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As baby boomer nurses retire, concern grows about national shortage

Survey showed 73 percent of baby boomer nurses planning to retire said they would do so in three years or less, AMN said.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

Baby boomer nurses are retiring at an alarming rate that not only spells trouble for nursing staff levels, but for healthcare workers across the board. That's according to the 2017 AMN Healthcare Survey of Registered Nurses released Tuesday.

Data contained in the survey supports recent projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasting more than 600,000 job openings per year for healthcare practitioners and technical occupations over the next decade.

[Also: Health Affairs: Millennials almost twice as likely to be registered nurses]

Results show that in 2017 the percentage of nurses planning to retire in less than a year rose to 27 percent. That's up from 16 percent in 2015. At the same time, the percentage who say they will retire in four years or more declined. The survey also showed 73 percent of baby boomer nurses planning to retire said they would do so in three years or less, indicating that their retirement time table has sped up.

Their peak count crested in 1.26 million in 2008, and since 2012, about 60,000 a year left the workforce, according to recent research.

Open registered nurses positions will total roughly 204,000 job openings per year from through 2026, according to the BLS. 

"The retirement wave of baby boomer nurses will create a particular drain on clinical expertise and institutional knowledge, which are critical to quality patient care and organizational success for healthcare providers," said Marcia Faller, chief clinical officer of AMN Healthcare.  "Our research, coming closely behind the BLS projecting an astonishing number of job openings for nurses, should be a wake-up call, because the healthcare industry will need solutions to cope with this impending crisis."

Other AMN Healthcare nurse surveys found shortages have worsened in the last five years rose from 37 percent in 2015 to 48 percent in 2017, and comments indicate growing concern over the effect on patient care. The survey also showed that while 82 percent of nurses felt more peer leadership was needed, 61 percent said they had no desire to be leaders themselves.

Twitter: @BethJSanborn
Email the writer: beth.sanborn@himssmedia.com

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