10 Risks of Nurse Disengagement

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

Nurse engagement measures the degree to which a nurse is committed to their job, the organization for which they work, and the nursing profession as a whole. A nurse needs to be fully engaged to deliver quality patient-centered care. When nurses are lacking in engagement, patient care can definitely suffer.

What Causes Nurse Disengagement?

Some of the characteristics of the nursing profession make disengagement a natural risk—long hours on the job, a typically chaotic and stressful work environment, staffing shortages, budget cuts, and a lack of resources. 

What Are Some of the Risks of Nurse Disengagement?

When the level of nurse engagement is low, the risks to a healthcare organization are sizeable. Here are ten possible results of disengagement that can keep nurse leaders and healthcare executives worried:

1. Lack of efficiency – If nurses are not working efficiently and getting as much as possible done during a shift, patient needs can go unaddressed or neglected.

2. Lower patient satisfaction – Nurses have major influence on the patient experience. Patients often can tell if a disengaged nurse is just going through the motions.

3. More work-related injuries – According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurses experience “some of the highest injury and illness rates in the healthcare and social assistance sector” (BLS, 2018). An inattentive, disengaged nurse may be more likely to experience an injury.

4. Financial costs – The cost of a disengaged nurse may be as much as $22,200 a year, according to NurseGrid. If a facility employs thousands of nurses, these costs could add up to millions of dollars (Smith, 2018). 

5. Patient-centered care falters – If a disengaged nurse lacks the energy for the increased demands of patient-centered care, outcomes may suffer.

6. Rushing increases chance of errors – Following procedures too quickly and in a hurry risks mistakes and possible disastrous results.

7. Compassion fatigue and burnout – Disengaged nurses may inadvertently demonstrate a lack of real caring.

8. Inability to focus – If a nurse is not paying adequate attention to every detail of the care being provided, what falls through the cracks may lead to a catastrophe.

9. Chronic lateness/tardiness – Inattention to arriving on time for one’s shift can create lasting problems for morale on an entire nursing unit.

10. Poor communication with peers – Good communication, especially for handoffs between shifts, is a hallmark of successful nursing care. If communication suffers, so may patient outcomes.

The Solution to Improving Nurse Engagement

NurseGrid, a HealthStream partner committed to transforming healthcare for the better, recently posted How to Keep Nurses Engaged and Motivated on the Job. They suggest “If a facility wants to improve nurse engagement, everyone will need to play a role. Staff members should be willing to speak up if they feel that one of their peers is disengaged with the job. The facility will need to do everything it can to provide nurses with the assistance they need, including advice and support for those that may be struggling with excess grief or stress on the job.” Nurse leaders and other staff members should know and look for signs of nurse disengagement, so they are prepared to take steps to improve this situation. Reaching out to a nurse who appears to be in need and listening is the first step towards improving and recovering engagement.


BLS, “Occupational injuries and illnesses among registered nurses,” November 2018, Retrieved at https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2018/article/occupational-injuries-and-illnesses-among-registered-nurses.htm

Smith, Zach, “How to Keep Nurses Engaged and Motivated on the Job,” NurseGrid, December 17, 2018, Retrieved at https://nursegrid.com/blog/how-to-keep-nurses-engaged-and-motivated-on-the-job/?utm_source=healthstream&utm_medium=blog&utm_content=10-risks-nurse-disengagement

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