Foreword by Dana Naquin, health care marketing manager, CareerBuilder:
In the recent past, there has been a lot of concern surrounding the risk of a nursing shortage because of an increase in the aging of both the workforce and general population. This, in turn, creates the perfect storm for a potential coverage gap when it comes to nursing care. Add to this, the fact that nurses are asked to take on more and more responsibilities as organizations look to reduce costs.
However, things might be looking up. The article below was recently featured in H&HN magazine and challenges these concerns. In the midst of the recent recession, many nurses decided to delay retirement and continue working to ensure financial security. It turns out that many of these nurses are continuing to work past the average retirement age and this could have a significant impact on the feared shortage.
For recruiters and HR leaders this means increased flexibility when working on long-term strategic planning. Look for ways to engage your older workforce and place them in roles where they can excel and take on tasks that younger workers might not be ready for. How about some of those tasks that nurses have been asked to take on that they previously weren’t responsible for? Is there value in possibly splitting those duties with younger nurses? Read on to learn more about the study and get additional insight in to how older nurses may be the key to preventing a shortage.
More RNs are opting to forego retirement, averting an expected shortage — but why?
Phil, an older friend of mine who’s been in the hospital with a broken hip, was surprised when one of his nurses mentioned that she was 20 years younger than her husband — and that her husband was a year Phil’s senior.
“That makes the guy 89,” Phil told me when I stopped by to visit over the weekend. “So this woman is 69, and she’s still running around taking care of patients. I don’t know how she does it.”
Turns out there are quite a lot of nurses working well past what typically is considered retirement age. A study published earlier this month in Health Affairs found that of those RNs working at age 50 between 1991 and 2012, 24 percent continued to work as of age 69. Delayed retirement is one of the reasons the size of the RN workforce grew to 2.7 million in 2012, significantly above of the 2.2 million that experts were expecting a decade ago. Unlike Phil’s nurse, however, most RNs tend to leave the hospital setting as they age:
“Older nurses are far more likely to work outside of the hospital than younger RNs are,” the study authors wrote.
The Affordable Care Act is prompting a reorganization of clinical processes, with more care delivered outside the hospital — in homes and ambulatory care facilities — and increasing the demand for nurses. Older RNs are filling that gap. In the past, H&HN has reported on hospitals that encourage veteran nurses to remain on the job by using a variety of incentives — from offering flexible scheduling to hiring staff to lift and move patients so older RNs don’t have to.
How Hospitals Can Improve the Workplace for All Nurses
A couple of recent reports spotlight other ways hospitals can improve work for nurses of all ages. Physical work environments that help nurses to complete tasks without interruption, communicate easily with other nurses and physicians, and do their jobs efficiently are related to higher job satisfaction, according to the results of a nationwide survey published this month in Research in Nursing & Health. And on July 21, The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Landro wrote about hospitals that are changing traditional work practices with the goal of tripling the amount of time nurses spend on direct patient care. Among the tactics: shifting routine tasks to certified nurse assistants and other less highly skilled staff; moving supplies — as well as computers with access to patient records — to inside patient rooms; and having pharmacists deliver medications to patient floors. As Landro noted, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Transforming Care at the Bedside program is intended to help hospitals increase to 70 percent the amount of time nurses spend on direct patient care.
— By Bill Santamour, H&HN Managing Editor
Originally published on August 5, 2014 on H&HN Daily. Reprinted with permission from H&HN magazine online. Copyright 2014 by Health Forum Inc. All rights reserved.