Delayed Retirements May Forestall Predicted RN Shortage

Economy, rewarding work may have motivated baby boomer nurses to stay on the job

THURSDAY, July 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Due to both the delayed retirement of experienced nurses and a surge in new nursing graduates, there were almost three million nurses in the United States in 2012, about half a million more than estimated a decade ago, according to a study published online July 16 in Health Affairs.

Information for the study came from the American Community Survey (ACS) and the Current Population Survey (CPS), from 2001 to 2012. The data included all respondents aged 23 to 69 who reported being employed as a registered nurse during the week of the survey. The CPS surveys more than 100,000 people and is administered by the Census Bureau; it provides data on about 3,000 to 4,000 registered nurses per year. The ACS survey included up to 30,000 registered nurses for the sample period. The data were used to estimate the number of full-time nurses working each year and their ages.

The trend of registered nurses delaying retirement has extended the average nursing career by 2.5 years after age 50, and increased the 2012 workforce by 136,000 registered nurses, according to the research. The size of the registered nurse workforce is particularly sensitive to changes in retirement age, given the large number of baby boomer nurses now employed. About 74 percent of those nurses who are 62, and 24 percent who are 69, are still working, the researchers noted.

David Auerbach, Ph.D., senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation in Boston, told HealthDay that exactly why baby boomer nurses aren't retiring isn't known. But it could be that they are part of a trend among other Americans, particularly women. "They may be staying in the workforce because of their longer life expectancy and the satisfaction they get from being employed," he said.

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