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Age Discrimination in Nursing

Nurse Beth Article   (88,883 Views 114 Replies 989 Words)
by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Advice Column) Writer Innovator Expert

Nurse Beth has 30 years experience as a MSN and works as a Nursing Professional Development Specialist.

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Have you experienced age discrimination? 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 4 of Age Discrimination in Nursing. If you want to start from the beginning Go to First Page.

Nurse Beth has 30 years experience as a MSN and works as a Nursing Professional Development Specialist.

14 Followers; 88 Articles; 226,997 Visitors; 1,783 Posts

Thanks for saying what was on my mind. These suggestions, while well-intended some of them, come across as a bit trite. Making myself "look" younger can only go so far. And it embarrasses my teen daughter to even hear me listen to her kind of music, "Mom you are too old for this!" or some sort. Women esp, who try too hard to appear younger, IMO, look pitiable, silly, and I feel a bit sorry for them. In other countries and wiser cultures, age is celebrated and revered. NOT the USA. Youth is eternally worshiped. How annoying.

I am my age and with all its warts-----so, I don't think the solution is to just tell older nurses to "try harder" or listen to more modern music, etc. but a change in attitude and trend is in order. The baby boomer generation, the most influential in decades, what say you? All I heard was "baby boomers this and baby boomers that". Where are ya now? Why is ageism such a factor when so many are in that bracket?

Frustrating to say the least and makes me dread the next decade or so. Depressing actually.

I totally agree with you that women who try too hard to look younger are making a mistake. I would even go further and say that it backfires and looks desperate.

A beautiful older woman is at peace with her age, and it shows. Which is different than giving up. Any candidate can choose to sit slumped over, or to sit up straight. I would choose the latter.

The suggestion to listen to new music occasionally is not to appear young, or to copy your teen age daughter- it's to stay open-minded. It's to remember what that stage of your life was like, and to relate to the younger generation. Play with toddlers and puppies when you can as well.

Likewise, it's important to stay in tune culturally, stay up to date on technology, keep up on the news, and stay relevant in your field.

Like you, I too wish our society valued seniors more. But wishful thinking has not yet changed employer's hiring preferences. There's not much to be gained by pointing out how old you are to employers who see older age as a negative.

Older nurses who wish to remain marketable would do well to project energy and enthusiasm. I'm not sure that's trite so much as savvy.

As for myself, I value those older people who have a life time full of experience.

Like me.

I am one of them. One of those older people, a senior, a baby boomer. But still a bad*** with plenty of work life left in me.

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SmilingBluEyes has 20 years experience.

2 Followers; 64,718 Visitors; 19,521 Posts

I am not slow or dumpy. The fact is, I can run circles around a some of my younger coworkers. Many of them call out for the most minor things, headaches, tummy aches, etc. They whine of backaches all the time in their 20s! Many of them cannot tolerate any discomfort of adversity. I suppose some of it is developmental and age and stage related stuff, but really, I see a lot of whining on their parts if work or life get tough. Things I was taught to take in stride.

Personally, I never call out unless it's "dead". My work ethic is solid and my mind is open to all kinds of things. I keep up with a lot of today's goings-on, but I am never gonna "keep up with the Kardashians" and I like "some" of today's music, but not most. I keep myself clean, neat and wear tasteful make up at work. That's about as far as I am gonna go with trying to keep ageism at bay for me.

The fact I have nearly 20 years' nursing makes me worth more than the fresh-out-of-school grad, so that will probably be the excuse one day to try and push me out the door. But I won't go quietly and will make a lot of noise if and when that happens. This redhead ain't gonna take ageism lying down.

Edited by SmilingBluEyes

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I have to wonder how long it is practical for most nurses to safely work? Other professions do have guidelines. I thought this snippet was interesting and have seen a couple of older physicians who had to be asked to leave the hospital.

Aging doctors face the question of retirement - The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Personally I think it is just as important to age gracefully and to me that means not just ditching the young gal skinny jeans but also being cognizant of my mental and physical limitations. Plus I have every intention of actually retiring and enjoying myself before I'm too decrepit.

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riverotter has 23 years experience and works as a Nurse Administrator.

1,245 Visitors; 21 Posts

I worked in hospitals for ten years before I went into Correctional Nursing, now I'm a Nurse administrator running the medical unit in my facility. I'm 55 and I have this recurring dream that I (for some unknown reason) left corrections and wanted to go back to hospital nursing and no one will hire me and now I have no job. It is scary enough as a dream, I feel so awful for anyone for whom it's true. Come work for me. I have five openings and no acceptable candidates to hire. I would welcome an older nurse with hospital experience, and corrections in NYS, it is not strenuous work. Busy, but not strenuous.

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dream'n has 25 years experience and works as a RN.

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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.

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dream'n has 25 years experience and works as a RN.

14,424 Visitors; 1,016 Posts

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.

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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".

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2 Followers; 46,360 Visitors; 8,863 Posts

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.

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2 Followers; 46,360 Visitors; 8,863 Posts

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

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SmilingBluEyes has 20 years experience.

2 Followers; 64,718 Visitors; 19,521 Posts

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.

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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.

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SmilingBluEyes has 20 years experience.

2 Followers; 64,718 Visitors; 19,521 Posts

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

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