Academic journal article Online Journal of Issues in Nursing

Where Have All the Young Ones Gone: Implications for the Nursing Workforce

Academic journal article Online Journal of Issues in Nursing

Where Have All the Young Ones Gone: Implications for the Nursing Workforce

Article excerpt

Abstract The global nursing shortage, coupled with an ageing nursing workforce, has placed significant pressure on the Australian Government to implement strategies to meet future nursing demands as well as develop strategies to manage the current crisis. In response, the Australian government funded additional undergraduate places at universities between 2002 and 2008 and offered financial incentives for nurses who were not currently employed to return to practice. Many undergraduate places at the university (in all disciplines) have been taken up by mature-aged students. The high percentage of graduating, mature-aged nursing students is helping to alleviate the current nursing shortage, but runs the risk of exacerbating the shortage projected to occur around the year 2020. This article postulates that graduating this high percentage of mature-aged nursing students is making a significant contribution to nursing today, helping to alleviate the current nursing shortage. However, it runs the risk of exacerbating the shortage projected to occur around the year 2020. In this article the authors explore the current nursing shortage and the changing educational opportunities that affect recruitment of mature-aged students into tertiary-based nursing programs. Recommendations are provided for appropriate succession planning for the future.

Citation: Drury, V., Francis, K., Chapman, Y. "Where Have All the Young Ones Gone: Implications for the Nursing Workforce" (December 5, 2008) OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing Vol 14 No 1. Available: www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/ANAMarketplace/ANAPeriodicals/OJIN/TableofContents/Vol142009/No1Jan09/ArticlePreviousTopic/YoungOnesandNursingWorkforce.aspx

Key words: mature-aged students, nursing education, nursing workforce, undergraduate education

Globally the nursing workforce is ageing with fewer young people entering the profession to replace the large number of baby boomers due to retire in the coming decade (Erickson & Grove, 2007; Peterson, 2001b). Currently there is dissatisfaction amongst nurses who cite heavy workloads; shift work; minimal mentoring, supervision and support; low wages; poor working conditions; minimal professional opportunities; and limited autonomy as contributing to the number of nurses leaving the profession (Cline, Reilly, & Moore, 2003; Peterson, 2001a; Strachota, Normandin, Nancy, Clary, & Krukow, 2003). In 2004 the average age of a nurse in Australia was 43.2 years. The proportion of nurses 50 years or over increased from 24% in 2001 to 35% in 2005 (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2006; Rosenthal, 2008). Currently in the United Kingdom (UK) one in five nurses is over 50 (Buchan & Seccombe, 2003; Watson, Manthorpe, & Andrews, 2003). This pattern is the same globally with the United States (US), New Zealand, Canada, and European countries all reporting an ageing nursing workforce (International Council of Nurses, 2008; National Centre for Health Workforce Analysis, 2000; O'Malley & Annals, 2004a; United States Department of Health and Human Services, 2000). Buerhaus et al. (2000) asserted that by 2020 the largest cohort of nurses will be between 50 and 69 years, and that the retirement of these nurse will exacerbate the shortage of nurses at that time. If the present trajectory continues, it could be postulated that over the next two decades 75% of nurses working in these countries today are likely to retire.

Compounding the problem of an ageing workforce is the age at which undergraduate (pre-licensure / pre-registration) nursing students commence and complete their courses. There is evidence to suggest that globally fewer school leavers (people who have completed their high school education and are generally 17 or 18 years of age), who traditionally were the core of pre-registration nursing programs, are choosing nursing as a career (Aiken et al., 2001; Buerhaus & Staiger, 1999; Hopkins, 2001; O'Malley & Annals, 2004b; United States Department of Health and Human Services, 2000). …

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