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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

The nursing workforce is aging – here’s what that means for you

We all know that there’s a labor shortage in the nursing field, but it’s looking like it may get worse within the next 5-10 years. As the boomer generation ages out of work, this shortage is only going to get more critical. Let’s look at what the aging nursing workforce means, and what schools and businesses can do to lessen the impact of the problem.

The Retiring Boomer Generation
Baby boomers, the workforce born between World War II and the early 1960s, are the largest generation in history, currently comprising almost 25% of the population. They started to hit the retirement age of 65 about 10 years ago, and more and more are retiring every year. This will put increased pressure on an already strained health care system. As people live longer, there’s a greater chance of an increased need for health care.

Boomers and Nursing
There’s already a shortage of nurses, and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing estimates that it’s only going to grow over the next 10 years, and within five years the shortage will be double what we saw at its historic low in the 1960s. A big contributor to this is the number of boomers currently working in nursing who will be retiring. In fact, according to a survey by AMN Healthcare, over 60% of nurses over the age of 54 are planning to retire within three years.

Meeting the Challenges in Health Care
As the boomer generation ages out of the workforce, there are a number of challenges that need to be met and overcome. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement has created a new approach to optimize health care called the Triple Aim Initiative. This approach looks at the goals of improving the patient experience, improving the overall population’s health and reducing the cost per capita of health care.

A properly prepared and fully staffed workforce is essential to meeting these needs. This begs the question of how employers can work toward addressing the shortage.

Addressing the Shortage of Nurses
There are a number of steps for the health care industry to take in order to attract and retain the best nursing workforce:

– It’s vital to map your demographics so you can understand your current and upcoming needs.

– Construct a strategy to deal with reduced age-related performance and disability management in your workforce.

– Improve your workflow and ergonomics in the workplace to make the physical requirements easier.

– Allow for flexible hours, opportunities for self-care and family care, on-demand services, options to phase retirement, mandatory overtime limits and options for part-time jobs and job sharing.

– Improve teamwork among your staff to allow people to direct their talents where they’ll shine.

– Create a mentoring program that allows new nurses to learn from more experienced ones, which will smooth transitions.

– Implement new assistive technology to make things easier for those nurses who are experiencing age-related limitations.

Adopting these strategies can help address the coming critical shortage in the nursing field. They will allow for better training of new recruits, longer retention of senior nurses and an easier, more team-oriented approach across the board.

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