Fired After Fifty: Redux

What is it like to be a late-middle-aged nurse without a job amid tough economic times?

Nursing at any age or stage of life is a highly stressful and yet rewarding occupation; however, nursing after 50 has its own set of challenges......and its own set of risks.


What is it like to be a late-middle-aged nurse without a job amid tough economic times?

Several years ago when I was laid off from my LTC job due to low census, I remember despairing of ever finding another job. I was in my early fifties then. At the time I had a bad knee that had ended my floor career despite surgery, and to add insult to injury I'd gained thirty pounds due to inactivity. I couldn't imagine who would want to hire me. But I had barely drawn the first few unemployment checks when I got two calls: one for another LTC, and one for an assisted living facility that I fell in love with at first sight.

Fortunately for all concerned---at least at the time---they fell in love with me right back, and before I knew it I was working at this beautiful residence and making the kind of money I'd only dreamed about. After about a year of working there, I decided that I'd finally found the "forever" job I had been looking for through my entire career, and made up my mind that it was the one I would retire from when I reached the appropriate age.

Alas, I forgot that all good things do come to an end, and after months of struggling daily to cope with an ever-increasing workload and maintain some semblance of physical and mental health, I lost the battle to hold onto my job. It seems that the severe anxiety attacks which necessitated my taking a leave of absence were used to redefine my position, effectively rendering me incapable of working without the accommodations my doctor recommended when I returned. It was a stacked deck, and I knew it, so when I was fired three days later it was no surprise whatsoever.

And so I'm pounding the pavement once again.....only now I'm pushing 55, weakened by repeated exacerbations of my illness due to stress, and in the midst of a bad economy to boot.

Never have my prospects of finding another job appeared so bleak. The vast majority of nursing positions available in my part of the country nowadays are travel nursing and/or hospital jobs for which I lack both the skills and the physical capabilities, despite having lost a great deal of weight in the past year. And the others are management jobs such as the one I was just fired from......yep, jumping from the frying pan into the fire makes LOTS of sense. Said no intelligent person, ever.

But the worst part of all this is having to reassess my goals in view of my limitations as well as my possibilities. I hate having limitations! I can't work nights or rotating shifts; that would be destabilizing. I can't handle anything that's too physical; I'm still fat and have bad knees, AND I'm old. I can't work 50-hour weeks being totally responsible for a department over which I have no real authority; obviously that's too stressful or I'd still be doing it.

What, I wonder, is to become of me? Or any nurse in my predicament? It's a tough world out there; these days no quarter is given to anyone with a disability or who is merely aging. But when both of those factors are involved.......well, the picture isn't pretty. In fact, it's downright terrifying.

There's nothing quite like the fear that haunts the unemployed nurse late at night, long past the time when the brain should have been switched to the "off" position. Dear God, the problems.....I just bought a newer car. How will I make the payments on the $500 a week I'll be getting from unemployment? I no longer have health insurance coverage, so Heaven knows how I'll be able to afford the medication that costs $165 per 30-day supply (which I MUST take to stay well enough to work, if I ever get the chance again). And as pathetic as those UI benefits are, I'm still too well off to qualify for any other form of government assistance, so I find myself feeding three older adults stuffed baked potatoes or tuna casserole on several nights each week.

And yet......there is something oddly hopeful, even exhilarating in facing the unknown. For one thing, I'm free of the crazy-making politics that beat me down so badly in the last few months of my old job. Granted, there are no politics-free jobs (at least not in nursing!) but there's got to be one out there whose description doesn't change every five minutes. I also like the idea that it could be time for me to try something I've never done before, like collecting blood donations for the Red Cross or working in a clinic.

At this stage of life, I don't even want a 'career' anymore.......I just want to make a decent living doing something I can enjoy at least a good part of the time, and most of all I want a JOB---not a 24/7/365 commitment. I want to work hard, know I've given it my all that day, and then leave it at the door when I go home.

I haven't been able to do that in a very long time.

Maybe this is the universe's way of telling me that my focus on career at the expense of living my life is no longer necessary or appropriate. Maybe it's time to literally stop and smell the roses that are growing wild in my front yard.

And maybe---just maybe---finding balance in work will help me find balance in life. ?

I'm a Registered Nurse and writer who, in better times, has enjoyed a busy and varied career which includes stints as a Med/Surg floor nurse, a director of nursing, a nurse consultant, and an assistant administrator. And when I'm not working as a nurse, I'm writing about nursing right here at and putting together the chapters for a future book about---what else?---nursing.

142 Articles   9,979 Posts

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BSNbeauty, BSN, RN

1 Article; 1,939 Posts

Oh Viva, I don't know what to say except hang in there. I can't imagine what you are going through....


166 Posts

What a very scary predicament you're in. ((((HUGS))))

Maybe there's a nurse hotline out there waiting to be filled by a nurse with so much experience and knowledge to share. Or, perhaps as the school year is ending, a school nurse is looking to move on and will make an opening for you in a few short months (after you've had some time for some obviously much needed TLC).

Prayers for you that you make ends meet until the new dream job comes available.

Specializes in LTC, Hospice, Case Management. Has 37 years experience.

Have you considered home health or maybe a hospice position? It would seem that both would happen pretty consistently on a day shift, both would allow you the opportunity to share all the knowledge and kindness that is abundant within you, would seem to be physically easier than pounding the hallways all day/everyday. Just thinking out loud.

Specializes in Registered Nurse. Has 28 years experience.

I believe there are many middle age or"older" nurses going through similar experiences in this difficult economy. I know I tolerate quite a bit of abuse from my employer because it's so hard to start over again as an older nurse. I don't know what is more stressful, the unemployment, or working in an impossible situation where you cannot succeed no matter how hard you try. I think it's the latter because of the toll it takes on one's mental health. I believe in time, you will get another chance to work in nursing, hopefully somewhere where you can discard the nursing duties at the end of the day, and pursue other thoughts, activities, or just do nothing. Perhaps, you can use the unemployment time, to pursue certification to teach CNA's or icd9 coding or billing at a community college. And no, these jobs don't pay as well as nursing, but you may be able to get health insurance and a better quality life.

Wise Woman RN

289 Posts

I wish you well, Viva.. I was fired at 61.. it's really scary to think about all the bills, especially when the DH is working sporadically..

However, I lucked into a job in sub-acute. Boss is very good, RN and NHA, and she hasn't forgotten the days of working the floors.

Anyway, there was a shift of ownership, a few VERY new nurses were hired, and they were looking specifically for a seasoned nurse to help them learn the "way of nursing." It has been hard, but I love the teaching part, and with the excellent CNA's that we have, as well as the wonderful manager, I am able to be a nurse again and really love my job, even though I am overweight, with painful feet, and a little slower gait.. With your wisdom and experience, you could possible have your own business. There is such a need for seasoned nurses to be available to help the young ones along, and Lord knows, there isn't always time for that provided by facilities..

It's known that after graduation and passing the boards, there still is a lot of learning to be done to become a "really good nurse," and judging by many of the posts on here, that isn't always being provided. Cost effectiveness and task driven nursing to increase the bottom line has taken the heart out of nursing in the corporate world.

There are tutoring centers for reading and math, separate from the schools, why not start one for nurses who need the support and provision of knowledge that a seasoned nurse could provide?? Just thinking, well, not out loud exactly, but looking at the huge loss of nursing knowledge that is happening all over, due to the recent devaluation of the seasoned (older) nurses who are being thrown out in droves.. what a shame to waste all the wonderful things that we seasoned nurses still have to offer..

I hope that something will turn up for you , and someone will realize what a valuable addition you will make to any organization..

All the best,

Wise Woman

PS: You really ought to write that book, you know..

Specializes in ICU. Has 30 years experience.

Wow. Unemployment benefits in Alabama tops at $265 per week.

VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN

142 Articles; 9,979 Posts

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych. Has 20 years experience.
applewhitern said:
Wow. Unemployment benefits in Alabama tops at $265 per week.

Wowee.....can't even imagine trying to survive on that. But then, life has gotten very expensive in Oregon and our minimum wage is almost $9 an hour, which of course drives up the cost of living and thus unemployment benefits. However, when you're used to bringing home a thousand bucks a week, half that feels very poor indeed.


4 Articles; 68 Posts

Specializes in School Nurse; ICU. Has 13 years experience.

I truly believe (even if I forget in my darkest personal moments) that a window does open when the door closes. You don't have to see the window yet-you will when it is time to move on through it.

Please take care of yourself and wait for the window-there will be light.

I truly believe after having read everything you have written that you could be an author. I am serious-ponder it. You truly do have a gift for words. Don't know if that is your window.

From my standpoint you are a source of light for many of us.

Esme12, ASN, BSN, RN

4 Articles; 20,908 Posts

Specializes in Critical Care, ED, Cath lab, CTPAC,Trauma. Has 43 years experience.
1feistymama said:
What a very scary predicament you're in. ((((HUGS))))

Maybe there's a nurse hotline out there waiting to be filled by a nurse with so much experience and knowledge to share. Or, perhaps as the school year is ending, a school nurse is looking to move on and will make an opening for you in a few short months (after you've had some time for some obviously much needed TLC).

Prayers for you that you make ends meet until the new dream job comes available.

Keep this in mind as you begin your career......older/experienced nurses are now disposable.....we are at the top of the salary expectations and facilities, insurance companies, phone triage can hire 2 newer nurses instead of me.....and GOD FORBID! we have a more than likely chance of actually using the insurance benefits.

I am disabled by a rare auto-immune muscle disease....I have been looking for some time now.....What I wouldn't give to work for a phone triage job or an insurance ask a nurse line.....sigh


jadelpn, LPN, EMT-B

51 Articles; 4,800 Posts

Best wishes Viva, nothing but the best.

I see perhaps case management in your future???? xoxo

Ginger's Mom, MSN, RN

1 Article; 3,181 Posts

Has 41 years experience.

Does the unemployment office offer career counseling? Second have you considered disability? did your last job have disability insurance?

case management is dealing with paper work, that is something viva expressed dislike.

home health, hospice, public health, school nurse would be good choices. Also drug rehab.

you wrote recently about critical care, you seemed to enjoy that why not return to that?