Millennial Nurses

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Millennial Nurses

Will the influx of younger nurses solve the shortage?

By Working Nurse
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Millennials have been accused of killing everything from paper napkins to fabric softener, but the nursing profession won’t be another “casualty” of this much-maligned generation. A recent study shows that Millennials are twice as likely to become RNs as Baby Boomers ever were.

Nursing Gold Rush

The Baby Boom generation has dominated the U.S. nursing workforce since the late ‘70s, a demographic bulge that has only recently begun to shrink. According to a study in the October issue of Health Affairs, the Millennial generation — people born between 1980 and the turn of the century — will likely dominate nursing for the next few decades.

Although Generation X adults showed considerably less interest in nursing than did their parents’ generation, the profession’s promise of meaningful work, steady employment and solid wages has proven very attractive to Millennials, leading to “unprecedented” growth over the past 15 years. The odds of someone from the Millennial generation becoming a registered nurse are 1.9 times as great as they were for the Baby Boom generation. 

The authors project that this influx of Millennials will balance out the retirement of Boomer nurses. “The Millennial generation is well on its way to replacing the Baby Boomers and supplying an additional 1 million RNs between now and 2030,” says coauthor Peter Buerhaus, RN, Ph.D., FAAN, a professor at Montana State University School of Nursing.

Pig in a Python

For now, the growth of the nursing workforce seems to have hit a plateau. In California, nursing program enrollments and completions peaked in 2009–10 and have remained steady since then. 

If the generation after the Millennials doesn’t share the same interest in nursing, the growth of the past 15 years may become what statisticians call a “pig in a python” situation: an unsustainable demographic spike. To stave off future nursing shortages, say the Health Affairs authors, nursing leaders need to focus on maintaining current recruitment and training efforts while working to minimize RN turnover.

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