Baby Boomer Retirement: Why New Nurses Should Be Excited
By Ashley Brooks on 01/14/2019
You can’t think about healthcare without thinking about nurses, and for good reason. Registered nurses (RNs) are present in every aspect of the healthcare industry, caring for patients directly and behind the scenes. It’s easy to take it for granted that a caring nurse will always be there for you when you need one. But will they?
You’ve heard talk about a nursing shortage that’s in part fueled by the baby boomer retirement wave. While many consider the nation’s potential lack of RNs to be a healthcare crisis, this scenario can also be an opportunity for up-and-coming nurses. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects RNs to experience the third-most job growth in the nation through 2026, creating an estimated 438,100 new positions—in part because of the aging baby boomer generation.1
If a stable career with opportunities for advancement and growth is what you’re after, nursing just might fit the bill. You could pick up the baton from retiring nurses while also positioning yourself for a fulfilling career path. Keep reading to explore the truth about the changing healthcare landscape in the U.S. and why new nurses should be excited for the opportunities that await them.
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Baby boomer retirement and the nursing shortage
Baby boomers are the generation of Americans born in the years after World War II, and they’re rapidly reaching retirement age. With this group making up nearly a quarter of the nation’s population, it should come as no surprise that many of those retiring will be RNs who have accumulated decades of knowledge and skill.
Heath Affairs reports that in 2008, 1.26 million RNs were baby boomers. Many of those nurses chose to defer their retirement in the aftermath of the recession. Now, however, baby boomer nurses are retiring from the profession in droves. Since 2012, 60,000 nurses have retired annually, with that number increasing each year as more boomers approach retirement age. They estimate that only 660,000 baby boomer RNs will still be in the workforce by 2020.2
The healthcare industry is scrambling to find solutions to the nursing shortage as their most experienced RNs wrap up their years in the workforce. Unfortunately, baby boomer retirement isn’t the only factor putting a squeeze on healthcare.
Rising healthcare needs of an aging population
The nursing shortage is partially caused due to retiring RNs, but it’s exacerbated by the surge of those same baby boomers’ increased need for healthcare—and that need is only predicted to rise as they grow older. This so-called “Silver Tsunami” of aging baby boomers could create a burden on the healthcare system if the nursing shortage continues.
There are more than 50 million seniors aged 65 and older for the first time in U.S. history, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.3 Thanks to advances in health technology and longer lifespans, these baby boomers are predicted to push the 65+ population demographic to about 72 million in the next 25 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).4 These baby boomers might be in relatively good health now, but three in four Americans aged 65 or older suffer from multiple chronic conditions—that is, conditions that last a year or more and require ongoing medical attention.5
With such a large generation of Americans increasing in age and declining in health, experienced RNs are essential to maintaining a safe care environment for these patients.
Why baby boomer retirement can be good news for new nurses
You can see why the healthcare industry is desperate to bring new, qualified nurses into the fold. Providers are facing a numbers crunch, and when the status quo is untenable, change is bound to happen—and many of those changes can be positive for new nurses.
The nursing shortage is a public health issue that has Nursing schools, state governments and healthcare employers offering incentives to entice students to consider pursuing RN careers. State initiatives include fellowships and loan forgiveness, and some hospitals are offering bonuses and loan repayment options for nurses who contract to work with them for a certain amount of time.
Advancement opportunities and other benefits
Once new nursing recruits are in the workforce, they could see increased opportunities for advancement as the most experienced nurses head for retirement—which is great news for would-be nurse managers or nurses who’d like to work in coveted specialized nursing jobs. Many retiring RNs have been on the job for decades, resulting in the loss of an estimated 1.7 million years of experience in the profession.2 Healthcare management teams will be on the lookout for incoming RNs with the drive and leadership qualities to step up to these more advanced positions.
Healthcare facilities are also stepping up their game to make themselves an appealing place for new RNs to find work. Creative perks include “parent shifts” that align with children’s school schedules, a concierge service that runs personal errands for RNs, housing allowances and tuition assistance programs for furthering education. Clinics and hospitals alike recognize the value of attracting a high-quality nursing crew, and they’re making changes to improve their work environment as a result.
Are you ready to help fill the nursing shortage?
The baby boomer retirement and resulting nursing shortage have created a perfect storm of opportunity for up-and-coming nurses. You could be one of many new RNs to launch your career while helping the healthcare system provide quality care for our nation’s aging population.
The first step is to become a registered nurse. Learn more with our article, “How to Become a Registered Nurse: Your Step-by-Step Guide.”
1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Most New Jobs”, information accessed 12/12/2018] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/most-new-jobs.htm Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and include workers at all levels of education and experience. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
2Health Affairs, “How Should We Prepare For the Wave of Retiring Baby Boomer Nurses?”, [information accessed 12/12/2018] https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20170503.059894/full/
3United States Census Bureau, “The Nation’s Older Population Is Still Growing, Census Bureau Reports” [information accessed 12/12/2018] https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2017/cb17-100.html
4Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The State of Aging & Health in America 2013”, [information accessed 12/12/2018] https://www.cdc.gov/aging/pdf/State-Aging-Health-in-America-2013.pdf
5Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, “Multiple Chronic Conditions”, [information accessed 12/12/2018] https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/about/multiple-chronic.htm