The Challenges of an Aging Population

Our healthcare system is facing unprecedented challenges caused by a nursing shortage, an aging Registered Nurse (RN) workforce, combined with the growing healthcare needs of the Baby Boomer generation (born 1946-1964).

The Nursing Shortage

According to Health Affairs, the nursing shortage in the U.S. is projected to reach 260,000 by 2025. Unlike previous nursing shortages in the past decades, a shortage of this magnitude is going to be unprecedented.

An Aging RN Workforce:

  • Over 51% of the current RN workforce is age 40 or over (The American Organization of Nurse Executives).
  • 55% of currently practicing RN’s are considering retirement in the next 9 years (Mike Monahan?)
  • The average age of the RN population is 47 (2008 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses)

As with any great challenge that we face, we must work together to find solutions. In a recent webinar, Mike Monahan, BSN, MA, RN, COO of Clinical Retention Solutions, LLC proposed the following strategies to retain and engage the aging RN workforce:

1. Change HR policies

  • Create innovative positions
  • Use exit and employee sentiment data
  • Training and education
  • Renegotiate union contracts
  • Rethink standard staffing model
  • Provide flexible working schedules

2. Improve Ergonomics and Healthcare Design

  • Assistive devices
  • Lift teams
  • Assistive personnel/team care delivery
  • Decentralization of supplies and equipment
  • Better lighting schemes
  • Large print capability

3. Use of technology to improve efficiency like Electronic Medical Records (EMR’s)

  • Eliminate the need for centralized nursing stations
  • Provide numerous portals to access patient information
  • Incorporate alert prompts for:
    -IV pumps
    -Fall risk or special diet restrictions

4. Change culture

  • Create focus groups
  • Instill perception of value
  • Set expectations
  • Develop sense of community

5. Model best practices of top hospitals

  • Ergonomic workstations
  • Boosting 401K and redefining pensions
  • Caregiving and grief resources
  • Corporate cultures that value the mature worker
  • Provide flexible work options
  • Knowledge transfer and phased retirement

The challenges of the aging population have tremendous social and economic impacts – especially in healthcare. By improving policies and advancing technology we can ease the transition between generations. By sharing knowledge and creating a culture that values our elders, we can create the blueprint for a brighter future.

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