Nurse workforce getting younger


Noted healthcare analyst Peter Buerhaus, RN, PhD, FAAN, recently told a group of East coast nurses that the nursing workforce is getting younger.
Buerhaus, the Valere Potter Professor of Nursing at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, has studied trends in nursing employment for many years, with an eye toward the predicted nurse shortage.  On average, nurses today are older than nurses of the past.  In 1983, half of the nurse workforce was under 35; by 2003, only a quarter of all nurses were under 35. 

Recently, though, there’s been a jump in the number of younger nurses entering the workforce.  90,000 young nurses were added to the workforce in 2003.  The trend toward younger nurses continues, with a signficant increase in the number of young nurses noted in 2008.  Buerhaus says the increase in younger RNs corresponds with the increase in nursing school enrollment which began in 2001.

However, nurses between the ages of 50 and 64 are still the fastest-growing segment of the nurse workforce.  Buerhaus hypothesizes that recent economic conditions have contributed to the retention of older RNs; when the economy improves, many older RNs plan to retire.

Jennifer Fink, RN, BSN
Jennifer is a professional freelance writer with over eight years experience as a hospital nurse. She has clinical experience in adult health, including med-surg, geriatrics and transplant; she also has a particular interest in women’s health and cancer care. Jennifer has written a variety of health and parenting articles for national publications.

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