Preparing for the Nursing Retirement Tsunami

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Preparing for the Nursing Retirement Tsunami

Are hospitals ignoring the storm warnings?

By Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN
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Peter McMenamin, Ph.D., a health economist with the American Nurses Association, has issued a “tsunami warning.” No, it’s not about an actual tidal wave, but rather the impact anticipated nurse retirements will have on the nursing workforce.

Here is the gist of McMenamin’s warnings:

  • Increased demand. The demand for healthcare services will increase over the coming decades, with between 2 and 3 million more Americans becoming eligible for Medicare each year.
  • More RNs needed. As a result, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2022, the total number of RN and APRN jobs in the U.S. will increase by 574,400.
  • Time to retire. On top of that, by 2022, an estimated 555,100 current RNs and APRNs will have reached retirement age and will have either left or be preparing to leave the profession.
  • Educating nurses. To fill all those vacancies, nursing schools will need to train 1.13 million new RNs — almost twice as many as the number of new jobs that will be created.
  • Instructor shortage. Training that many nurses will require more than 34,000 nursing instructors. Finding enough instructors will be difficult because well-qualified nurses can make more money in advanced practice than they can teaching.
  • Funding shortages. Title VIII support for faculty education (and nursing education in general) has not kept pace with inflation. In fact, on an inflation-adjusted basis, Title VIII funding today is less than it was in the late ‘70s.

McMenamin warns that hospitals need to start preparing now, before they end up “underwater.”    

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