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Many older nurses plan to leave profession, survey shows

A new survey of registered nurses by AMN Healthcare raises concerns about older nurses leaving the profession because of retirement or more-lucrative opportunities.

The consultancy's 2013 Survey of Registered Nurses reported 23% of nurses ages 55 and older plan to dramatically change their work life by retiring, taking a non-nursing job or working part-time. The survey's author, AMN Healthcare Chief Clinical Officer Marcia Faller, said she's worried about the loss of institutional knowledge.

“The potential departure of a significant number of older nurses from the workforce can be concerning, given the unclear supply and demand for nurses in the coming years,” Faller said in an interview. “Healthcare systems must use innovative approaches to attract and retain their workforce while keeping them effective and satisfied. Innovative workforce solutions could help maintain high standards of patient care and efficiency in the era of dramatic change in the healthcare industry.”

The annual survey also measures job satisfaction. About 90% of nurses said they were satisfied with their careers, and 73% said they were satisfied with their current job.

The survey paints an optimistic picture, said Peter McMenamin, healthcare economist and senior policy fellow for the American Nurses Association. Despite a small survey sample, McMenamin, who wasn't involved in the survey, said the findings are consistent with ANA research.

McMenamin interpreted the responses from younger nurses in the survey, who said they're more interested in increased education, as a positive sign.

Among nurses ages 19 to 39, almost 25% said they would pursue a bachelor's degree in nursing in the next three years, and in the same demographic, 34% said they'll pursue a master's degree in nursing.

The survey also examined the perception of the nursing shortage, with 45% of nurses ages 19 to 39 saying the shortage is not as bad as it was five years ago, compared with 41% of nurses 40 to 54 and 34% of nurses ages 55 and older saying the shortage is not as bad.

Increased patient volume due to the insurance expansion under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act should increase the number of nursing jobs, McMenamin said.

“Savvy hospital administrators are going to find a way to keep their more mature nurses on staff,” McMenamin said. “They may figure out ways to offer eight-hour shifts or more accommodating schedules. You don't want to lose all that experience, but there could be a tsunami of retirements if they don't plan it right.”

Follow Ashok Selvam on Twitter: @MH_aselvam


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