The Older Nurse in the Workplace Retention or Retirement
The nursing workforce, as with other health professionals, is aging with 50% aged over 47 years. In combination with predictions of continuing nursing workforce shortages, an aging population and increasingly complex health environment, this presents a unique set of challenges to the healthcare sector as both the population and nursing workforce continue to age. A review of the international literature suggests that the majority of older nurses in the workplace (50 years and over), are highly experienced and have extensive knowledge and practice wisdom from their years of nursing. What is also clear is that the current environment does not always support this cohort of nurses and that they often feel less valued. As a consequence, in a time of unprecedented shortages, we are at risk of losing this valuable experience from the workplace prematurely. Some suggested strategies to support this group of nurses include consideration of health and safety issues, flexibility with rosters and shift pattern, options for part time work, continuing professional development and ensuring their experience and knowledge continues to be valued in the work place. This research was carried out to explore the understanding of the issues facing the older nurse in a New Zealand context. There is a significant gap in literature as to the experience in the workplace of older nurses in New Zealand. In relation to health workforce retention, strategies are described from a general workforce perspective. Specific strategies in relation to the retention of the older nurse are not addressed or described. The international literature describes both the older nurses' experiences and strategies that can be used to retain them in the workforce, which have relevance to the local healthcare environment. Using a descriptive survey design two groups of Clinical/Charge Nurse Managers in two separate District Health Boards were asked about their awareness of the issues facing older nurses and what strategies they were using to address them. It was the assumption that as a group they were very aware of the issues facing older nurses and were often using informal strategies in an attempt to retain this group of nurses. The aim of this research was to raise awareness of the needs of the older nurse in the workplace and to capture and describe the strategies being used. Results indicated that indeed the Clinical/Charge Nurse Managers were very aware of the issues facing older nurses in the workplace and were innovative in their attempts to retain them in the workplace, and these retention strategies were similar to those discussed in the international literature. The need for national direction and organisational policy in place to support the Clinical/Charge Nurse Managers' retention efforts was also raised in the literature and I believe also needs consideration in the New Zealand context.