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Ageism in Nursing

Nurse Beth Article   (9,399 Views 36 Comments 1,036 Words)
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We are so accustomed to ageism in our society that it's not always recognized for what it is- prejudice and discrimination.

Ageism in Nursing

Barbara, a nurse of 27 years, left her job interview with the strong feeling that they were not going to “be in touch”. She was dismayed because it had taken several applications to land one interview. Her skills were solid and her work history exemplary until her hospital had recently laid off Barbara (an educator), a clinical nurse specialist, and the manager of Cath Lab in one fell swoop of “re-organizing”. The 3 were all over fifty years old and Barbara wondered if that was a coincidence.

Ageism is prejudice or discrimination based on one’s age. While many Baby Boomers are retiring, the retirement age is rising and many people will need to remain in the workforce at an older age. Full Social Security benefits start at age 66 years and 2 months for those born in 1955.

Ageism is Acceptable

People can no more choose their age that they can choose their race or gender. The difference is that while race and gender do not change, everyone who lives long enough will age.

Even so, while it’s not politically correct to be racist or sexist, it’s still OK to be ageist.

Ageism is deeply permeated in our society and expressed everywhere- in magazines, on TV, in the workplace. It’s a part of our shared consciousness in the United States to value youth over age. Since it’s the norm, many are not even aware of how ageist our culture is...until they experience it.

Many of us are guilty of remarks such as “She’s pretty sharp for her age” and “I’m having a senior moment” without realizing such comments perpetuate a commonly held negative view of seniors. Birthday parties after a certain age are a good example. Black balloons symbolize the perceived tragedy of growing older.

Even those who pride themselves on being tolerant and inclusive may see the elderly as “others” who are burdensome and a drain on the economy. Cultural diversity and acceptance is now the norm- with the exception of ageism.

Ageism and Gender

Women, in particular, lose a great deal of perceived value once they exceed their childbearing years.

Unlike women, aging men are given a pass and can still be considered attractive, especially if they are wealthy and powerful.

Ageism and Occupation

Judy, a nurse of 27 years, began to notice that she didn’t feel as valued on the unit as she once did. She recalled hearing the expression “feeling invisible” and realized she was beginning to understand it. At the same time, doctors the same age as her seemed to grow in authority and respect.

A recent study shows that physicians are less likely to experience ageism than nurses. One explanation is that physicians are seen as experts, while nurses are not. Experts are allowed to age without discrimination.

Ageism in the Workplace

Signs of ageism in the workplace include:

  • Not being included in conversation. Seniors are often assumed to be culturally clueless.

  • Frequently being asked “When are you going to retire?”

  • Being passed over for promotions. Promoting a young, relatively inexperienced nurse  to charge nurse over a mature, seasoned nurse.

  • Being pushed out of the workforce. Older nurses are more expensive and are pushed out in many cases. This despite the fact they are less likely than younger nurses to get their NP and leave after 2 years.

Ageism and Hiring

No one likes to be stereotyped, whether it’s men or women, millennials or seniors. Baby boomers are not all the same anymore than millenials are all the same.

Common generalizations about older workers are that they are less healthy, will incur more medical costs, are less skilled, and do not learn as fast as their younger counterparts.

The biggest workplace discrimination is in hiring. Some organizations have an unwritten policy against hiring anyone over 40. Computer algorithms are used to figure out an applicant’s age, even when graduation dates are omitted and work histories shortened. Even first names are a giveaway- everyone knows Linda, Kathy, Sue were born in the ’60s, while Tiffany, Jessica, and Amber are millennials.

One strategy to eliminate older workers is to eliminate their position, only to rename the position or slightly change the responsibilities and open it back up...to a younger applicant.

To combat ageism, applicants need to know how to showcase their value and combat  age discrimination in the job interview.

The Age Discrimination Act of 1967 protects employees 40 years old and older but age discrimination is a hidden discrimination that is difficult to impossible to prove.

Ageism is a Choice

Aging is a normal process of living and is experienced differently by everyone. Aging is not a choice, but ageism is.

Diversity benefits us all. Diversity helps us celebrate what we have in common, respect our differences, and connect in surprising ways.

It is very satisfying to work on a multi-generational team where everyone is respected. Many new nurses do value the knowledge, experience and wisdom older nurses have, and depend on them for guidance. Likewise, seasoned nurses are inspired by the passion and ideals of new grads.


Refusing to perpetuate ageism benefits not only the current generation, but the next. Valuing each other makes us all better humans-humans who are all on the same journey of life.

 

Best wishes,
Nurse Beth

nurse-beth-purple-logo.jpg

Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!

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Nurse Beth works in acute care and is the career guru at the Ask Nurse Beth career advice column. She has an award-winning blog, nursecode.com

273 Likes, 10 Followers, 79 Articles, 224,076 Visitors, and 1,651 Posts.

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Great article. However, at 60 I still get unsolicited personal job offers and I'm not so special. However, what I do do is: 

1. Smile, a lot

2. Exude enthusiasm at work

4. Be the expert, show it, but don't exploit it

5. Willing to learn new things, pieces of equipment

6. Support other staff members. I'm not always in the limelight but my co-workers know that when I say I'll do something or I provide advice, its to the best of my ability. 

7. Get along with everyone. It doesn't mean being BFF's but it does mean you can find your way around Insta, Twitter, and other social media platforms. 

 

Best wishes to all of us!

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Ageism does exist.  So far, I've been pretty lucky as I don't look my age and can still run like crazy-and I'm not looking for promotions-I'm just maintaining until retirement.  But I've seen some of my nurse friends at the hospital who are my age or older be passed over for jobs that are then given to much younger, less experienced and less educated nurses.  They are being told that the nurse that got the job had the qualities that they were looking for. I think that they are looking for someone who doesn't have enough experience to know that they are being used, or experienced enough to say no to things that they would know better to.  Just my .02

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Women lose value in the work place because they just don't have a stoic nature like men. Who would you go to? the flat chested short hair person for help about a serious matter or the person with long hair, nice figure, cute features? Not that they don't know but I believe it is instinctual. Women are associated with gossip, not helping each other, some with a chip on their shoulder, this is just not trustworthy.

the older nurses deal is that some just don't teach and have bad attitudes. they don't have a young attitude. I remember I needed help with a female foley, brand new and the nurse didn't want to show me, she got so uptight and rude. Please don't throw the 'she was busy' deal. Sorry. So I believe it is along those lines that people don't want to deal with that. 

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2 hours ago, fibroblast said:

Women lose value in the work place because they just don't have a stoic nature like men. Who would you go to? the flat chested short hair person for help about a serious matter or the person with long hair, nice figure, cute features? Not that they don't know but I believe it is instinctual. Women are associated with gossip, not helping each other, some with a chip on their shoulder, this is just not trustworthy.

the older nurses deal is that some just don't teach and have bad attitudes. they don't have a young attitude. I remember I needed help with a female foley, brand new and the nurse didn't want to show me, she got so uptight and rude. Please don't throw the 'she was busy' deal. Sorry. So I believe it is along those lines that people don't want to deal with that. 

Psst . . . . your misogyny is showing.  And your ageism.  

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13 hours ago, fibroblast said:

Women lose value in the work place because they just don't have a stoic nature like men. Who would you go to? the flat chested short hair person for help about a serious matter or the person with long hair, nice figure, cute features? Not that they don't know but I believe it is instinctual. Women are associated with gossip, not helping each other, some with a chip on their shoulder, this is just not trustworthy.

the older nurses deal is that some just don't teach and have bad attitudes. they don't have a young attitude. I remember I needed help with a female foley, brand new and the nurse didn't want to show me, she got so uptight and rude. Please don't throw the 'she was busy' deal. Sorry. So I believe it is along those lines that people don't want to deal with that. 

with luck, someday, you will be older.  I hope your words don't come back to bite you.

As far as that goes, some younger nurses have an attitude as well, it's not just an older age thing.  As Ruby Vee said, "Psst . . . . your misogyny is showing.  And your ageism".  Have a good day

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5 minutes ago, Hoosier_RN said:

with luck, someday, you will be older.  I hope your words don't come back to bite you.

As far as that goes, some younger nurses have an attitude as well, it's not just an older age thing, or a male/female thing.  As Ruby Vee said, "Psst . . . . your misogyny is showing.  And your ageism".  Have a good day

 

 

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The first I've heard of Ageism, which, I guess, is a good thing. Good article.

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That's so unfortunate older nurses face discrimination just for being older. I feel like they'd be valued the most because they typically have the most experience, no?

 

I appreciate you older nurses!:heartbeat:

 

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One thing that Ruby and Hoosier forgot was to read my bottom paragraph. 

11 hours ago, Hoosier_RN said:

 

One thing that you and Ruby forgot was to read my bottom paragraph. Most people turn a blind eye to the truth. Being that there is a stigma sort of with being an older nurse as ya'll suggest, wouldn't the so called older nurse adapt if they aren't equal to men in the workplace instead of pout if they aren't willing to organize? You refuse to see my post as informative but want to feel defensive. 

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24 minutes ago, fibroblast said:

One thing that Ruby and Hoosier forgot was to read my bottom paragraph. 

One thing that you and Ruby forgot was to read my bottom paragraph. Most people turn a blind eye to the truth. Being that there is a stigma sort of with being an older nurse as ya'll suggest, wouldn't the so called older nurse adapt if they aren't equal to men in the workplace instead of pout if they aren't willing to organize? You refuse to see my post as informative but want to feel defensive. 

I read your paragraph.  It didn't make sense, but I believe you're saying that because you had a negative interaction with an older nurse, it means they're all bad?  And who says older nurses aren't equal to men in the workplace?  You?  

Misogyny and ageism are both ugly attitudes.

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I’ve been lucky, I guess. I graduated nursing school in 2013. I’ve worked a few different positions since then, namely med-surg, icu, dialysis and home care. I was hired over a year ago for a bedside nursing position which I had totally missed. I was 56 when I was hired, but have yet to experience ageism that I know of. I feel like I’m still 28 and look younger than my age...perhaps this helps. I make an effort to be friendly with everyone. As far as being pushed out of jobs I have to wonder if that has more to do with saving money in respective salaries than anything else. I’m not disputing that ageism exists, by any means, just sharing my experience. 

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