Why so many Utah nurses are leaving the workforce


ABC4 spoke with Dr. Andy Nydegger about nurse burnout in 2022 as COVID-19 enters the endemic phase.

by: Trevor Smith


Dr. Andrew Nydegger, Executive Director of Academic Operations for Arizona College of Nursing, Utah campus,  spoke to ABC4 news about nursing burnout. The article below shares his insights and what we can do to retain nurses in the workforce. 

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Dr. Andy Nydegger from the Utah Nurses Association said that their organization held a conference on nurse burnout 4-6 months before the COVID-19 pandemic began in earnest.

ABC4 spoke with him about nurse burnout in 2022 as COVID-19 enters the endemic phase.

“Nurse burnout is a decades-long problem,” says Dr. Nydegger, dispelling public assumption that it was something unique to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Its been a huge topic for many years.” He confirmed COVID-19 has indeed exacerbated nurse burnout, and brought it to the forefront of public discussion. Dr. Nydegger fears that as COVID-19 gradually slows down, nursing burnout will stop getting the kind of long-term attention it needs to be solved. “I don’t really see an end in sight for nurse burnout as COVID-19 slows down.”

“Nurses didn’t stop caring about the patient,” says Dr. Nydegger. Instead, nurses are simply tired and overworked, leading to early retirement and career changes.

Utah specifically has suffered from a loss of leaders and instructors in nursing, as fewer young nurses are staying in the field long enough to become mentors.

Regarding possible solutions to prevent nursing burnout, Dr. Nydegger says it’s more complicated than simply raising nurse wages. Instead, he says the primary problem causing nurse burnout is the low ratio of nurses to patients. This leads to nurses feeling tired and overworked when they should be feeling “comfortable and safe” in their workplace.

In addition to decreasing nurses’ stress load, a higher nurse to patient ratio in Utah will help prevent errors in patient care, increasing patient safety.

Solving nursing burnout will also treat the underlying causes for higher numbers of nurses seeking employment as agency or travel nurses.

When asked what Utahns can do to help prevent nurse burnout, Dr. Nydegger said to get vaccinated and to keep engaging in good health practices in general. A healthy general population means less stressful work for nurses in Utah. He also mentioned that social support for nurses can make a big difference such as saying “thank you” to nurses.

Finally, Dr. Nydegger encourages Utahns to join the nursing workforce.

A higher number of nurses working means a more tolerable distribution of stressful work. He also mentions that there are many different kinds of jobs in nursing that don’t involve being on a hospital floor such as administration and community nursing.

You can learn more about the Utah Nursing Association here.