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Survey: Wave of Retiring Boomer Nurses Arrives

Already troublesome nursing shortage could become even worse


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According to a new survey, 73 percent of boomer-age nurses who are planning to retire say they will do so in the next three years.

A wave of boomer-age nurses heading into retirement appears to be here, a strong sign that the nation’s ongoing nursing shortage is about to worsen, according to a new survey from a major nurse recruitment and staffing company.

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More than 3,300 registered nurses (RNs) nationwide responded to a questionnaire by AMN Healthcare as part of a biennial survey it conducts. Of those, 73 percent of the boomer-age nurses who are planning to retire say they will do so in the next three years. (RNs 54 and older were classified as boomers for the purposes of the survey.)

That statistic was the leading edge of an overall wave of retirement, according to the survey. Among all RNs, 27 percent who are planning to retire will do so in the next year, the survey stated. That compares to 16 percent when the survey last was taken in 2015. Half of the RNs of all ages who plan to retire say they will do so within three years, according to the survey.

"This means the national health care system will likely face a drain of knowledge and experience at unprecedented levels at a time when the aging population is growing and thus needing more care,” the survey states.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment of RNs to grow 15 percent between 2016 and 2026, compared to 7 percent growth for all occupations. BLS cites a number of factors for the growth, including the aging population, pressure on hospitals to move patients to long-term care and outpatient facilities, a greater need for home health care, and the need to educate and care for patients with chronic conditions.

In a statement, AMN Healthcare President and CEO Susan Salka said the company has "seen this situation growing worse for several years. Today and in the future, health care providers face workforce challenges that can impact patient care and organizational success.”

Current shortages are affecting nurses at work, according to the survey. Nearly half — 48 percent — said nursing shortages are worse today than five years ago, up from 37 percent in 2015. Only 22 percent of RNs said nursing shortages were not as bad as five years ago, compared with 34 percent in 2015.

The survey was completed by 3,347 registered nurses after AMN sent out questionnaires in March and April, the company said.

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