More than 1 in 4 baby boomer nurses plan to retire in a year, survey shows

The percentage of registered nurses who plan to retire in less than a year is up significantly, a finding that indicates the long-predicted wave of retirements among baby boomer nurses is already underway, according to a new survey from staffing firm AMN Healthcare.

The 2017 survey of 3,347 nurses shows that 27% of the nurses who say they are planning to retire intend to do so in less than a year. In 2015, only 16% of nurses reported they planned to retire in less than a year.  

Furthermore, the survey found that 9% of RNs plan to retire in one year, more than twice the number from 2015. The implication, according to AMN Healthcare, is that 36% of nurses who say they are planning to retire could do so in one year or less.

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Approximately 60,000 baby boomer RNs have exited the workforce each year since 2012, according to the survey announcement. And the nurse shortage will only get worse. The 2017 survey found that 73% of baby boomer nurses who are planning to retire say they will do so in three years or less. By 2020, the number of baby boomer RNs will be about half their peak of 1.26 million in 2008.

The research closely follows recent projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which found that job openings for nurses will grow 15% between 2016 and 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.

"The retirement wave of baby boomer nurses will create a particular drain on clinical expertise and institutional knowledge, which are critical to quality patient care and organizational success for healthcare providers," Marcia Faller, Ph.D., RN, chief clinical officer of AMN Healthcare, said in the announcement. "Our research, coming closely behind the BLS projecting an astonishing number of job openings for nurses, should be a wake-up call, because the healthcare industry will need solutions to cope with this impending crisis."

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Other notable findings from the report:

  • 82% of the nurses surveyed said more nurse leaders are needed in healthcare.
  • Half of those surveyed said they don’t think that current leaders care about them as individuals and don't believe their leaders support their career goals.
  • Yet 61% said they don’t have an interest in becoming nurse leaders.
  • Nearly 7 in 10 nurses said that a national licensing system for nurses would be more helpful to their careers than the state-by-state system.
  • Only 16% of nurses said they plan to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.