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J Adv Nurs. 2010 Jul;66(7):1422-34. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2010.05322.x. Epub 2010 May 21.

Nurses' intention to leave the profession: integrative review.

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Mervi Flinkman MNSc RN Doctoral Candidate Department of Nursing Science, University of Turku, Finland.



This paper is a report of a study conducted to (1) review and critique the published empirical research on nurses' intention to leave the profession and (2) synthesize the findings across studies.


Lack of nurses and nurse turnover represent problems for the healthcare system in terms of cost, the ability to care for patients and the quality of care. At a time of current nursing shortage, it is important to understand the reasons why nurses intend to leave the profession.


A review was conducted through an initial search of MEDLINE, CINAHL and PsycINFO computerized databases for the period from 1995 to July 2009. The keywords for the search were: Nurs* AND (Personnel turnover OR Career Mobility). Research on nurses' organizational turnover was excluded.


An integrative literature review was carried out using Cooper's five-stage methodology provided a framework for data collection, analysis and synthesis.


A total of 31 studies matching the inclusion criteria were identified. Variety in samples, measurement instruments and measures of intention to leave led to difficulties when attempting to compare or generalize study findings. A number of variables influencing nurses' intention to leave the profession were identified, including demographic, work-related and individual-related variables.


Further research is needed using sound measurement instruments, consistent measures of leaving intention and more rigorous sampling. More in-depth research is needed to give nurses opportunities to explain in their own words the reasons for their intentions to leave.

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