A recent article in Health Affairscentered on nurses delaying retirement and claimed this is boosting the workforce. Should we believe this?

Researchers reported that nurses are staying in their jobs longer, and by delaying their retirement, that is keeping an extra 500,000 nurses in the field. One reason the authors cite is related to the slow economic rebound after the recession, which has kept some nurses working who otherwise might have chosen to retire. While previously the working RN age fell off at about 50, it is now perversely growing to about age 69.

So is this a good thing or bad thing? Honestly, nothing beats an experienced and knowledge nurse. However, these nurses are working in the “field” with physical demands that, let’s face it, are hard for even the “spring chickens.”

In addition, we are caring for sicker, more chronically ill and more functionally disabled patients with fewer staff members around. That equals an older, yet albeit wiser, workforce with physically demanding, mentally taxing (see my blog on AAADD) floor nursing duties at a time when we were hoping to slow down a bit. (Remember that dream about consulting? Keep dreaming!)

Another issue that is somewhat frightening is this: Because of this workforce boosting, there is not an urgent need for nurses in the here and now. That means prospective nurses are being turned away from nursing programs.

When the economy straightens out and these boomers do retire in 10 to 15 or more years, we will have a very large nursing shortage. Yup, leaving a shortage in a neighborhood near you, just when you may have needs yourself! 

Personally, I’m going to work as long as this body and mind will hold out (and as long as I am not in danger of killing anyone) — and while they’ll still have me.

I definitely want to save cash for future medical needs. With this economy and with people living longer, I don’t want to be broke at 90 and have to be greeting folks at my local “Mart” store just to hire to what few nurses are left to care for me! (Not my — or your — dream job, believe me).

Just keeping it real,

Nurse Jackie

The Real Nurse Jackie is written by Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC, a 2012 APEX Award of Excellence winner for Blog Writing. Vance is a real life long-term care nurse who also is the director of clinical affairs for AMDA — The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine. A nationally respected nurse educator and past national LTC Nurse Administrator of the Year, she also is an accomplished stand-up comedienne. She has not starred in her own national television series — yet. The opinions supplied here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer or her professional affiliates.