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Is Illinois Facing a Nurse Shortage?

Illinois employed more than 123,000 registered nurses in 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While Illinois RN salaries remain competitive (average: $72,090 per year), the Prairie State faces a looming nursing shortage across all specialties. The main factor for the pending deficit is an aging workforce that is about to retire.

“As more baby boomers approach retirement, it is essential that our healthcare industry has the ability to quantify the forthcoming need for additional health care professionals and other health care services,” said Bryan Schneider, Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation Secretary, in a public statement in 2015.

Estimates show that by 2020, Illinois will face a shortage of more than 21,000 nurses, according to Illinois Nursing Workforce Center (INWC). The center was established by the state of Illinois in 2006 as “as part of an overall strategy to produce more highly-skilled nursing professionals to meet the health care needs in Illinois,” according to INWC’s website.

Impending Nurse Retirements

A 2015 report by INWC found that one-third of RNs ages 55 to 65 intend to retire within the next five years. Specialties such as “psychiatric, school, home health and community health nursing” are of particular concern, the report found, because these specialties “currently have significantly fewer RNs (ages 25 to 35) in the Ph.D. education pipeline to replace the retiring RNs.”

A 2016 workforce study by the Illinois Center for Nursing reached similar conclusions.

“In 2016, 50 percent of respondents are over the age of 55, which is approximately an 8 percent increase in this cohort of Illinois RNs since 2014,” the study found. The relatively rapid increase in RNs in older age categories has significant implications for workforce planning. In addition, one-third of the respondents indicated intent to retire within the next five years. This combination of an aging workforce and retirement plans predicts the potential of an impending nursing shortage within the next five years.”

Of the participants surveyed, only 4,883 (12 percent) were between the ages of 26 and 34, while only a little more than 1 percent were 25 or younger. More than 44 percent of nurses questioned anticipated retirement within the next decade. These statistics suggest a near future when Illinois faces a significant shortage of nurses. But the deficit also means opportunities for nursing professionals entering the workforce.

The Shortage Spells Opportunity

A recent article in American Nurse Today describes the “silver lining” in the employment shortages. Those benefits include increased recognition and appreciation for the work nurses perform, improved workplace efficiency and a higher impetus to provide competitive salaries and benefits.

Nurses are needed more than ever as tens of thousands of them near retirement in Illinois and across the United States. The shortages mean new opportunities for qualified nurses. The faculty at Eastern Illinois University is dedicated to meeting that demand by training the next generation of skilled nurses through EIU’s online RN to BSN program. The program’s CCNE-accredited courses take an individualized, interdisciplinary approach to education, and the entire program can be completed in as few as 14 months.

Learn more about the EIU online RN to BSN program.


Illinois Center for Nursing: Registered Nurse – Workforce Survey 2016

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2017 – Registered Nurses

ANA: Advantages of a Nursing Shortage

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