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Age Discrimination in Nursing

Have you experienced age discrimination?

Career Nurse Beth Article   posted
Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Columnist)

Nurse Beth specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho.

This writer says it exists, and it's real. Maybe you are having a hard time getting hired, or worse yet, you've lost your job for flimsy reasons. Here are some tips to help. You are reading page 3 of Age Discrimination in Nursing. If you want to start from the beginning Go to First Page.

dream'n, BSN, RN

Specializes in UR/PA, Hematology/Oncology, Med Surg, Psych.

Personal experience (remember I'm 40ish): since I started in my unit about 6 years ago, I have not seen anyone over 39 hired on my floor and I've seen at least 50 or so people come in over that time period.

I recently have interviewed for several other positions and have not received even one job offer. Prior to turning 40, I was hired from every interview I went on. Every single one. My resume is excellent and I am even better at interviewing than I used to be. I have no license issues, my recommendations are good, and I have some very sought after certifications. I'm early to the interviews and dress/behave professionally. I've self-reflected and truly cannot understand the problem I've been facing, but now I think I do. I am strongly convinced that it is my age.

dream'n, BSN, RN

Specializes in UR/PA, Hematology/Oncology, Med Surg, Psych.

I find that in my workplace it is the complete opposite. I am 23 and always asked by patients/ family members about how old I am. A day doesnt fail where I recieve comments like "Youre a baby you look 14." Or " Youre too young to be a nurse." It annoys the heck out of me because I know I am competent and honeslty love what I do. I can do the same work as a nurse who is 30 or "looks older" than me. This was also true for me when I was a nurses aide- many people (staff) would try and take advantage of me because I was young. Some people would talk down to me or look at me up and down when I floated to other units as if i wasnt competent enough to fulfill my duties. So yes, age discrimination in the workplace is REAL and you would only know it if youve experienced it!

I'm about to stick my foot in "it", but I have to say that what you're describing is not the serious age discrimination being discussed here. What you're dealing with is frustrating and annoying, but it doesn't sound as if it is costing you your livelihood or your ability to get a job. It is not holding you back from supporting yourself or your family. And some people will always "look you up and down" or try and "take advantage" of you, no matter what your age is.

Jules A, MSN

Specializes in Family Nurse Practitioner.

Personal experience (remember I'm 40ish): since I started in my unit about 6 years ago' date=' I have not seen [u']anyone[/u] over 39 hired on my floor and I've seen at least 50 or so people come in over that time period.

I recently have interviewed for several other positions and have not received even one job offer. Prior to turning 40, I was hired from every interview I went on. Every single one. My resume is excellent and I am even better at interviewing than I used to be. I have no license issues, my recommendations are good, and I have some very sought after certifications. I'm early to the interviews and dress/behave professionally. I've self-reflected and truly cannot understand the problem I've been facing, but now I think I do. I am strongly convinced that it is my age.

So I get this isn't fair, legal or warranted however if you see the writing on the wall you might need to switch gears. At this point in my career I haven't been on a blind audition in years however I would be inclined to take the bull by the horns. I'm not big on being politically correct or overly polite when there is a white elephant in the room. If you feel the interview is going well, you are qualified and there is a chance you might not get hired because you are older what about something like:

"I get that you are probably interviewing plenty of shiny faced young nurses but some of the things I know I can bring to the team is high energy, solid experience, I haven't missed a day of work in over two years and I'm all about holidays and weekend shifts. My plan is to work another 20 years and I'm won't be leaving in 2 after I compete grad school" Said in the most pleasant tone with a genuine smile. Psych can be very informal so depending on the climate and who was interviewing me I might also playfully add "and no worries about me needing maternity leave".

Jules A, MSN

Specializes in Family Nurse Practitioner.

I'm about to stick my foot in "it"' date=' but I have to say that what you're describing is not the serious age discrimination being discussed here. What you're dealing with is frustrating and annoying, but it doesn't sound as if it is costing you your livelihood or your ability to get a job. It is not holding you back from supporting yourself or your family. And some people will always "look you up and down" or try and "take advantage" of you, no matter what your age is.[/quote']

Not sure I agree. Although likely not to the same degree I would bet there is a decent amount of hiring folks who don't prefer the really young nurses either.

I'm sure everyone will be relieved to know I have zero input in who gets hired unless it is someone I personally recommend for a position but have to say when starting to work with a new member of the team I absolutely do scrutinize the really young ones every bit as hard as the really old ones. I want to see what they are made of and if they are respectful and interested in learning from an old goat like myself.

Jules A, MSN

Specializes in Family Nurse Practitioner.

BTW great thread NurseBeth! It is very informative and has remained respectful despite being something many of us feel so passionate about.

Jules that is for the nurse to decide, how long to work. I have seen many knocking on 70's door who are smart and fast as whips. Besides, many who had retirement plans now face having to rebuild due to economic issues. A few I know who had planned to retire and "just have fun" are now working longer because they have very little to retire on. Some CHOOSE to work because it keeps them mentally sharp and in a way, keeps them "young" to be so active. Who am I to question the older nurse who keeps going?

And I agree with the poster that said being perceived as being "young", while it may be frustrating to have people question your age, is not the same. The fresh-faced cutie will likely get hired over the "over the hill" oldie, as many have said here. The older person is experiencing age discrimination as it is defined. The younger one is not; she is experiencing stereotyping perhaps, but she gets to keep the job the older one has to fight for. I was young once and got the same thing; "how old are you really"???? But I never faced being shoved out by younger, fresher people in that phase of my life. So no, that is not discrimination as it is truly defined. Old, you need to go. Young, you need experience. BIG difference.

Jules A, MSN

Specializes in Family Nurse Practitioner.

Jules that is for the nurse to decide, how long to work. I have seen many knocking on 70's door who are smart and fast as whips. Besides, many who had retirement plans now face having to rebuild due to economic issues. A few I know who had planned to retire and "just have fun" are now working longer because they have very little to retire on. Some CHOOSE to work because it keeps them mentally sharp and in a way, keeps them "young" to be so active. Who am I to question the older nurse who keeps going?

And I agree with the poster that said being perceived as being "young", while it may be frustrating to have people question your age, is not the same. The fresh-faced cutie will likely get hired over the "over the hill" oldie, as many have said here. The older person is experiencing age discrimination as it is defined. The younger one is not; she is experiencing stereotyping perhaps, but she gets to keep the job the older one has to fight for. I was young once and got the same thing; "how old are you really"???? But I never faced being shoved out by younger, fresher people in that phase of my life. So no, that is not discrimination as it is truly defined. Old, you need to go. Young, you need experience. BIG difference.

And what if the nurse who it is up to decide isn't making the practical choice for their patients? Do you think it is possible that there is a point where an individual might no longer be safe to practice based on their age and physical condition? Is not having enough money to retire a sound justification for working after its no longer safe? I mostly see this with older physicians but again I think there is a shelf life to most things and disagree with the argument that the person knows when it is time and will always make the correct decision on their own. I wonder if the occupations with set age limits like airline pilots don't have a theory worth investigating.

But if the young nurse doesn't get hired over the older one especially if their years of experience are the same doesn't that equal the same kind of age discrimination we are suggesting happens to older nurses? Not saying it is as prevalent but in all fairness I bet it has happened.

Just some things to think about.

Jules I have been in the business for nearly 20 years. I can say in all that time, and in multiple specialties, I have seen ONE older nurse who could "not cut it". It was sad, really. She had early-onset dementia and was a danger to herself/patients. She just kept forgetting things and making errors. For 40 years, she had delivered kind, compassionate and competent care. Now she was asked to leave. I am not even sure it was "age" at all but an unfortunate case of dementia.

We are not airline pilots or military. Nursing is different. My auntie has been a nurse since 1962 and in great demand in her specialty which is peds and ICU.

Yea you read right. She has been nursing for 53 years and still in demand. And she is not the only one.

I have seen many more "younger" nurses who were less competent and less compassionate than the older ones, however. I have seen many enter nursing with a sense of entitlement that was astounding, refusing to perform ADL care because "that's not what I went to school for". Also, they do not know what they do not know. The older nurse is a treasure trove of information, a veritable encyclopedia and should be treated like gold.

But she costs too much.

I have worked multiple specialites, Ob/GYN/ Post op, Dr. office, LTC and Nephrology. I have seen only that ONE case where an older nurse should no longer be working, in these 20 years. I have seen nurses in their 60s and 70s out-performing people a generation younger.

Now I am neither "old" or "young". In between. I have seen nurses in 60s and 70s out-perform and outlast the young ones time and again. The young ones tend to job hop and move along, looking for a "dream". Nothing wrong with that, but at the end of the day, it's the older nurse often picking up pieces and keeping it together.

Some day all of us will be old. What comes around, goes around----- and the younger ones will find themselves in this same boat. Will they look at back and recall their nasty attitudes about the older ones? I doubt it, but they sure won't like the discriminatory treatment any more than the ones experiencing it now, do.

Edited by SmilingBluEyes

My experience with Sacramento Mather Veteran's Administration. About a year ago (59 yo at time), I had my first taste of age discrimination when interviewing for a part-time position in a Palliative clinic with Sacramento's VA. The young Hispanic MD for that clinic stood from the conference table extending his hand to take mine. I was impressed until I noticed he was looking for signs of Arthritis. Unfortunately, my broken 5th finger did not get his approval, but he did comment, otherwise. my hand was youthful. Of the 5-person panel, He was the last to interview me. He used everything imaginable to discredit me. On their application, if you retired from a federal agency, you need to check yes to avoid double dipping. I had semi-retired but not from a federal agency so I checked "no." Even though the Chief P&S explained to him the difference, He still called me a liar for checking "no." He looked for every reason to pick apart my resume. I had suffered fractures from an assault and battery while at that state position and was fired because their internal investigators chose to believe that (male) staff members story that I had lied about the incident. Even though, I shared with the interviewing MD my entire nursing history, that interviewing MD's focus was so negatively inclined, he needed to know if I were ever fired before in my life. He was relentless to the point of abuse and stated he did not believe my report of assault and battery either. That Doctor (I should say young doctor) put me into shock, I abruptly left the room. He was not someone I could have supported. He promised to permanently scar my future applications so all of the VA administration would know I am a liar. I tried to report him to VA's administration at Mather, but could not get access and trying for VA's Federal Admin web site was no better.

DREAM'N : It may not be the "serious" age discrimination that is discussed in the article but it is still "serious" and real. I decided to share my experience and how age discrimination affects me on a day to day basis; a piece that the article did not touch on. May not seem like much to you but it is to me, so please dont undermind that fact.

Edited by Girlygirl23
Forgot to address

I'm a student nurse and there's this nurse in the ER where I clerk who loves to teach and help people along all the time whether they're actually students or just wondering about something. I love to hang with her when I'm not doing anything because she always wants to show me something she knows I don't know but she always builds on what she knows I do know. Some people might say she looks old but she definitely doesn't act like it :) I'm 19 and she could definitely be my grandmother but nobody ever treats either of us like that. I love my job :D!!

OldGrayNurse

Specializes in Medicare Reimbursement; MDS/RAI.

Does anyone have any input concerning the trend I'm seeing in my area? I mean, with the passing of the ACA, many facilities, particularly LTC facilities, are getting rid of benefits always offered before, including long/short term disability, health insurance, and retirement accounts (like 410K), and instead, offering a higher salary. I've seen many younger nurses turn down jobs because most of them have families/children that need coverage and in SC, ACA coverage is expensive. Not to mention a trend towards offering no disability benefits or life insurance benefits unless you have your own policy (which I do). At our facility, HR set up insurance companies to come and "court" the employees with their quotes on these policies at a "health fair", but there is no payroll deduction or contribution match by our employer. It's only convenience is that the providers come to our facility, instead of us having to go out and find policies on our own.

I only mention this in this particular thread because I'm wondering if this is a national trend, and if it is, would this benefit older nurses who probably carry their own insurances/retirement accounts, or at the least have no dependents to cover; as in, would not having to factor in these benefits for them make them more attractive to hire?

Kaylight, MSN

Specializes in Med-Surg.

Great topic and very appropriate. Ageism is very real, and happens all the time. I think your suggestions were good ones. Some of us need to (me especially) not mention our age at all. Sometimes it feels like I am being left out or ostracized, and while in nursing school I even had comments from a younger individual saying that no one wanted to be around me (because I was older).

I was trying to keep my age secret, but it is difficult while sitting in a room full of twenty somethings. The school I was in announced it in a powerpoint which I think was inappropriate.

I have begun running 20 minutes a day, and using luminosity to sharpen my brain and reactions. I have also started looking at what the hip crowd does, and dress my best staying stylish without wearing things that are uncomfortably revealing.

I have had all sorts of age discrimination. I could write a whole book on it. I was bumped out of teaching during the recession, because they would not hire older teachers. I switched over to nursing, and I have had to struggle with science and keep up with younger folk in this field, but I wanted to hang in there and keep studying nursing, because I want a career that I enjoy so much that I would not even want to retire from.

bbyRN, BSN, RN

Specializes in TCU, Dementia care, nurse manager.

The number of different jobs and positions that nurses are suitable for, if not best qualified for, are so numerous that we all should be employed and paid well until we unambiguously cannot do the work. Age does make a difference, but there is more to nursing than floor nursing. If there is only one type of position that one is willing to take, then, sure, rejection is going to be the norm. Maybe should be the norm. For employers who cannot make use of older nurses in the many positions that they are qualified for and needed for, well, they can get what they deserve when they need health care in the health care system that they have created with shortsightedness and discrimination. Same goes for those who refuse to pass on knowledge and embitter the lives of those willing to learn and work hard.

In my case, I was "laid off" due to cut backs 2 years ago, told my position no longer existed, and escorted to my car. Here in North Carolina, you can be let go from your job for no reason due to the no hire law. NC is the only state that has this law. Even though my job no longer e sited, new grad nurses were hired to replace me and several others let go at that time.

I just LOVE your attitude!!! You GO GIRL!!!

As an RN you would have more responsibility in you department doing assessments for RAI. If you feel ADN is a waste of your time then don't do it. But I think you will be very proud of your accomplishment. Good Luck with your decision

I have a good one. The other day I was in an interview. The person who was interviewing asked me the age of my son and I jumped right in there with 38. I did not get the position and yes, I do believe it was because of my age.

I wonder how many of us are dated by our names? Karen, Debbie, and Linda, are names from the 50's and 60's. If I had a name like Tiffany, Amber, or Brittany I think I could fake my age very well.

I just finished my DNP - I'm a little older than you are.

I'm looking for a teaching position - I've been teaching part-time for the last 11 years.

So far, several interviews....apparently, I don't have enough research in my background. Well, DNP's work in translational research, not original research. Maybe we're too new?

I'm still looking tho!

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