4 Tips for Retaining Nurses Who Work Past Retirement

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media , October 18, 2011

Of the nurses who plan keep working past traditional retirement age, 79% said they will need to work to meet basic living expenses and 28% expect to struggle to make ends meet in retirement. These numbers show a significant change from the last time the survey was conducted in 2007 when nurses were more confident about their financial health in retirement.

The study was not all bad news for nurses, however. Fifty-four percent responded that they loved their jobs and didn't want to give them up even in retirement. Whether they continue working because they want to or they need to, the numbers of older nurses in your organization will force changes to the way nursing care is provided. 

1.      Offer Shorter Shifts

Serious attention will have to be given to the over-reliance on 12-hour shifts. These shifts contribute to cognitive overload and nurse fatigue and have been shown to result in more errors, but nurses love them and fight any suggestion to do away with them. Older nurses, however, will be less wedded to 12-hour shifts and many will need options that either include less direct patient care time or shorter shifts.

As part of your cost cutting efforts now, investigate ways to improve staffing and scheduling and develop different shift options that meet the needs of all your staff. Offering 4, 8, or 12-hour shifts provides flexibility for both staff and the hospital. For example, four-hour shifts can be scheduled around busy times during high patient census.

2.      Invest in Staffing Software

Reduce your need for agency nurses by investing in staffing software that makes it easy for nurses to view and pick up open shifts. These programs can be implemented across multiple sites, making it easier for hospitals in a system to share resources and solve staffing issues together. The initial investment is more than offset by the reduction in agency staff as well as increases in staff satisfaction. Opening the system to older nurses who work per diem or part time gives them opportunities to pick up work when they want it.

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