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Options for Older Workers in Healthcare

Options for Older Workers in Healthcare

Dan Woog | Monster Contributing Writer

There are two reasons the odds are against any AARP member suddenly becoming a doctor: time and money. But “physician” is one of the only positions in healthcare where older workers don’t find a welcome mat. In nearly every other category, the industry brims with employment opportunities.

Healthcare is in the vortex of a job seeker’s perfect storm. Demographically, an aging population has placed increasing demands on our medical system at the same time it is losing workers to retirement and burnout. However, many older workers like the flexible schedules healthcare jobs tend to offer. Career changers can transfer skill sets to new positions, while those who have left healthcare but wish to return can retrain with relative ease.

In 2003, AARP’s “Best Employers for Workers Over 50” study examined criteria like recruiting practices, training opportunities, health benefits and alternative work arrangements. Five of the top 10 companies were healthcare firms.

Nursing is one of the most vital – and understaffed – segments in the industry. According to the May 2003 issue of AARP The Magazine, 30 states report a shortage of nurses; by 2020, that number will increase to 40.

Working to Retain Older Nurses

Across the country, companies are proactively seeking and retaining older workers. To tap the enormous pool of former nurses, Massachusetts General Hospital appointed a nurse emeritus, who helps returnees become familiar with new technology and obtain proper recertification.

To retain older nurses considering retirement, Massachusetts General offers reduced hours. “People have paid their dues; they want to enjoy life, but they also need benefits,” says Deborah Washington, director of diversity for patient care services. “We work with human resources to figure out how best to do that. We may find a different unit for them or customize their schedule. It’s just a question of providing creative options.”

To assist older nurses who can no longer lift and turn patients, Baptist Health South Florida has installed new hydraulic technology. Meanwhile, Massachusetts General asks older nurses who are no longer able to perform the most physical aspects of their jobs to teach. “Today’s student nurses need to learn how to interact with families and use good judgment,” Washington says. “An experienced nurse is worth her weight in gold. We can’t afford to lose one.”

Across the country, Scottsdale Healthcare in Arizona instituted a seasonal arrangement. Workers can work six months, yet retain benefits for a full year. Six and even four-hour shifts are available. Scottsdale Healthcare, which also offers an elder care referral service for aging parents or spouses, employs 338 registered nurses over age 50 — that’s 26 percent of the system’s RNs.


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  • Photo_user_blank_big

    judyblue1

    about 5 years ago

    14 comments

    60 years old,havent worked since 2004 due to having to take care of my dad.i have come to the obvious concluison,there is no job for me even with 35 yrs exp. also heartbroken and upset.

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    Ralphie

    about 5 years ago

    2 comments

    This article made me feel better. I am a 62 y.o Registered nurse.working two jobs, but I am looking to change my job for more pay. My house is in foreclosure, and I have been turned down for every good paying job. perhaps it is my age, and low credit rating. Yhis article helped., it is my old age.

  • Highfashion1-1_max50

    shercat

    about 5 years ago

    8 comments

    I am a retired RN but kept my license current. When my husband got laid off I decided to return to nursing. I applied to 40 plus hospitals, nursing homes, registry etc. I received exactly no bites. I was told time and time again that my lack of having recent experience with the last 3 to 5 years would require me to go for a refresher course. I checked into that. It cost almost 2 grand to attend an 8 week program. I was also told by several facilities that from "time to time" they hired refresher nurses. Time to time? Well, to me that means not very often. So, let me get this straight... I have to cough up 2 grand from god knows where and then possibly get a job. An unemployment check just does'nt leave any money to pay for even a weeks worth of tuition. I did ask if any of these facilities could sponsor me in exchange for a guarantee that I would be there for X number of years but that a good slam in the butt, er back. I really think that Mass General is a minority for sure. I am thinking like Maggy about the age thing myself. I will be 55 next month.

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    MaggyC

    about 5 years ago

    28 comments

    I am one of these older nurses (40 years in the biz). Kudos to the places appreciating the value of older nurses and who are willing to make adjustments in order to retain/recruit them. Other than the article's mention of Scottsdale Healthcare in AZ, this does not seem to be the case in the Phoenix metro area. My position as an occupational health nurse for a large corporation was eliminated in January 2009 due to economic constraints. I sent out over 20 applications and heard back from only 2. I was beginning to wonder if my AGE might have something to do with that. (Paranoia?) The hospitals, it seems, don't want to orient a nurse who hasn't been in a particular specialty. As we all know, we didn't learn to be specialized in nursing school, but rather when we went to work on the floors. I wish I could find a place willing to do as Mass General does.

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    rosie54

    about 5 years ago

    2 comments

    I have been a nurse for 30years, but have worked in the healthcare industry for 40 years total. They encourage us not to "eat our young", but when are the younger nurses coming out of school being taught to respect us, and stop telling us we need to retire to make room for them. Have they not heard that a new broom may sweep clean but the older broom knows where the corners are?
    Heartbroken nurse from the state of NJ.

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    fluffy

    over 5 years ago

    16 comments

    I am in my mid 50's trying to decide what i would like to do. I have been in the nursing profession for 40 plus years and would like to enjoy something other the fast hospital pace. paperwork and psychiatric challenges!!!!!! Are there any programs like the one talked about in SC?

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