When the New Workforce Is the Old Workforce

  1. Many nurses countdown the years until retirement, but when the time comes they discover that they aren't quite ready, or they don’t have the funds to live the life they desire. The ongoing nursing shortage has yielded a demand for experienced nurses. Rather than retire, some nurses are exploring other nursing options, or reducing their schedules to assist in adjusting to retirement. While employers may consider the benefits of recruiting, or maintaining, these nurses for their workforce.

    When the New Workforce Is the Old Workforce


    Many of us begin planning for retirement early in our career with most of our concerns evolving around financial planning. Although it's essential to plan for adequate retirement funds, it's just as important to consider the psychological adjustment that can occur with retirement. Although most of us never stop being a nurse, often we've attached some of our identity to our work.

    After spending years in nursing, retirement can bring feelings of loss, although many don't admit this. Society has conditioned us to believe that these are the years we've been waiting for, so it may feel wrong to express unhappiness or loneliness. You may feel as if you've lost a part of yourself, or realize you'd tied most of your social network to work. The nursing shortage has contributed to a demand for nursing staff. This may open additional opportunities for flexible, seasonal, or float positions that can allow for a gradual adjustment to retirement.

    Shifting into Retirement

    It might become apparent that although you've prepared financially for living expenses, those travel and other expenditures that you've put off until retirement are more expensive than you've budgeted. Maintaining a little nursing work may help fund your freedom to pursue your plans.

    Choosing to remain, or return, to nursing in a new or reduced role can help keep your mind sharp while allowing you to cash in on your skills. Your attitude about work might change as well when you choose to go to work, instead of feeling as if you must go.

    Take a Turn in Your Career

    You've spent countless years advancing your career through education and acquiring new skills, but long shifts, or too many days in a row, can be draining. There may be ways to explore new roles that allow you to utilize that clinical expertise with less physical strain. This could be an opportunity to transition into other positions or try something new such:


    • Teaching - For schools or adult learning centers, as a wellness consultant, or by providing education on First Aid, or a nurse aide instructor
    • Freelance healthcare writer - Keep current on new technology and changes in healthcare by researching and writing healthcare articles
    • Travel nursing - Explore some of those retirement destinations
    • Go PRN - Consider opportunities that provide more flexibility such as a substitute school nurse or in a casual, or PRN position to retain, or gain, an area of nursing expertise
    • Back to school - If you've reduced your workload, and the kids are grown, perhaps now you have the time to pursue that extra education you've put off


    This is only a fraction of the different ways you can continue to utilize your nursing skills. The important thing is to explore what motivates you, or what career goals you may have put on hold. Retirement may signify the end of one career, but it may be the beginning of a new one.

    Put Recruiting in Reverse

    Many employers have always valued the expertise of their older workers, but the desire to recruit or retain them has become more prevalent with the nursing shortage. Rather than mourning the wealth of knowledge of a nurse nearing retirement, some employers are exploring ways to be more flexible to accommodate the needs of these workers. Such as by:

    • Finding ways to work around the nurse who is semi-retired and wants to spend the winter out of state can prove beneficial when schedules are tight during summer vacations.
    • Developing roles in orientation, training, or mentoring are often great ways to enhance the onboarding of new employees while allowing the experienced nurse to share their wealth of knowledge.

    The Road to Retirement

    Retirement doesn't have to be an all or nothing venture. Whether financial needs inspire you to keep your foot in the workplace, or you just enjoy working, consider that there are other opportunities available rather than feeling obligated to the same old job if it's left you uninspired. That opportunity may only mean reducing your work schedule or exploring a different role. But that small change might make the difference and allow you to take advantage of the years you've invested in your career.

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    About Maureen Bonatch MSN, BSN, RN

    Maureen Bonatch MSN, RN draws from years of experience in nursing administration, leadership and psychiatric nursing to write healthcare content. Her experience as a fiction author helps her to craft engaging and creative content. Learn more about her freelance writing at CharmedType.com and her fiction books at MaureenBonatch.com

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    2 Comments

  3. by   traumaRUs
    What a timely article. You are so right - its not a straight path all the time to complete retirement and we are fortunate to have many options.

    Talking with a now-retired NP who I worked with for years. She has been retired about 2 years now and getting kinda bored.

    I'm thinking about retiring but not for at least another 7 years and preferably 10 years. At that point, I want to expand my volunteer activities.
  4. by   llg
    I had originally planned to retire right about now ... but as the "target date" drew closer and closer, I realized I just wasn't quite psychologically ready. Then a sibling had some misfortune and I decided to help out a little financially with providing some college tuition money for his kids. Add it all together and I have decided to work a few more years so that I can feel comfortable with giving some money to my nieces and nephews. I can't think of a better way to spend my time and talents and really want to help them.

    But I have reduced my work hours.

    Sometimes, I feel really ready to retire as I have no taste for the politics and stress that sometimes goes with my job. But that's just "sometimes," not "all the time."

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