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As National Nurses Week Kicks off May 6, Survey Shows Massachusetts Nurses Strongly Support Unions and Believe a United Voice Helps Address Healthcare Challenges

66% of nurses in the “State of Nursing in Massachusetts” survey said they are dissatisfied with their influence in workplace decisions

79% of nurses surveyed statewide said approaching management as a united group would be better than as individuals

Most non-union Massachusetts nurses say they would vote yes to form a union; 52% in favor and only 22% against

CANTON, Mass. – Joining a union and having a united voice is a widely supported solution to the challenges nurses face caring for patients in a broken healthcare system, according to new results from the 2023 “State of Nursing in Massachusetts” survey revealed for National Nurses Week, May 6 to 12. The power of a union voice is also being highlighted as part of a #WhatNursesReallyWant social media campaign, along with safe patient limits, workplace violence prevention and essential services protections.

The annual “State of Nursing in Massachusetts” survey of mostly non-union RNs – initially released this year in March to coincide with the Health Policy Commission’s hearing on “Building a Robust Health Care Workforce in Massachusetts” – documents the increasingly harmful impact of the hospital industry focus on profits, expansion, and executive pay rather than investment in the permanent nursing workforce. The 2023 results and historical survey data show increasing numbers of nurses say hospital care quality is getting worse, and that they do not have enough time to provide the safe and effective care their patients deserve.

“MNA nurses and healthcare professionals can use their united voice to address problems impacting patient care conditions, and we are glad to see that many non-union nurses feel the same way and would join a union if given the chance,” said Katie Murphy, ICU RN and MNA President. “There is no better time than National Nurses Week to highlight the power nurses and other healthcare workers have when working together toward a common goal."

In the newly released “State of Nursing in Massachusetts” results, nurses shared that they do not trust their workplace to fix problems, as well as their belief that working together and having a union voice can help them address key issues.


  • Most RNs are dissatisfied with the influence they have in their workplace’s decisions (66% dissatisfied) and do not trust their workplace to keep promises (69% don’t trust).
  • Newer nurses (81% dissatisfied, 82% don’t trust), nurses in direct care teaching hospitals (76% dissatisfied, 79% don’t trust) and community hospitals (75% dissatisfied, 81% don’t trust) are more likely to feel they do not have influence in workplace decisions and do not trust their workplace to keep its promises.

  • 79% of nurses agree that it would be more effective to approach management as a united group.
  • 62% agree that they would feel more comfortable raising workplace problems with management through a union rather than on their own.
  • If given a chance to vote, a majority (52%) of RNs not currently in a union would vote for union representation, less than a quarter would vote against a union (22%), and the remainder are not sure how they would vote (26%).

Click on the links below to see the full results of the 2023 “State of Nursing in Massachusetts.”

Survey Executive Summary:

Survey Charts:

#WhatNursesReallyWant During National Nurses Week


Having union voice is one of the themes nurses and supporters are highlighting as part of a #WhatNursesReallyWant social media campaign during National Nurses Week. During this annual celebration – starting May 6 and ending May 12 to coincide with Florence Nightingale's birthday – nurses are often applauded in the media and given superficial thank you gifts by healthcare employers, such as flowers, pizza, and cookies.

What nurses really want are concrete and lasting solutions that address problems in the healthcare system that negatively impact patients and healthcare workers. For example, in the 2023 “State of Nursing in Massachusetts” results, nurses overwhelmingly supported Safe Patient Limits, a legislative solution pending on Beacon Hill that would develop a statewide maximum limit on the number of patients a registered nurse at Massachusetts hospitals can be assigned at one time.

  • Seventy-six percent of all nurses said they strongly support the current safe patient limits bill, and 12% somewhat support it.
  • Nearly every nurse (97%) surveyed with 0-5 years of experience said they “strongly support” the legislation.

Nurses and supporters are also highlighting solutions to workplace violence and the closure of essential services – top legislative issues for MNA nurses and healthcare professionals. The campaign will include video and photo content featuring the #WhatNursesReallyWant hashtag across social media platforms.


“During National Nurses Week, what nurses and healthcare workers really want is executives and government leaders to truly hear their concerns and implement solutions like safe patient limits, workplace violence prevention, and essential services protection,” said MNA President Katie Murphy. “Nurses are inspired during National Nurses Week to fight for what is best for their patients and their profession.”


The “State of Nursing in Massachusetts” is a randomized poll of Massachusetts RNs conducted this year from February 28 to March 5 by Boston-based Beacon Research. The survey included 531 registered nurses, drawn from a file of the 150,000 nurses registered with the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing. Most respondents (59%) were non-union nurses, 36% worked at a teaching hospital, and 19% worked at a community hospital. Forty-three percent worked either in direct care outside a hospital or not in direct care.



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Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 25,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.