In 2000, it was predicted that by the year 2012, a hospital that employed 1000 nurses would only be able to fill 800 of those positions. Nurses everywhere were filled with dread at those numbers. They envisioned a world where they would never be able to retire and would be rolling their own wheelchairs down the hallways trying to do the work of two nurses with all the energy of a 90 year old who had been working med-surg for the past 70 years.
Luckily, nursing schools responded to this projection and the number of graduates has more than doubled since the year 2002. In 2012, when the dust settled, there were 2.7 million nurses in the workforce, fully 500,000 more than were predicted.
Two major factors have contributed to this phenomenon. One, mentioned above, is that nursing schools have increased enrollment and have been churning out more graduates. The other factor is that nurses stayed in the workforce longer than predicted.
In 2012, two-thirds of the nursing population was over age 35. In other words, the baby boomers didn’t quit as predicted. According to this article, between the years 1969-1990, given a group of nurses who were still working at the age of 50, 47% of nurses were working at the age of 62 and only 9% were still working at the age of 69. Between the years 1991-2012, 74% were working at 62 and 24% were working at age 69. Thus the working years of the nurse over 50 was extended by 2.5 years.
While this is good news for the population at large, new graduates may find it more difficult to get hired than they thought it would be. A graduate of the spring 2013 class at University of Central Florida states that in her class of 120, only 50-65% were hired in months following graduation, and most did not get the jobs they wanted. A grim prospect, and one that might deter potential students from enrolling in a nursing program.
According to Auerbach, older nurses will start moving out of the hospitals and into other health care settings as they age, opening up more jobs as they do so. Baby boomers should begin leaving the nursing workforce as well, but these factors will also depend on the economy. A recession tends to cause nurses to keep a good job rather than risk retirement. The passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is also predicted to open up more employment opportunities for nurses, due to better access and utilization of health care by Americans.
About the Author
Sarah Heroman is an RN, BSN who has found her niche as a school nurse in Texas. With almost 20 years of experience, Sarah is still passionate about the nursing field and enjoys mentoring and helping nurses continue to find the joy in their careers. She believes that a good nurse is able to combine the science and the art of nursing and find fulfillment in providing the best care for their patients.