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Are older nurses being forced out of the profession?

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originally published in hcplive.com

by colleen o'leary, rn, msn, aocns

last time i talked about how i had never really experienced the concept of nurses eating their young in action.

however, i have seen the opposite begin to evolve. i see this as a bigger issue in nursing these days. the "putting out to pasture" of seasoned, experienced nurses is happening more often and for a variety of reasons.

first, and foremost, is simply the fact that the pool of nurses inevitably follows the general aging of the nation. as baby boomers who once filled the halls of healthcare institutions caring for others begins to age, they will certainly have a more difficult time meeting the demands of current healthcare. more and more institutions are requiring nurses to work longer and longer shifts, changing from an 8-hour day to a 12-hour day. this, along with the fact that patients in the inpatient settings have much higher acuity and a variety of complex issues, makes the demands on nurses even greater.

(continued here)

http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2009/11/older-nurses-forced-profession.html#more-41328

The article does not even touch on the practice of pushing out experienced nurses simply because they make more. My favorite manager in the whole world was replace because her ortho unit was not making the kind of money hospitals expect of ortho units. The new manager immediately cut cost by forcing out all the nurses with 20 years experience or more and replacing them with newbies. Do you realize that if 50% of your work force suddenly makes $10 less an hour what a huge cut in cost that represents. I don't know what effect the exit of all that experience had on the patients, I was also gone.

jessiern, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med-Surg.

I don't know what effect the exit of all that experience had on the patients, I was also gone.

Wasn't a good effect, I can almost be sure of that.

txredheadnurse, BSN, RN

Specializes in Correctional, QA, Geriatrics. Has 39 years experience.

In addition to the perceived cost savings of removing older, seasoned nurses is the fact that we tend to not tolerate ineffective practices without speaking up. We have the experience and knowledge to know when the "latest greatest" staffing plan or nursing approach or whatever is trotted out that it is just an old useless technique wearing new clothes so to speak. That is not well received by the bright sparkly new manager with a MBA and a thimbleful of real time nursing experience. We hear "all you old nurses are so negative" or "things have changed since your day".

It is not negativity. It is not wanting to waste time on approaches that evidence based practice has proven are ineffective. I say use your seasoned nurses as the wonderful asset we are. Many of us have worked in a large variety of settings and have the knowledge to see systems issues and would love to help formulate a workable approach that gives quality care without killing the staff in the process or spending time on fluff and verbiage.

Regardless of educational levels there is no nurse who has become a qualified working professional without mentoring, guidance, input and advice from his/her seniors in the profession. We are some of the best unrecognized assets you, the manager, will ever have. It can only end poorly if we are discarded, disrespected and dismissed.

I think some older nurses may have wanted to retire but couldn't after the stock market crashed in '07. Now they have to keep working, and that creates a problem for new grads who are looking for jobs - positions aren't opening up. If things continue this way, people won't enroll in nursing school because of poor job prospects after graduation. So, employers may be showing older nurses the door to make some room.

NewTexasRN

Specializes in Ortho and Tele med/surg.

The article does not even touch on the practice of pushing out experienced nurses simply because they make more. My favorite manager in the whole world was replace because her ortho unit was not making the kind of money hospitals expect of ortho units. The new manager immediately cut cost by forcing out all the nurses with 20 years experience or more and replacing them with newbies. Do you realize that if 50% of your work force suddenly makes $10 less an hour what a huge cut in cost that represents. I don't know what effect the exit of all that experience had on the patients, I was also gone.

It's so funny and interesting that you should say that because I can't find a job because I'm a new graduate.

Grace Oz

Specializes in Med/Surg/Ortho/HH/Radiology-Now Retired.

[/QBut I think we could, as a profession, hold up our experienced nurses and learn something from them instead of always thinking we need to teach them something.UOTE]

AMEN to this!

Music in My Heart

Specializes in being a Credible Source. Has 11 years experience.

The article does not even touch on the practice of pushing out experienced nurses simply because they make more. My favorite manager in the whole world was replace because her ortho unit was not making the kind of money hospitals expect of ortho units. The new manager immediately cut cost by forcing out all the nurses with 20 years experience or more and replacing them with newbies. Do you realize that if 50% of your work force suddenly makes $10 less an hour what a huge cut in cost that represents. I don't know what effect the exit of all that experience had on the patients, I was also gone.
This is common in many industries.

That's why I am in full support of employment contracts that include seniority-based layoff priorities.

The acute care hospital where I lived accomplished an extensive layoff of nursing personnel and only a few months later (four or five) ran banner ads to hire, you guessed it, nurses. Anyone can figure out that they did this to get rid of well paid nurses in order to hire new nurses at a lower rate of pay and with less desirable benefits.

DeLana_RN, BSN, RN

Has 23 years experience.

The article does not even touch on the practice of pushing out experienced nurses simply because they make more. My favorite manager in the whole world was replace because her ortho unit was not making the kind of money hospitals expect of ortho units. The new manager immediately cut cost by forcing out all the nurses with 20 years experience or more and replacing them with newbies. Do you realize that if 50% of your work force suddenly makes $10 less an hour what a huge cut in cost that represents. I don't know what effect the exit of all that experience had on the patients, I was also gone.

Funny that you mention that. I had a difficult time finding a job this summer, got exactly two interviews; in the meantime, I applied to our ortho unit twice, first day and then even night shift (and I absolutely hate ortho, but I was desperate at that time). I could not even get an interview! HR told me the manager had some 20 applicants for either position and "was not interested in talking to me".

Hmm... funny, same ortho manager has since hired several new grads. I get it now - they cost her several $/hr less than what I make. I guess she figured I wouldn't settle for new grad pay, although I put "negotiable" on my application.

It's all about the money, now isn't it?

DeLana

Last week I was put on one-week probation without pay for a non-clinical event. The probation was enacted quickly and did not follow the chain of command. Because of intuition, I resigned during my probationary period.

I am relieved to be out of that job. Even though I was employed there for several years, I did not feel comfortable or safe. A half dozen nursing directors and at least as many clinical supervisors came and left, during my time there.

Still, I am now a 55+ RN without a job. My probation was due to a complaint from a physician's office. The MD's office nurse was angry that I asked to speak with the MD and did not give her the message. At no point did she identify herself as a nurse, and she certainly didn't tell me that she is the MD's wife.

I, too, had hoped that by the time I was 30 years into my career, I would be regarded with respect for the knowledge that I have. It is knowledge that doesn't require a computer and really can make things better for co-workers and patients. The last thing that I want to do is to discourage younger nurses or any nurses for that matter.

But those same people are discouraging me. I can't say that I have been eaten by our young, but I can say that I've felt a few nips at my heels. My good will is at the lowest ebb ever. I used to volunteer answers and assistance, but now I now just do my assignment and leave, afraid of getting saddled with some task that no one else knows how to do correctly.

'What's in it for me?' That is the question that I now ask first, because my time and resources seem more finite. My vision has enlarged to see that other people have to learn to carry their loads. I still give some second chances to parasites, but no third chances. If someone is just mean, as of today, no more chances.

Even at its simplest, life is tough. For all of us.

All of that being said, I am having an extended holiday break and will start looking for gainful employment after Christmas. allnurses has helped me with this transition. I miss my former co-workers and some of the patients. But for now, I prefer to stay out of contact. My emotions are whirling and need taming.

I am a newer nurse. I often find older nurses to be stubborn, hostile, eaters-of-young, and more than likely the largest single contributing factor to low morale i.e. "it used to be so much better..."

BUT I HAVE TO SAY, UNEQUIVOCALLY, OLDER NURSES ARE BEING HARASSED, FIRED, AND TERMINATED AT AN ALARMING RATE THAT RIVALS WHAT HAPPENED TO SEASONED AIR LINE STEWARDESSES IN THE 1990'S, ALL FOR CORPORATE GAINS.

THE ONLY WAY THIS WILL BE FIXED IS FOR OLDER NURSES TO STAND TOGETHER AND START FILING CLASS ACTION LAWSUITS FOR WRONGFUL TERMINATION AND AGE DISCRIMINATION.

VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych. Has 20 years experience.

My last hospital job was like this. Most of the floor-nurse leadership positions that we older nurses helped to create were filled by twenty- and thirtysomethings, as were all of the union-rep openings. On the job, we were given the toughest assignments---usually at the farthest ends of the unit---and were the first to be blamed when something went sideways.

A number of us got a bellyful of it, and about a dozen nurses (including myself) left during the last six months of 2005. When my son was a patient at that same hospital last week, I noticed that only a few of the nurses I'd worked with were still there, and they were the ones who'd been there for 20 years or more and will undoubtedly stay until they die. In the meantime, the entire hospital has been remodeled and all of the nurse-tracking equipment upgraded, in no small part because most of us "expensive" nurses have been replaced by new grads and part-timers. Phooey.

By contrast, the vast majority of the nurses at the LTC where I work now are 40 or older; we aren't forced into less-desireable shifts or assignments, and whatever physical limitations we may have are rarely, if ever, an issue. I think that's because our management knows our value and respects our knowledge......what a concept, eh?

MERRYWIDOW46

Specializes in ER, OR, PACU, TELE, CATH LAB, OPEN HEART. Has 33 years experience.

I am a well seasoned nurse. Was forced out of a position due to a physician not liking me and management catering to MDs two years ago. Always had great clinical evaluations. All I asked for was common courtesy and respect. Management told me that is unreasonable. I need to give "Good Customer Service" aka "kiss ass" even when being disrespected. I REFUSE to do that so I resigned.

Been doing 100% agency with no issues. Sept. 2008 decided to look for a new permanent position. Sent in 50 plus applications with next to NO response. All positions I am well qualified for. Have gotten 6 or 7 interviews and no response after. When I call to follow up get one excuse after another, the manager hasn't made a decision, two of the positions were eliminated from the budget(three weeks later-I was doing agency at the facility and HR knew that- here come 4 brand NEW nurses), I am afraid you will be bored, I am afraid you can not keep up the pace, on and on.

This week I FINALLY got an offer to be a FLOAT nurse at a major teaching hospital. Also, started PRN at a surgery center. I was beginning to feel like I was put out to pasture.

Hang in there, this is another major change in how business is done. We need to be like microorganisms and mutate to survive.

Boy, do I have alot to say on this subject! I love the mutant phrase. Being 53 years old and an RN for 30 years. I absolutely agree that older more seasoned nurses are being fired, laid off and chased out- put out to pasture. but not for any other reason than the ALMIGHTY DOLLAR!! I don't think for 1 hot minute the powers that be really believe that WE OLD SEASONED NURSES can't keep up- this is a BS line they fed the YOUNG staff (who don't know any better and would swallow anything they were told) for 1- so the administration (CEO making the million dollar salary they refuse to cut to a more reasonable salary) don't look like the money grubbing grinches that they are: and 2- to get the younger more gullable nurses to do their evil bidding( the giving an older nurse an assignment farthest down the hall that NO young nurse would take her/himself without complaining"that's not fair, blah, blah, blah blah"). This disrespect of us older more seasoned nurses is taught to the younger nurses by ADMINISTRATION. I have personnaly been served up that down the end of the hall assignment- I call it the assignemnt in "the next state" and have been told by the assist NM, I'm too slow- she is twice my size and I do(even at my age) move faster than her fat self does ( she needs to put down her pizza and french fries), so she can either get me a golf cart or an airplane. I think it's age discrimination and I think administration has played on their feeling of being threatened by more experienced nurses ( there's that ANA lateral violence example again) I have to say- in my day as a younger nurse- we may not always have like the older seasoned nurses( who could be witchy and cranky) but we did respect them, tried to keep them on our side and called on them to be our resource person A NUMBER OF TIMES, and felt assured and safer with them on the shift with us(we always had someone to go to if there was a tough situation- and there were many, the supervisor didn't have any answers because they didn't work that speciality- were mainly OR or L&D nurses, these supervisors now have even less bedside experience to draw from, it's all book theory, risk management, lawsuit, cost effectiveness, none of it's how to best take care of a patient ie, what about this foly we can't insert, or IV line that won't run, or why is this CBI patient suddenly pouring blood, they themselves don't know how to troubleshoot)( real story- an imed pump was going off one day on my floor, supervisor goes in the room to fix it, keeps turning off the pump and reprograms it, still alarming, I finally went in- the antibiotic, the secondary, was done. case n point) the seasoned nurse can look at the WHOLE situation- the history, what the patient looks like, the interaction of the pathophysiology, the pharmacology and critically think/decision make and has the vast aray of experience to call on. We're the been there done that group! we can seperate the crap from fact. I don't see this new direction of these hospitals as being anything but dangerous- no experience at the bedside, a blind leading the blind situation. and when a law suit happens, trust me, the hospital brass with point the finger and throw that young nurse under the bus- the administrator will be the one driving the bus. I remember only afew years ago- maybe around 1995-2000, the Nursing Community was voicing alarm and fear "there was very little experience nurses left at the bedside" there is even less now-why the big change of heart? (MONEY) and after they have kicked the little of us left in the butt- their will be even less to none- Very frightening.

Tweety, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med-Surg, Trauma, Ortho, Neuro, Cardiac. Has 28 years experience.

I've heard that 2/3rds of our workforce where I work are boomers. We seem to be favored and are doing just fine. Thank goodness, since I'm a boomer myself.

P_RN, ADN, RN

Specializes in ORTHOPAEDICS-CERTIFIED SINCE 89. Has 30 years experience.

This is a sore point with me. But with all my years and aches and pains and cataract in my OS I can't stay long enough to respond with all I want to say. So this could be easily turned into a poll.

A: yes

B: You bet your bippy

C: Oh my goodness! YES

D: all of the above

My absolute from the heart is D: ALL OF THE ABOVE!!!!!

Edited by P_RN

Music in My Heart

Specializes in being a Credible Source. Has 11 years experience.

THE ONLY WAY THIS WILL BE FIXED IS FOR OLDER NURSES TO STAND TOGETHER AND START FILING CLASS ACTION LAWSUITS FOR WRONGFUL TERMINATION AND AGE DISCRIMINATION.
Wrongful termination? As an at-will employee it doesn't require any reason for termination, just the decision to terminate.

Age discrimination? Illegal as all heck (not to mention immoral and unethical) but very, VERY hard to prove unless they're downright stupid.

Another means to fixing the problem is through collective bargaining. On the other hand, there are plenty of workers who take advantage of seniority-based systems so they have their downsides. What I'd prefer are honorable employers and professional employees... what can I say... I'm an idealist.

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