The United States is predicted to incur a nursing shortage that is expected to increase as baby boomers become older, and the need for health care intensifies. Making the problem more complex is the fact that nursing colleges and universities around the country are under pressure to enlarge enrollment levels to fill the growing demand for nursing care.
Are Retirees Really Affecting the Nursing Demand?
Researchers revealed what nurses and health care associations previously knew: the nursing shortage is not a fantasy.
- A study conducted by an STTI, Sigma Theta Tau International, board member stated that the average age of employed registered nurses grew by 4.5 years to 41.9 between 1982 and 1998.
- Within 10 years, 40% of employed RNs will be 50 years or older.
- While those registered nurses retire, the amount of working RNs is expected to be 20% less than what is needed by 2020.
While the recession in the US erupted, many nurses put off retiring, worked more hours, or came back into the workforce, placing the impending nursing shortage on temporary hold. However, as the economy picks-up, the population gradually ages and more citizens become part of the insured, again creating a serious work shortage of nurses.
The 2010-11 edition of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, approximates by 2018, the country will be short of 500,000 plus nurses and will have to replace the hundreds of thousands of positions left open as experienced nurses leave the profession.
Retirement at a time of Great Need
Though economists believe the recession has ended, and consumer confidence is improving, nurses are clinging to their jobs. There has been no obvious effect, as of yet, on the employment of nurses in connection to the beginning recovery of the economy. Even so, retirements are on the way, and when they arrive, the shortage will be worse than it was before the recession. This will prove factual particularly because of the Affordable Care Act, as additional people gain access to health insurance.
In 2008, nurses over the age of 50 comprised 44.7% of the more than 3 million registered nurses in the US, and nurses 60 and over made-up 15.5% of the profession, according to the Health Resources and Services Administrations 2008 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses, published in 2010. This will leave a huge gap as experienced nurses retire.
Because nursing is physically demanding, problems will continue with retirement and vacancies. Furthermore, there is a prediction that new positions will be created because people are living longer, and nurses are needed to care for them. However, not just RNs will be needed. Those who have completed programs like online RN to BSN degrees, as well as nurses with even higher credentials such as masters and doctoral degrees, will be needed as current ones retire.
Nurse faculty members are retiring as well, creating a blockage for educating qualified applicants who wish to pursue a nursing career. A well-respected staff member of the Hawaii Pacific University College of Nursing and Health Sciences in Honolulu stated, “Just training RNs is not enough, more nurses are needed in advanced practice, along with doctoral prepared nurses who will educate the new generation in the profession.”
To appeal to much-needed nurses, some associations are offering huge sign-on bonuses and are advertising considerable salary increases for leading specialties like intensive care.
Nonetheless, increased stress levels and increasing tales of nurse fatigue, make incentives like these a temporary solution to a problem on the verge of exploding. Moreover, job dissatisfaction is on the increase due to growing workloads, longer hours, and a lack of resources to provide the best quality care to patients.
References: nursingsociety.org, nursingworld.org