Enough young registered nurses have entered the workplace in the last decade, researchers say, that it could ease expected nursing shortages in years to come as more baby-boomers retire. The fresh blood is important because almost one million of the nation’s estimated 3 million nurses are currently over the age of 50.
After their numbers declined steadily in the 1980s and 1990s, the number of 20-something nurses increased by 62 percent from 2000 to 2010, according to a report published in the journal Health Affairs. There were about 190,000 RNs between the ages of 23 and 26 in 1979; they dropped to 110,000 in the early 1990s and bottomed out at 102,000 in 2002. But, as of 2009, there were 165,000 of these young RNs – a 62 percent increase.
“If these young nurses follow the same lifecycle employment patterns as those who preceded them – as they appear to be thus far – then they will be the largest cohort of registered nurses ever observed,” according to the report.
“Keep it up and maybe we’ll get out of the woods,” said study co-author Peter Buerhaus, a nursing professor at Vanderbilt University.