How Is Retirement Affecting Nursing?

Nurses are at the forefront of a rapidly changing healthcare industry. The predictions of a nursing shortage have been dire for more than a decade. While some rural areas of the United States are experiencing a scarcity of nurse applicants, most healthcare systems have an overabundance. The nursing profession is thriving, but there are some worries about the future. These concerns include the number of retiring nurses and how their exit from the workforce will affect the nursing profession.

Retiring Nurses and the Nursing Profession

The most significant transformation in healthcare is the number of nurses delaying retirement. A lot of nurses are working into their late 60s and beyond.

Nurses might be putting off retirement for financial reasons. During the recession, nurses held on to their jobs. After the economy started to turn around, many retiring nurses continued practicing. Now, studies indicate that nurses are not retiring because they may not be able to live on their pensions and cannot afford to lose healthcare benefits. In addition, they may have to financially support adult children or elderly parents, or they are still recovering from another unexpected expense.

While some nurses remain in physically demanding positions, many transition to desk jobs or part-time work to have greater control over their schedules. Furthermore, nurses may choose to prolong their careers because of their passion for helping patients, pride in their job and the camaraderie they have with coworkers.

Trends in Nursing

Trends in nursing are influencing healthcare jobs, policy, procedures and delivery of care. These trends are a few of the reasons for the current evolution of healthcare.

  • Older population.
  • Ages of nurses.
  • Need for nurse educators.

The Baby Boom generation began turning 65 in 2011, and the people in this group represent almost one-third of the U.S. population. As people age, they require more medical assistance. Typically, many older patients have one or more chronic health conditions. These can include obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer's, heart problems or kidney disease. The increase in the number of aging patients means there will be a need for more nurses.

The number of new nursing graduates is on the rise, and some new nurses are between 30 and 40 years old. These nurses may be entering the profession as a second career. The combination of younger and older nurses is a good balance. Younger nurses tend to be tech-savvy and are educated in current medical advances. Older nurses tend to have more experience, wisdom and patience.

Retiring nurses who are educators will create a void when they leave the workforce. Given the 155,000 new nurses who joined the workforce in 2015 and an increase in the number of nursing school applicants, the need for instructors will continue to grow.

The Effect of Retiring Nurses on the Workforce

It's harder for new nurses to find positions when nurses on the verge of retirement are still holding jobs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts there will be 437,000 new job openings for nurses between 2016 and 2026. This is partly the result of aging patients needing healthcare.

When nurses do begin to retire, hospitals and other healthcare employers will need to stop turning away young nurses they consider less experienced. And nursing schools that have limited the number of enrolled students will have to accept more nursing students and expand class sizes. Thus, there will be a demand for more nursing educators.

Why Nurses Should Have a BS in Nursing?

Nurses who work in hospitals may need a BS in nursing to be considered for a position. Many hospitals are requiring nurses with an associate degree to acquire a BSN. Additionally, it may become harder to secure a job in other types of healthcare facilities without a bachelor's degree since the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended in 2010 that 80 percent of the nursing workforce should have a BS in nursing by 2020. The IOM was renamed the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) in 2015.

In an online RN to BSN program, nurses can earn a bachelor's degree while working. An online program allows students the flexibility to set their own pace. Moreover, students have the opportunity to connect with faculty and nurses across the country so they can learn about different ways nursing professionals deal with healthcare issues.

The ideal retirement age in healthcare is no longer 65. But the hope is that when retiring nurses finally relinquish their nursing positions there will be enough new nurses to fill those vacancies. So it is imperative that nursing students are properly educated to prepare them for the rigors of working in healthcare. That is why it is important to steer nurses with a BSN toward doctorate programs, as they are needed to replenish the diminishing number of nursing educators.

Learn more about the URI online RN to BS in Nursing program.


The Register-Herald: Nursing Trends Show a Profession in Transition

The Atlantic: The U.S. Is Running Out of Nurses

Minority Nurse: Baby Boomers and Beyond: The Evolution of Nursing

Medscape: Why Aren't Nurses Retiring?

Medscape: Nurses Are Talking About the Real Reasons They Postpone Retirement

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