The Baby Boomer Nurse Retirement Wave Has Started

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A female DNP poses with her clipboard.

The U.S. nursing shortage has intensified now that baby boomer nurses are leaving the workforce. Current staffing deficits, which have been largely tied to attrition, are causing registered nurse (RN) burnout and nursing school teacher shortages.

As a result, the need for professionals who have a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is likely to grow.

U.S. Nursing Shortage: A Brief History

The current RN shortage began in the early 1990s, when hospitals began to implement a series of cost reduction policies to replace licensed nurses (LNs) with less-skilled employees. These layoffs caused myriad unintended consequences: experienced nurses began to rapidly vacate the field, and students who had considered a nursing career chose alternative courses of study.

In the years that followed, declining DNP program enrollment led to teacher shortages in baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs. For the 2018-19 academic year, U.S. nursing schools turned away more than 75,000 qualified applicants due to an insufficient number of faculty, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).
Consequently, the pace at which boomer-age nurses are retiring is creating vast opportunities for those interested in pursuing this career path.

Key Statistics Linked to Baby Boomer Nurse Retirement

● In the ANM Healthcare 2017 Survey of Registered Nurses, 73% of nurse respondents age 54 and older said that they planned to retire within three years.
● The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that RN employment is forecast to grow by 15% between 2016 and 2026. The reasons are manifold.
● The rate at which baby boomer nurses are expected to retire will create additional job opportunities.
● Demand for credentialed nurses will increase due to the expanding health care needs of the aging population.

Health Care Reform’s Impact on the Nursing Shortage

The American Journal of Managed Care reports that more than 27 million uninsured Americans gained health insurance access after the Affordable Care Act was passed. And while many agree that expanding health care access has been good for the nation, the already existing strain on the primary care system has been exacerbated.

The nationwide deficit in primary care providers has caused several health policy experts to call for state and federal governments to expand the role of certified nurse practitioners (CNPs) to meet patient demand. Allowing CNPs to have greater autonomy in patient care will help offset the nationwide shortage in primary care doctors.

Combined with other factors linked to the current nursing shortage, there will continue to be opportunities for professionals who are interested in pursuing a MSN or DNP degree as a means of advancing their nursing career.

The Impact of Nurse Retirement

Another key finding from the AMN Healthcare survey correlates the talent gap between retiring boomer-age nurses and RNs who are at the beginning of their career.

The survey said that 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.”

Data from the AMN Healthcare 2017 Survey of Registered Nurses suggests that by 2020, there will be half the number of active boomer-age RNs than in 2008, when they peaked at around 1.26 million.

Teaching Tomorrow’s Nurses Starts with a DNP

Professionals who are interested in training future nurses are likely to find that obtaining a DNP can help them achieve that goal. Regis College’s online DNP program can help nurses develop the skills to advance their careers and pursue leadership roles in healthcare.

Those who are concerned about cost should know the Regis Nurse Faculty Loan Program (NFLP) is available to qualified Regis DNP Nurse Education program candidates. The NFLP’s goal is to increase the number of skilled nursing faculty by providing access to education designed to prepare RN educators to fill faculty vacancies. In addition, this will increase the number of trained nurses who are able to enter the workforce.

If you’re interested in a career as a nursing school educator, that goal is in reach. Discover how the Regis DNP program can help get you there.

Recommended Reading
What Makes a Good Nurse? Key Skills for an Essential Profession
What Are Some Doctor of Nursing Practice Specialties?
Is Being a Nurse Practitioner Worth It? Exploring an Advanced Career

American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Nursing Shortage
AARP, “Survey: Wave of Retiring Boomer Nurses Arrives”
AMN Healthcare, 2017 Survey of Registered Nurses
AMN Healthcare, Baby-Boomer Nurse Retirement Wave Hits, Magnifying Nurse Shortages for the Next Decade
American Nurses Association, Workforce
Healthcare Business & Technology, “How to Retain Baby Boomer Nurses During a Nurse Shortage”
Nurse Theory, The Nursing Shortage—Why We Need More Qualified Nurses in the Field
Regis College, Nurse Faculty Loan Program
The American Journal of Managed Care, “How Healthcare Reform Is Impacting Primacy Care”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses