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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

Aging Population a Boon for Health Care Workers

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Fri, Oct 12, 2012 @ 03:02 PM

11:10AM EDT October 5. 2012 -From

07clinic 4 3 r560As Baby Boomers age into retirement by the millions each year, their growing health care needs require more people to administer that care.

That makes fields such as nursing one of the fastest-growing occupations, and hospitals are hiring now to prepare for what's to come.

Central Florida Health Alliance has 140 to 170 open positions a week, and almost 90% of them are for jobs that include registered nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists and pharmacy technicians, says Holly Kolozsvary, human resources director.

The two-hospital system based in Leesburg and The Villages is hiring for its peak season from January to April, when many retirees seek winter refuge in the Florida sun. But it's also managing a trend that requires it to employ more people year-round: More retirees aren't leaving at the end of spring, Kolozsvary says.

"It's kind of a domino effect," she says. "They move here, they're well, they get sick, they're left here through their cancer or heart disease, and we have to take care of them."

Job postings on for positions including registered nurses, physical therapists and physician assistants rose 13% from June 2011 through June 2012, according to a 2012 health occupational report by the job site.

The additional demand could be due partly to hospitals preparing for the retirements of many older nurses as the economy gets better, increasing the need for new skilled workers. Scripps Health, a group of five hospitals and 23 outpatient facilities in San Diego, plans to hire about 400 nurses a year over the next three years but might need to increase that by 200 annually because of retirements, says Vic Buzachero, senior vice president for human resources. About 30% of the hospitals' nurses are older than 50.

Jamie Malneritch applied for a part-time job as a registered nurse with Scripps in March and heard from the hospital the same day she submitted her application. She started working a month later.

The 31-year-old, who has worked as a nurse for four years, says the job security and growth opportunities were primary drivers in her decision to go to nursing school in 2006.

"It seems like we always need more hands," she says. "Nursing is flourishing."

With an average salary of $64,690 a year, according to 2010 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nursing may be the more desired profession, but lower-paid home health aides are actually in higher demand.

An industry shift that puts more emphasis on outpatient care and home health services makes home health and personal care aides two of the fastest-growing occupations in the country. Employment in both positions, which have an average salary of about $20,000 a year, is expected to grow by about 70% by 2020, BLS data show. Registered nursing is expected to grow 26%.

ResCare HomeCare, a national provider and employer of home health and personal care aides, who work primarily with seniors with chronic illnesses or disabilities, has received 32,000 applications this year, a 23.3% jump from last year, and it hired 6,000 of the people who applied, about 5% more than in 2011, says Shelle Womble, senior director of sales.

Home health and personal care aides are generally the same, providing services such as checking vitals, prepping meals and bathing and grooming the patient. But home health aides are funded by Medicare and, in some states, require more training, while personal care aides are funded privately and may require less training, Womble says.

ResCare, where aides make $22,000 to $30,000 a year, is anticipating the need for more workers in the near future.

"Right now, one of our key positions is that we are hiring the talent before we even get the clients so we can be prepared and have the staff available," Womble says of home health and personal care aides. "There's a lot more competition for that type of employee."

Topics: age, baby boomers, healthcare, nurse, nurses, care, hospital staff

Nursing Popular with Older Students

Posted by Wilson Nunnari

Fri, May 11, 2012 @ 10:31 AM

Nurses are as diverse as the patients they treat.

But that diversity will become grayer for the next few years as more middle-age people are going into nursing as a second career.

student nurses get older resized 600
That trend can be seen in the class that will graduate May 18 from Heartland Community College's two-year nursing program in Normal. Students graduate with an associate's degree in nursing and then may take the registered nurse licensing exam.

Non-traditional students — those who don't begin college right after high school — are the norm in Heartland's nursing program. But, in this class, none of the 40 students is a traditional student.

“I was pretty surprised when I started,” said second-year nursing student John Cook, 47, of Normal. “There was virtually no one right out of high school. I remember thinking that I'd be the oldest one in there by far and that's not the case.

“It's a huge cross-section of people with bachelor's degrees in other fields, including a lot of moms.”

Students begin clinical rotations at area hospitals and long-term care facilities during their first semester, said professor of nursing Barb McLaughlin-Olson. For every hour that they are in the classroom, in the lab and at clinical sites, they are expected to spend three hours on course work.

The nursing-as-a-second-career trend has been in place for several years, said Deb Smith, vice president and chief nursing officer of OSF St. Joseph Medical Center, Bloomington.

Some people who pursue nursing as a second career take advantage of accelerated, one-year nursing programs for people who already have a bachelor's degree, Smith said. For example, Illinois State University's Mennonite College of Nursing in Normal has an accelerated bachelor of science in nursing program.

Laurie Round, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing executive at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, said the recession has driven some people from their original careers into nursing. Both ISU-Mennonite and Illinois Wesleyan University's School of Nursing in Bloomington reported an increase in enrollment last fall.

There is a demand for nurses because nurses work in hospitals, doctors' offices, businesses, insurance companies, long-term care facilities and churches. But second-career nurses also are drawn to the field for altruistic reasons, Smith and Round said.

“They want to do something that's meaningful,” Round said. “They want to touch peoples' lives.”

Middle-age adults going into nursing need to learn a career quickly and need to keep their energy level up.

Some middle-age adults are challenged by all the technology involved with patient care, Round and Smith said.

But the maturity and experience of second-career nurses generally makes up for any challenges.

“I love the energy, the intensity, the maturity and the decision-making skills that they bring to the field,” Round said. “These people are choosing nursing while raising a family and working at the same time and that shows perseverance, commitment and discipline.”

Second-career nurses not only come in with the experience of previous employment and raising a family. They also have social skills and because they are close in age to nurses already in the field — the average age of nurses is 47 — they fit in with other nurses quickly, Smith said.

McLaughlin-Olson said, “They can use their life experiences to help them become better nurses. Because they've lived through life's challenges, they've learned how to critically think when issues come up, and they have empathy and can relate to people having problems.”

But Smith and Round also are impressed with traditional nursing students, who graduate to enter nursing in their early 20s. They are intelligent, energetic and learn quickly, they said.

For that reason, both Round and Smith said middle-age, second-career nurses are not necessarily the new face of nursing.

“I see a great mix across generations,” Round said.

Adds Smith: “It's good to have people entering nursing with a variety of life experiences. That further enriches our profession.”


Topics: disparity, hiring, wellness, baby boomers, diversity, Workforce, employment, education, nursing, diverse, Articles, Employment & Residency, healthcare, nurse, nurses, communication

Healthcare's Jobs Boom

Posted by Pat Magrath

Fri, Feb 17, 2012 @ 11:30 AM

Baby boomers are turning 65, and they will need lots of help
By Ilan Kolet and Shobhana Chandra
econ jobs06  01  600
While the economy lost 7.5 million positions during the 18-month recession, the health-care industry added doctors, nurses, and other hospital personnel. Together with the social assistance category, which includes day-care workers, career counselors, and similar positions, the sector will add more than 5.6 million employees and be the biggest job gainer by 2020, according to new projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Manufacturing is forecast to lose 73,000 jobs by then.

“The first baby boomer just turned 65 last year, so when it comes to health-care jobs, we haven’t seen nothing yet,” says Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in New York. Almost 87 million Americans, or one in four, will be 65 or older by 2050, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Health services require face time with patients, which means “these jobs are protected from the forces of globalization,” says Rupkey. “We can’t imagine a time when we’ll be able to outsource the job of a home health aide giving a senior a bath or helping with physical therapy.”

Openings in health care are broadly distributed geographically, even in economically distressed small towns where they often are “all that’s left,” says David Card, a director of the Labor Studies Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research. They also provide “pretty good” opportunities, particularly for women, he says. During the recession, health care added almost half a million positions, while construction, which typically employs more men, shed 1.1 million workers.

Sharon Rudolph, 64, is studying to be a registered nurse alongside classmates who had previously worked in real estate and banking, as well as one who owns a nail salon. The Fort Lauderdale resident was a radiologic technologist before she took a break in the 1990s to raise her family. Now she’s in a 27-month training program at the city’s Nova Southeastern University. “I felt I’d become more marketable once I get out,” says Rudolph, who has managed to keep her other licenses in diagnostic medical and cardiac sonography current. “I have to work twice as hard as some of the kids” to keep up with the coursework.

Registered nursing, which requires at least an associate degree, will have the largest growth of all U.S. occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, adding 711,900 jobs between 2010 and 2020, reaching a total of 3.4 million. The number of home health aides, who don’t need a high school diploma but require on-the-job training, will increase by 69 percent, to 1.7 million. Hiring of physicians and surgeons will rise by 24 percent, to 859,300, the bureau predicts.

While the additional jobs probably will lift employment, many pay low wages. That means these workers will be less able than employees in higher-paid industries to boost consumer spending. Yet health-care jobs may provide more stability than factory and construction work, which tends to fluctuate with the economy. According to BLS data that are seasonally unadjusted, the unemployment rate for health-services employees was 6 percent in December, compared with 16 percent for construction.

According to Charles Roehrig, director of the Altarum Center for Sustainable Health in Ann Arbor, Mich., every 10 jobs in health care ultimately generate an additional 12 elsewhere in the economy. If he’s right, then without the industry’s recent hiring growth, the unemployment rate would have been 9.5 percent in December, instead of 8.5 percent.

Topics: hiring, baby boomers, Workforce, employment, health, healthcare

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