A new study has found that registered nurses (RNs) are working as late as age 69, leading to a substantial growth in available nurses in recent years.
Researchers at the RAND Corporation (Santa Monica, CA, USA) and Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN, USA) found that the size of the US RN workforce has surpassed forecasts from a decade ago, growing to 2.7 million in 2012 instead of peaking at 2.2 million. While much of the difference is the result of a surge in new nursing graduates, the size of the workforce is particularly sensitive to changes in retirement age, given the large number of baby-boomer RNs now in the workforce.
The researchers found that in the period 1969-90, for a given number of RNs working at age fifty, 47% were still working at age sixty-two and 9% were working at age 69. In contrast, in the period 1991-2012, the proportions were 74% at age 62 and 24% at age 69. This trend, which largely predates the recent recession, extended nursing careers by 2.5 years after age fifty, and increased the 2012 RN workforce by 136,000 people. The study was published online on July 16, 2014, in Health Affairs.
“The reasons that older RNs are working longer is unclear, but it is likely part of an overall trend that has seen more Americans, particularly women, stay in the workforce longer because of lengthening life expectancy and the satisfaction they derive from employment,” said lead author Prof. David Auerbach, PhD, a policy researcher at RAND. “Because many RNs tend to shift out of hospital settings as they age, employers seeking RNs for nonhospital roles may welcome the growing numbers of experienced RNs potentially able to fill these positions.”