Aging Workforce in Healthcare

It is predicted that by 2050, nearly 20% of the national workforce will be 65 or older. This in an increase of 75%, and the healthcare workforce is even older than that (Lyman, 2016). These workers will be the main part of the healthcare workforce for a long time, and these older populations can require special needs in order to be as efficient and happy as possible. There are a number of different tools an organization can use to both keep its more elderly workers happy without sacrificing much of the upward mobility for younger and more ambitious employees.  It is the responsibility of a good healthcare workforce plan to both meet the needs of the current aging workforce, as well as provide opportunity for young talent to thrive. Otherwise, we risk high turnover rates and loss of talent in both age groups. Following are a number of facts relating to this issue:

  • By 2020, nearly half of all nurses will reach 65, the traditional retirement age (Harrington, 2013)
  • 25% of physicians are 60 years or older, and this is projected to increase (Harrington, 2013)
  • Replacing the workforce with younger employees is a high priority
  • With older workers holding positions at the top for extended periods of time, promising younger workers with less experience can become frustrated, which results in higher turnover and lower productivity
  • As employees age, some will require strategies to accommodate changing abilities resulting from disabilities, health conditions, and other age related issues
  • “If a hospital with 100 nurses experienced turnover at the national average of 21.3 percent in 2000, annual expenditures associated with the turnover of medical-surgical nurses alone amounted to as much as $1,969,015”(Hatcher, 2006).

It is obvious, given both the workforce shortages in healthcare, as well as substantial turnover costs, that any system should make it a priority to increase the well being of its older employees to ensure the ability to take advantage of their labor and experience. There are a number of potential ways to do this, such as taking advantage of part time labor, allowing employees to take out pensions early, limiting the need for physical activity on job sites, and a phased retirement plan.


Harrington, L., & Heidcamp, M. (2013, March). The Aging Workforce: Challenges for the Healthcare Industry Workforce (Rep.). Retrieved April 26, 2017, from The National Technical Assistance and Research Center website:

Hatcher, B., Bleich, M., Conolley, C., Davis, K., Hewitt, P., & Hill, K. (2006, June). Wisdom at Work: The Importance of the Older and Experienced Nurse in the Workplace (Rep.). Retrieved April 24, 2017, from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation website:

Lyman, Stephan. The Aging Workforce in Health Care: Challenges Ahead. (2016, April 13). Retrieved April 26, 2017, from


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