The challenges facing hospital nurses are, in part, budget-related. Even when they don't cut nursing staff, hospitals facing a cash crunch may choose to cut other positions, including housekeeping, janitorial and dietary staff. That means it's up to nurses to do more in the way of keeping track of patients' meals, changing sheets and cleaning rooms -- duties that take away from the time they have to provide patient care.
But other issues are more philosophical. Nurse satisfaction often depends on whether nurses are viewed as active members of the medical team, or just another pair of hands, said Loyola University's Walker.
Hospitals "need to think of them as thinking people. ... That's been the challenge these days," she said.
At Beaumont Hospital, Chief Nurse Executive Valentina Gokenbach said the hospital has been able to improve nurse satisfaction by creating a nursing council that ensures that nurses play a role in hospital decisions. The hospital is also providing leadership training to nurses who ascend to management positions.
The hospital's efforts have had a great effect, Gokenbach said: In six years, the nurse turnover rate at Beaumont's emergency department has dropped from 52 percent to below 10 percent.
Though the training programs cost money, the decline in turnover saves more, she said. Recruiting and training each new nurse, she said, costs tens of thousands of dollars.
"It's 'pay me now or pay me later,'" Gokenbach said.
ABC News' Barbara Paulsen contributed to this report.