DiversityNursing Blog

The Wave Of Retiring Baby Boomer Nurses Is Coming Here's How To Prepare

Posted by Pat Magrath

Thu, May 04, 2017 @ 03:56 PM

ea30f5a1f5294dc91ecb08bfb6bdb02a.jpgEach generation has a nickname –Millenials, Gen X, Baby Boomers, etc. I am a baby boomer and this article is frightening to me. It discusses the tens of thousands of baby boomer Nurses that are starting to retire and will continue to retire over the next few years.
 
As baby boomers continue to age, medical needs increase. What is tough to face is the wealth of experience and knowledge the baby boomer Nurses have, which their baby boomer patients need, will be leaving the Nursing profession. This article points out 4 action items hospital leadership should be taking to deal with a new kind of nursing shortage.

Beginning in the early 1970s, career-oriented and largely female baby boomers embraced the nursing profession in unprecedented numbers following large increases in health care spending after the introduction of the Medicare and Medicaid programs. By 1990, baby-boomer registered nurses (RNs) numbered nearly one million and comprised about two-thirds of the RN workforce. As these RNs aged over the next two decades, they accumulated substantial knowledge and clinical experience. The number of boomer RNs peaked at 1.26 million in 2008, and, after a brief delay in the early part of the current decade (likely associated with the Great Recession), the baby-boomer RN cohort began retiring in large numbers. Since 2012, roughly 60,000 RNs exited the workforce each year, and by the end of the decade more than 70,000 RNs will be retiring annually. In 2020, baby-boomer RNs will number 660,000, roughly half their 2008 peak.

The retirement of one million RNs from the nursing workforce between now and 2030 will mean that their accumulated years of nursing experience leave with them. We estimate that the number of experience-years lost from the nursing workforce in 2015 was 1.7 million (multiplying the number of retiring RNs by the cumulative years of experience for each RN), double the number from 2005 (see Figure 1). This trend will continue to accelerate as the largest groups of baby-boomer RNs reach their mid to late sixties. The departure of such a large cohort of experienced RNs from the workforce means that patient care settings and other organizations that depend on RNs will face a significant loss of nursing knowledge and expertise that will be felt for many years to come.

The exit and replacement of retiring RNs will not occur uniformly because health care delivery organizations in some regions of the country will confront faster RN retirements and slower replacements of their RN workforce (especially the New England and Pacific regions) compared to other regions of the country (the Southern and Central regions). Consequently, some organizations will experience bursts in RN retirements that may result in temporary nursing shortages and disruptions in care delivery. How can health care delivery organizations overcome the loss of so much nursing knowledge, wisdom, and expertise?

Health care leaders must recognize that the retirement of the RN workforce has only recently begun, that it will intensify over the coming years, and that the loss of RNs with decades of experience creates multiple risks. Foremost, the quality of patient care could decrease as new and less experienced RNs enter the workforce and replace RNs with decades of experience. This is not to suggest that RNs with fewer years of nursing experience are less qualified to provide high-quality nursing care. Rather, it is to acknowledge that the longer an RN is in the workforce, the knowledge accumulated over many years is likely to increase a nurse’s ability to effectively manage all types of clinical and organizational challenges.

Relative to novice RNs, experienced RNs are likely to be more adept at identifying complications and unexpected changes in patient conditions sooner and respond appropriately. They are also more likely to know how to manipulate the organization’s culture to “get things done,” make clinical assignments that better match the knowledge and skills of nurses with the needs of the patient, serve as role models and mentors, and deal effectively with physicians, administrators, and others to assure the well-being of patients and their families. All of these attributes can matter greatly in providing a consistent, predictable, and safe patient environment. It is not difficult to recognize these nurses—often they are the clinical and organizational leaders who are counted on to ensure smooth operations of clinical and administrative systems.

Health care organizations must also recognize that the retirement of so many experienced RNs will occur commensurate with the aging of the country’s nearly 80 million baby boomers. Not only will growing numbers of elders increase the demand for RNs, but because three in four people older than age 65 have multiple chronic diseases, the intensity of nursing care required to manage this medically complicated population will also increase. Aging baby boomers will especially benefit from care provided by the most experienced nurses—the very nurses who are retiring from the workforce.

Four actions should be taken by hospital chief nursing executives, hospital patient care unit managers, and human resource officers to both anticipate and act to prevent the negative consequences that could ensue as RN retirement accelerates.

First, it is important to gather information on an organization’s nursing workforce to ascertain when and how many RNs are expected to retire and identify the nursing units, departments, and patient populations that will be affected. Sharing this information with physicians and other clinicians who will be affected and seeking their involvement will be critical to mitigating potential harmful consequences.

Second, hospital leadership should prioritize working with department and unit leaders to engage soon-to-be retiring RNs to learn what can be done to delay their retirement—for example, decreasing hours and number of workdays, modifying their responsibilities, improving the ergonomic environment to minimize injuries, or revising organizational policies and clinical conditions that hinder and dissatisfy nurses. Similarly, older and more experienced RNs could be offered opportunities to fill new roles in community engagement, patient navigation, or education and prevention.

Third, it is important to encourage the creation of programs that bring older and younger RNs together to identify the knowledge and skills needed by rising RNs that can be imparted by older and more experienced RNs. Fourth, review (and strengthen as needed) succession planning to assure that retiring nursing managers will be replaced by RNs who are well-prepared to assume management of clinical and administrative operations on patient care units. Future RN leaders could be identified and partnered with soon-to-be retiring RNs in management positions and participate in formal programs in management and leadership development, team building, communications, budgeting, program development, and other leadership roles.

It is imperative that health care leaders recognize that as the retirement of RNs ramps up, a different type of nursing shortage will emerge—one of knowledge, skill, experience, and judgment, all attributes that contribute to the successful clinical and administrative operations of complex health care delivery systems. Now is the time to anticipate and prepare for the retirement wave of the nation’s RN workforce.

Figure 1.  Number Of Years Of Experience Lost To The Registered Nurse Workforce, 1979-2030

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Topics: baby boomers, retirement, retiring nurse, nursing experience

Nurses and Retirement

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Fri, Dec 20, 2013 @ 02:59 PM

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Source: Fidelity Investments

Topics: financial, Fidelity Investments, savings, nurses, retirement

Nurse Todd retires after 61 years of caring

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Wed, Jun 05, 2013 @ 01:39 PM

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By  Jennifer Smola 

Sixty-one years after graduating from Mount Carmel College of Nursing, one of the school’s first black graduates is finally hanging up her stethoscope.

June Todd, 83, retired yesterday from Dr. Charles Tweel’s family-medicine practice on the Northwest Side. Todd graduated from Mount Carmel in 1952, in a class of 52 nurses. All were women, and, for the first time, four were black.

Todd, who lives in Worthington, attended Harding High School in Marion, north of Columbus. She considered studying library science, but her school librarian told her she would have a hard time getting a job in the North because of her race.

“I said, ‘That’s not going to work,’  ” Todd recalled. “So I decided I wanted to become a nurse."

Her race seldom made a difference during her nursing career, she said. And she has fond memories of her time at Mount Carmel.

“I loved the nuns,” she said. “Everybody was so nice.”

Tweel described Todd as a “ball of energy” who never missed work. She’s popular not only among her co-workers but with patients, who “like seeing her more than they like seeing me,” he said.

Enid Patterson, a patient for 10 years, said she was sad to see Todd go.

“She’s not just my nurse,” Patterson said. “She’s my friend.”

When Tweel hired Todd 13 years ago, she planned to stay only a year or two, she said, but she stuck around because she liked the work.

Her co-workers said she brought humor and energy to the office every day.

“She’s the only 80-some-odd-year-old woman that has an opinion on everything from Hillary Clinton to why Chris and Rihanna should not be together,” co-worker Beth Shahan said. “She’s very with-it and hip.”

Though Todd is retired, she says she’s not done working. She plans to volunteer at local nursing homes and perhaps at a Worthington library.

Topics: black, RN, race, nursing career, retirement, Mount Carmel College of Nursing

Nurse 'SeeSee' Rigney has just about seen it all at Tacoma General

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Sat, Apr 20, 2013 @ 03:53 PM

By: STACIA GLENN

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Florence “SeeSee” Rigney brushed off retirement as easily as she does the good-natured jabs from co-workers at Tacoma General Hospital for being the oldest nurse in recent memory.

Rigney, who will turn 88 next month, still bustles around the operating room wing with the energy of a woman half her age. She expects to be working at least another year.

More than 20 years older than the next senior staff nurse, Rigney is respected, revered and relentlessly teased.

“I kinda keep them in line,” joked Rigney, who blushed in embarrassment and dismissively waved her hand at fellow nurses who call her everything from a star to their hero.

Rigney got her nickname as a kid. She kept telling a teacher, “See, see,” to show how well she knew her lessons. The teacher started calling her “SeeSee” and the name stuck.

In 1946, she donned the stiff white uniform of a student nurse. In her home, she has a framed photo of herself as a fresh-faced nursing student, next to an old black-and-white image of what Tacoma General looked like back then.

Her career crisscrosses the map.

She started in Tacoma General’s operating room before going to work for a private doctor. She had stints in operating rooms in Atlanta and San Antonio, Texas, before her husband deployed for the Korean War and Rigney returned to Tacoma General. She spent a spell in Cheyenne, Wyo., but once again came back to Tacoma.

The couple adopted their first child in 1958, and Rigney shifted to working on an as-needed basis to fill shifts when the hospital was short-handed. When her daughter reached college and her son was in high school, Rigney was needed at home less so she worked more.

After her husband died in 1977, Rigney started full-time again, working 10-hour shifts three days a week. She found it kept her mind occupied and surrounded her with a second family. The hospital gave her plaques to mark her long-running career – five years, 10 years, 15 years. She can’t recall getting the 20th-year plaque.

When she was 67, she thought it time to retire.

“I stayed retired for about five months then I came back and here I am,” Rigney said. “I always thought I’d come back and work but I never thought I’d stay this long. I’m really very blessed my health is good and they want me to work.”

Supervisors and co-workers describe Rigney as one of the best.

Julie Christianson, who has worked with Rigney since 1980, said she is a “crack-up” who is full of great tales about what nursing used to be like.

She regales them with times before computers when charts and records were all hand-written, when staff nurses helped out in the emergency room delivering babies, before technology and equipment became so advanced.

Rigney is not an operating room nurse, handing doctors various instruments. She’s the nurse who sets up patient rooms and keeps track of supplies. Fellow nurses insist Rigney will knows half the patients and has a soothing effect on those she interacts with.

It’s difficult sometimes to keep up with the advancements, Rigney said, but she’s always learning.

“She can still run circles around people half her age,” Christianson said. “She’s very inspirational for the rest of us because she’s still working and she’s still sharp.”

Topics: nurse, retirement, Tacoma General, 88, 'SeeSee' Rigney

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