Where are all the millennial nurses going?
The pandemic has had a significant impact on nurses, especially as large numbers of younger workers are leaving the profession, according to recent analyzes published in Health Affairs – and experts say further efforts are needed to support the hand -long-term nursing work.
How the pandemic has impacted nursing employment
According to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statisticsthere was a decline in overall healthcare employment in the first 15 months of the pandemic between February 2020 and June 2021 – an unprecedented situation not seen in decades.
The decline in employment varied by sector, with many, including doctors’ offices, ambulatory care centers and home health care, seeing the largest declines in April 2020. Since then, most sectors , with the exception of nursing homes, have seen their employment rates largely return to pre-pandemic levels.
Among nurses, unemployment was highest in the third and fourth quarters of 2020. In 2021, unemployment rates for LPNs and RNs largely declined to pre-pandemic levels, but remained elevated for nurses. auxiliary nurses (AI). Additionally, Asian, Black, Hispanic or other racial/ethnic minority group nurses continued to experience higher unemployment rates than white nurses in the first two quarters of 2021.
Overall, LPN and NA employment decreased by 20% and 10%, respectively, when comparing the pandemic (April 2020 to June 2021) with the period just before (October 2018-December 2019) . In comparison, the employment of RNs saw only a 1% decline during the pandemic compared to the period before it. However, this decline was still a significant departure from the steady growth seen between 2011 and 2020.
According to Health Affairs, the total supply of RNs fell by more than 100,000 workers during 2021, the largest decline in more than four decades. In total, the number of RNs decreased by 1.8% in 2021 compared to before the pandemic.
The decline was largely attributable to RNs under 35, who saw the largest reduction in numbers at 4%. RNs over 50 saw the second largest decline at 1%, while RNs aged 35-49 saw the smallest at 0.5%.
This decline in the nursing workforce was particularly large compared to what a model had predicted had the pandemic not occurred. In the model, the nursing workforce is projected to increase by 4.4% between 2019 and 2021, rather than decrease by 1.8%. This resulted in a difference of approximately 200,000 fewer workers (6.2%) than expected. Among RNs under 35, there were 80,000 fewer workers (8.8%) than expected.
The future of nurses
Going forward, the nursing workforce will likely be impacted by the departure of young RNs, which could significantly reduce the workforce and disrupt the labor market.
According to Health Affairs“A sustained reduction in the number of younger RNs would have worrisome implications for the future workforce. Since RNs typically continue to work in nursing throughout their careers, a reduction in younger RNs in workforce would have an impact that is felt across a generation, in contrast to a relatively modest reduction in the supply of long-term registered nurses due to the early retirement of RN baby boomers working until 60 or 70 years old.
And as more and more younger RNs leave the profession, it may also be that interest in nursing declines overall. In fact, the number of applicants to four-year baccalaureate nursing programs, which is often used as an early indicator of long-term nursing supply, increased by only 1.3% in 2020, against 4.5% and 8.5% in the previous two years. . If the number of applicants slows or declines further in 2021, the nursing workforce could be further reduced in the future.
Globally, “[s]Considerably greater efforts to nurture and sustain early career nurses, who have been challenged in their new profession, may be needed, as well as more effective strategies to reward those who stay on the front line and those who have to come back,” Health Affairs writing. (Auerbach et al., Health Affairs, 4/13; Buerhaus et al., Health AffairsJan 2021)