Suicide Risk, Changing Jobs, or Leaving the Nursing Profession in the Aftermath of a Patient Safety Incident

Mady Stovall, Lissi Hansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Nursing retention is a concern for healthcare systems, hospital administrators, and nurses who have spent considerable time and money to achieve educational goals. Nearly, 33% of nurses will drop out in the 2 years practice. Those who stay in practice face an increased risk of suicide when compared the general population. Aims: To examine the relationship between nurse sociodemographic data and unique study variables with potential morally injurious outcomes (i.e., dropping out variables: changing jobs, intention to leave the profession, or suicidal thinking). Methods: A descriptive, correlational study design was used to characterize the relationship between the sociodemographic data of 216 registered nurses (RNs) and patient safety and the suicidal behavioral questionnaire. Results: RNs involved in a patient safety incident (PSI) considered changing jobs when the degree of harm was death (p <.001) or was unknown (p <.05) when compared with no harm. RNs were more likely to consider leaving the profession when the degree of harm to the patient was permanent (p <.01) or the patient died (p <.05) when compared with having no harm. RNs future suicidal thinking (i.e., their self-reported likelihood of future suicidal behavior) was statistically significant when degree of harm to the patient was death (p <.05) as a result of a PSI (95% CI [1.11, 8.71]) when compared with no harm. The RNs who had suicidal thoughts over the past year compared with those without and the RNs with future suicidal thinking compared with those without, may respond differently in the aftermath of a PSI. Linking evidence to action: This study served as a pioneering effort to the current understanding between nurse characteristics and patient harm and “dropping out” outcomes in RNs involved in PSIs. RNs involved with PSIs that led to more harm were more likely to change jobs, consider leaving the profession, or contemplate future suicide. These findings have important implications for nurses, administrative managers in healthcare organizations, and researchers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)264-272
Number of pages9
JournalWorldviews on Evidence-Based Nursing
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • changing jobs
  • leaving profession
  • moral injury
  • nurse second victim
  • patient safety
  • suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)


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