As many as one quarter of the approximately 278,000 licensed nurses over age 50 who are not currently working as nurses might be willing to return to work in long-term care if employers make adjustments in work environments and recruitment strategies. This is among the findings of a recent survey to determine if older, inactive nurses can be enticed back into the labor force to help ease the critical shortage of nurses in long-term care facilities.
A random sample of inactive nurses (both RNs and LPNs) over the age of 50 in Illinois were surveyed. The nurses were asked about their perceptions of the nursing shortage and about their interest in returning to nursing, particularly in long-term care.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks to these nurses returning to work was their own stereotypes of themselves as being "too old." If potential employers can design recruiting strategies to convince them that they are not too old and that their expertise and experience is needed, older nurses would be ready, willing and able to return to work.
The respondents would also be attracted to work environments offering flexible hours, part-time work, and reasonable breaks, and to employers who would guarantee adequate staffing and sufficient orientation and training.
Two additional studies are being planned. The first, a demonstration project, will be implemented at a long-term care facility in Illinois using special recruitment strategies and allocating tasks that take into account the interests, skills, and limitations of this group. The second will replicate the survey component in another state.
For more information, contact the Hillhaven Foundation, 1148 Broadway Plaza, PO Box 2264, Tacoma, WA 98401-2264; 206-756-4734.