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J Nurs Manag. 2013 May;21(4):605-13. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2834.2012.01437.x. Epub 2012 Jun 19.

A systematic literature review of nurse shortage and the intention to leave.

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School of Nursing, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong.



To present the findings of a literature review regarding nurses' intention to leave their employment or the profession.


The nursing shortage is a problem that is being experienced worldwide. It is a problem that, left unresolved, could have a serious impact on the provision of quality health care. Understanding the reasons why nurses leave their employment or the profession is imperative if efforts to increase retention are to be successful.


Electronic databases were systematically searched to identify English research reports about nurses' intention to leave their employment or the profession. Key results concerning the issue were extracted and synthesized.


The diversified measurement instruments, samples and levels of intention to leave caused difficulties in the attempt to compare or synthesize findings. The factors influencing nurses' intention to leave were identified and categorized into organizational and individual factors.


The reasons that trigger nurses' intention to leave are complex and are influenced by organizational and individual factors. Further studies should be conducted to investigate how external factors such as job opportunities correlate with nurses' intention to leave.


The review provides insight that can be useful in designing and implementing strategies to maintain a sustainable workforce in nursing.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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