On-the-Job Survival Guide for Mature Nurses
Megan Malugani | Monster Contributing Writer
Even if you have the strength of a superhero and the stamina of the Energizer Bunny, bedside nursing is a tough job. It’s especially grueling for the growing number of RNs 50 and older, who may not bounce back from 12-hour shifts and patient lifting as easily as their younger counterparts. Since 2001, the nurse workforce has added nearly 130,000 RNs ages 50 to 64, constituting 63 percent of the total growth in RN employment over this period, according to US Census numbers.
Mature hospital nurses shouldn’t necessarily punch out for good, however. Despite the profession’s demands, older bedside nurses can survive – and even thrive – in the workplace. Experts offer this advice to older RNs for staying healthy and happy on the job.
Experienced nurses should ask employers for accommodations that will help them stay on the job, says Joan Borgatti, RN, MEd, author of Frazzled, Fried…Finished? A Guide to Help Nurses Find Balance. Employers are often receptive to allowing older nurses to work eight hours instead of 12-hour shifts. They can also purchase hoists and lifts as well as amplifiers for phones and stethoscopes.
If you feel you are physically unable to continue in your current role, seek a change, Borgatti says. Part-time or seasonal work when the census is highest at your facility may be an option. Or draw up a job proposal that combines bedside nursing with less-taxing jobs such as mentoring, reviewing records or pre-admission testing.
“Don’t say, ‘My back is killing me. I need to be reassigned,’” Borgatti advises, since such complaints are common. “Instead, say, ‘I love my position and working here, but I’d like a change.’” Cast your request in a positive light for the employer. “Go in armed with information,” she adds. “The fact is that recruiting new nurses is costly. It’s much cheaper to hold onto a nurse you already have.”
If you can’t convince your employer to alter your responsibilities, consider switching units. Units in which patients tend to be small or mobile, like pediatrics or outpatient surgery, are less physically demanding than units like orthopedics or rehabilitation, says Debbie Hatmaker, PhD, RN, president of the Center for American Nurses, an affiliate of the American Nurses Association that focuses on workplace advocacy for nonunion nurses.