Pad of paper and pen with words "retirement plan" written on it next to calculator

Across our healthcare system, there is a population of seasoned nurses with decades of experience known as Baby Boomer nurses. These nurses have valued resources, bringing significant experience and wisdom to the nursing profession. Early in my nursing career, I was a little bit terrified of these nurses. After overcoming feeling intimidated by their knowledge and no-nonsense personalities, I learned that they were incredible resources and welcomed their teaching and expertise.

Baby Boomer nurses are nearing the end of their careers and preparing for retirement. It has been reported that "since 2012, roughly 60,000 RNs exited the workforce each year, and by the end of the decade more than 70,000 RNs will be retiring annually. In 2020, baby-boomer RNs will number 660,000, roughly half their 2008 peak." However, this report does not take the COVID-19 pandemic into account. With the strain on the economy due to shelter-in-place orders and the increased dependence on healthcare resources, how can boomer nurses stay on track for retirement?

Stay on Schedule

If you are scheduled to retire soon, stick to your retirement date! Nurses are caregivers to their core, and caregiving doesn't end with their patients. Nurses may hesitate to take a scheduled retirement date if they are worried about leaving their colleagues short-staffed. The patient-to-nurse ratio has been affected by the influx of COVID-19 patients, and new safety protocols designed to prevent exposure are making day-to-day nursing practices more complicated than usual. Given these circumstances, nurses preparing for retirement may consider postponing until the pandemic subsides. If nurses moving toward retirement want reassurance that they aren't leaving colleagues in a bind, they should consider the opportunities they are giving other nurses! Nurses who have as much experience as Baby Boomer nurses often hold unique or coveted positions. With their retirement, Boomer nurses are paving the way for other nurses to expand their careers and seek new opportunities.

Review Your Savings

Investopedia links low retirement savings for Baby Boomers to the stock market decline of 2008 to 2009. This decline occurred in the middle of prime retirement savings time for Baby Boomers, which led many Baby Boomers to defer retirement in order to increase their funds. If you are a nurse considering retirement, now is the time to check in on your investments - or start your 403b retirement savings plan if you haven't already! Contact the financial advisors through your human resources department to ensure that your accounts are growing and that you are taking advantage of employee incentives. Some hospital systems match employee contributions up to a certain percentage. In addition to the financial advisors available within your institution, seek out a financial advisor who can specifically help with securing or shifting existing life insurance plans to ensure you aren't paying premiums on policies you no longer need.

Keep Saving

Congratulations, Baby Boomer nurse—you've retired! Celebrate and enjoy your retirement, but don't stop saving and planning. Even if you have all of your financial systems lined up, expenses accounted for, and systems in place to track your monthly spending, you should still continue to save. Check on your investments often to ensure they are growing and bringing in more than you are spending. Another tip from Investopedia is to consider your living situation. Are you still living in the multi-bedroom home where you raised your family? Do you live in an area you chose for the top-notch school system that has higher property taxes? Downsizing your home or moving to a more affordable area are two ways to add income to your retirement savings.

The nursing workforce will be forever changed once the Baby Boomer nurses retire at the predicted rate of 70,000 annually; definitely adding to the current nursing shortage. They began their careers at the time when starched white uniforms, pantyhose, and the signature white nursing cap were standard. They learned to titrate intravenous medication drips by counting drops per minute, while nursing students now learn to deliver intravenous medication using electric pumps. They weathered massive changes in technology and shifts in healthcare policy and paved the way for new nurses to enter a respected career with countless opportunities for advancement. The cumulative years of experience that boomer nurses bring cannot be measured, but their mark on the nursing profession should be applauded. A well-planned retirement is highly deserved.

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Janine Kelbach, RNC-OB
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