition, providing unparalleled insights into the experiences of medical and nursing students and the consequences for US healthcare organizations and educators.

The report reveals how the challenges of being a frontline health professional in the US today are impacting the longer-term career decisions of students, highlighting increasingly challenging times ahead for an already overburdened healthcare system. Although almost 9 out of 10 medical and nursing students in the US feel devoted to improving patients’ lives, findings reveal that 58% already see their current studies as a steppingstone toward a broader career in healthcare that will not involve directly caring for patients.

The Clinician of the Future 2023: Education Edition presents a worrying snapshot of the pressures that medical and nursing students feel today alongside the impending alarm they have for life in clinical practice:

  • 23% of medical and nursing students in the US are considering quitting their undergraduate studies
  • 54% of medical and nursing students in the US report they are worried about their mental well-being
  • 57% of medical and nursing students in the US believe they will suffer from clinician burnout
  • 65% of medical and nursing students in the US are concerned about clinician shortages and the impact this would have on them in their future role

Elysse Santana, medical student at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis said: “I worked extremely hard to get into medical school and have been driven by a passion to make a difference in the lives of patients. Now, in my fourth year and preparing for the next step of residency training, I am reflecting on the reality of entering the workforce. My peers and

I have discussed what our soon-to-be realities might look like between exhausting residency expectations, staff shortages, patient backlogs and the potential toll on our overall well-being. I am confident in my choice to pursue a career in medicine and am excited about the future, but it did take some time to get here, as I’ve had to overcome worries about potential challenges and feelings of burnout.”

In 2022, the American Hospital Association estimated that over 500,000 nurses would leave the field by the end of the year, many through retirement, bringing the overall shortage of nurses to 1.1 million. Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects there will be 203,200 openings for RNs each year through 2031. During a time of nursing strikes across the US filled with understaffing challenges, low pay, difficult work environments and much more, paired with fewer openings in nursing schools and challenges finding and keeping educators, the future of patient care is dire.

Cheryl Wilson, DNP, APRN, ANP-BC, FNP-BC, CNE, CHSE, an education leader from Elsevier, said:As someone who has worked with students every day, it is unsurprising that they are feeling conflicted and vital that we listen to their concerns and acknowledge the unprecedented workforce emergency that needs to be addressed. We need to support their experiences in the classroom, both with the insurmountable knowledge they need for clinical practice but also the skills they need to effectively treat all patients.” 

The Clinician of the Future 2023: Education Edition also identifies key insights into both the excitement and reservation toward technology and generative AI student curriculum. In the US, 55% of medical and nursing students say they are excited at the potential of AI; however, 54% report they are worried about its use to support education. Further, 68% admit to feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information they are expected to retain, with 47% now using generative AI, such as ChatGPT and Bard.

Jan Herzhoff, President of Elsevier Health, said: “It’s clear that healthcare across the globe is facing unprecedented pressures, and that the next generation of medical and nursing students are anxious about their future. Whether through the use of technology or engaging learning resources, we must support students with new and innovative approaches to enable them to achieve their potential. However, the issues raised in this report can’t be tackled in isolation; it is essential that the whole healthcare community comes together to ensure a sustainable pipeline of healthcare professionals.”

The Clinician of the Future 2023: Education Edition is the third edition published as part of Elsevier Health’s Clinician of the Future program, serving as the global health ecosystem’s leading pulse on the changes and challenges facing the doctors and nurses of today and tomorrow.

For the full Clinician of the Future 2023: Education Edition, which includes robust data on global student attitudes toward health education, the future of healthcare, as well as the perspectives of instructors and more. Click here.

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