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Nurses are leaving the profession. Where are they going? 

December 12, 2023

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The original publication of this report contained a minor error in slides 5 and 6 below. We undercounted worker-months in the denominator of the percentages, which caused their sum to be greater than 100. We’ve since corrected the error. The qualitative conclusions of those slides remain the same.

U.S. employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 6 percent from 2022 to 2032, faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Many of those projected job openings will result from the need to replace nurses who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force. The aging Baby Boomer population is increasing demand for health care even as its members retire from the workforce in growing numbers.

While these shortages are well known, the ADP Research Institute wanted to see what happened to nurses – all nurses – who quit their jobs. We found that even though nursing pay has risen dramatically since the start of the pandemic, more of these critical workers are leaving the profession.

Before the pandemic, more than half of nurses who switched jobs stayed in health care. Today, that share has fallen to less than 40 percent.

In a companion post, the ADP Research Institute looked at the employment and wages of registered nurses to obtain a clearer picture of what’s happening in that occupation. In this post, we look at where nurses — all nurses1Except nursing assistants — go when they quit the profession.

The average registered nurse was 52 years old in 2020, according to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, and nurses are retiring in large numbers. Now the shortage of these skilled providers is contributing to another shortage: A lack of nursing school faculty, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

While employers are raising wages to keep and attract nurses, it clearly hasn’t been enough.