August 4, 2023

The changing face of the nursing workforce

Last week we discussed how hospitals are still struggling to retain talent. This week’s graphic offers one explanation for this trend: a significant share of older nurses, who continued to work during the height of the pandemic, have now exited the workforce, and health systems are even more reliant on younger nurses. Between 2020 and 2022, the number of nurses ages 65 and older decreased by 200K, resulting in a reduction of that age cohort from 19 percent to 13 percent of the total nursing workforce. While the total number of nurses in the workforce still increased, the younger nurses filling these roles are both earlier in their nursing careers (thus less experienced), and more likely to change jobs. Case in point: from 2019 to 2023, the average tenure of a hospital nurse dropped by 22 percent. The wave of Baby Boomer nurse retirements has also resulted in a 33 percent decrease from 2020 to 2022 in the number of registered nurses who have been licensed for over 40 years. Given these shifts, hospitals must adjust their current recruitment, retention, training, and mentorship initiatives to match the needs of younger, early-career nurses.

Nurse Age Graphic