Michigan’s Nurses Start Demographic Shift

40% of nurses plan to retire within 10 years

Many nurses looking to “downshift” careers as retirement approaches

After three years of limited retirements and job changes by Michigan’s nurses caused by economic uncertainty, the first signs of a demographic shift in Michigan’s nursing workforce are showing in the Michigan Center for Nursing’s 2012 Survey of Nurses.

The Michigan Center for Nursing, a program of the Michigan Health Council, surveys Michigan’s licensed nurses each year when nurses must renew their state-issued licenses. Nursing licenses in Michigan are valid for two years, and half of Michigan’s 160,000 nurses renew their licenses each year.

“Due the 2008 recession, many baby boomers delayed their plans to retire because of the economic uncertainty of both spouses’ jobs and retirement savings,” said Carole Stacy, the Director of the Michigan Center for Nursing. “These survey results are now showing the flip side of that same coin: more nurses are retiring or looking to scale back their current schedules.”

As a result, Michigan’s nurses are getting younger: for the first time, Registered Nurses aged 25 to 35 grew as a share of the overall nursing workforce. Nurses in the middle of their careers – ages 45 to 55 – represent the smallest share of RN’s since 2008.

The number of Michigan nurses approaching the end of their working careers is increasing as well. Nearly a third (30 percent) of licensed nurses are between the ages of 55 and 64. “As baby boomers continue to age, they will both retire and eventually join an increased number of patients, requiring new thinking at all levels of health care,” Stacy added.

Perhaps most importantly, the outlook for the current near-retirement nursing professionals indicates they may leave the profession at an increased rate. Nurses are increasingly reducing their hours worked, or transitioning to other settings to pursue less physically and time-demanding jobs.

Furthermore, 27 percent of nurses who left their job cited “age” and 20 percent cited “physical demands” as one of the reasons for leaving their position. As more nurses reach retirement age, these two factors will play a very large role in determining how employers will need to address their nursing needs.

Finally, 40 percent of all nurses plan to retire within the next 10 years. This represents a very real concern for the stability of Michigan’s nursing workforce. Only 2.5 percent of licensed nurses are unemployed and seeking work, while more than 10 percent are out of the labor force all together.

“We are finally starting to see what health care employers and leaders have been warning about for the past few years,” said Anne Rosewarne, President and CEO of the Michigan Health Council. “Health care employers, nursing schools, and policy makers need to continue to work to create innovative and collaborative programs that will address the looming serious nursing shortage our state will face in the next few years.”

Download the full report from the Michigan Center for Nursing here.