The average age of retirement in the United States is sixty-one. A few years ago that figure was fifty-seven, but a worsening economy and difficulty of getting benefits once you leave the workforce have led to workers staying on the job longer. The nursing profession, too, has seen an increase in the number of years registered nurses stay at their profession.
What is the Age Which Most Nurses Retire?
According to an online nursing forum, most nurses expect to retire in their fifties. The job is physically and emotionally taxing and most of the nurses posting believe it is too difficult for older workers. Historically, because of the physical nature of the job, and because older nurses typically have savings and other benefits, as well as spouses with benefits, nurses have retired earlier than the general population. The nursing shortage and worsening economy, among other factors, has changed that fact. The reality the nurses on the forum cite is that many nurses are still on the floor into their sixties. The median age of US nurses is forty-six years. Older nurses make up the largest age group in the nursing profession at around twenty-five per cent.
How Does That Affect the Nursing Shortage?
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing foresees a rise in the median age of working nurses between 2009 and 2020. If a quarter of all nurses are nearing retirement, the current shortage in those entering the nursing profession will result in negative growth in the profession. That is, there will be more leaving than can be replaced with new graduates. Many older nurses are “baby boomers” with a distinctly different view of retirement. They may work longer to afford an active lifestyle when they do retire. There are some older nurses entering the profession in their late thirties and forties, but these so-called “second careerists” are not nearly enough to fill the dearth in nursing that the retirement of twenty-five per cent of the workforce will create. Besides, these nurses will have a relatively short work life because they will reach the age of retirement sooner.
What is the Outlook for Older Nurses?
Hospitals and other facilities which employ nurses are scrambling to retain the nurses they have. It costs roughly $60,000 to replace a nurse, including recruitment and training down-time. In addition, older nurses have experience and knowledge of years on the job. Employers are becoming creative to allow nurses to work longer. One of the things being done, according to the Hospitals and Health Networks Magazine, is decreasing the physical demands of the job. Hospitals and physicians offices are also alternating patient care with other duties. The facilities are experimenting with allowing the older nurses to creatively design their own schedules. Shorter shifts, or longer periods between shifts may help older nurses stay in the workforce longer.
Considering the demand for health care professionals, and the current aging nurse population, it is clear that the shortage of qualified nurses will continue. If facilities adopt a nurse-friendly environment to retain their aging staff, nurses will be able to remain in the physically demanding profession longer.