Journal of Nursing

Millennials Represent Boon To Nurse Workforce, Join Ranks At Twice The Rate Of Baby Boomers


By Kelly Gooch

Millennials are becoming nurses at nearly double the rate of baby boomers, according to a new study.

For the study, researchers examined nurse workforce trends using the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey for the period 1979–2000, as well as data from the bureau's American Community Survey for 2001–15. They looked at data on more than 429,500 RNs.

The study found those born in 1955 were 65 percent less likely to become an RN compared to those born in the late 1980s. Researchers said the average millennial overall has entered the nursing workforce at nearly twice the rate (186 percent) as an average baby boomer. "However, these rates of entry appear to have finally reached a plateau, as reflected by the fact that a constant number of RNs took the required licensure exam in the period 2013–16, after that number doubled between 2003 and 2013," they add.

The study also found the number of younger RNs (ages 21 to 34) went from 440,000 in 2000 to 834,000 in 2015.

"Overall, considering the acceleration in retirement of the baby boomers and the stabilization of the entering cohort sizes among millennials, we expect the nurse workforce to grow 36 percent, to just over four million RNs, between 2015 and 2030, a rate of 1.3 percent annual per capita growth," the study authors wrote. "This is a rate of per capita growth similar to that observed from 1979 to 2000, but half the rate observed in the rapid-growth years of 2000–15 (2.5 percent). In other words, even with millennials' unprecedented rate of entry into nursing, the retirement of the baby boomers will dampen (but not erase) the workforce growth rates of the past decade."

Given the nurse workforce trends, the study authors recommend that healthcare organizations should consider "a more slowly growing workforce and the loss of an experienced cohort of RNs" as they navigate the shift to value-based care.


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