Many nurses commit to a long career in healthcare, so it’s essential to support aging nurses.
This longevity may be due to their continued passion for serving the community, or it can also result from the family of colleagues they’ve built around them. Nevertheless, having a long career or even joining later in life can see professionals in the field facing challenges related to aging.
This isn’t to say that nurses are no longer vital or relevant as they age—quite the opposite. One study of more than 900,000 patient admissions over four years found that more experienced nurses on wards improve patient outcomes. They also make invaluable mentors and can bolster community engagements with facilities. It is, therefore, imperative that facilities make significant efforts to meet nurses’ changing needs.
We will dive deeper into this idea and explore three considerations for supporting aging nurses.
Nurses, like everyone else, have changing needs as they get older. This may involve mobility challenges, mental or emotional wellness hurdles, or audio-visual issues. These elements don’t mean nurses are unable to perform their duties. However, there are expectations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for employers to provide accommodations that may ensure nurses can perform duties more practically and effectively.
Facilities administrators should make accommodations provisions a positive part of workplace discussions. After all, most workplace injuries for registered nurses in most age groups resulting from overexertion and bodily reaction. Accommodations in everyday tasks minimize negative impacts on long-term wellness.
However, accommodations are also vital for challenges related to age. Human resources (HR) personnel should reach out regularly to nurses and invite discussions on the subject. Direct supervisors should also talk about employees’ developing needs during performance reviews.
That said, it’s wise to make older employees aware of their options rather than force these. The adverse treatment of resources may wind up contributing to the experiences of ageism that 82% of older Americans report living with.
Nurses, too, need to be open in talking about the resources they need to thrive in the workplace and care for their wellness. Asking for ADA accommodations at work can be a difficult experience for many people. Nurses should prepare for meetings on the subject with ideas of what resources could be helpful and how they might impact performance. They must also be clear that the requests are disability-related and therefore apply to ADA legislation. Nevertheless, solutions-oriented approaches tend to be more positively impactful.
Robust Wellness Programs
Aging nurses are fully aware of how vital maintaining health is and the imperatives for managing it as they age. Yet, more facilities must be more proactive in providing resources in the workplace and beyond to support nurses here. It is, therefore, vital for administrators to provide and for nursing staff to push for robust workplace wellness programs.
This can include collaborating with local businesses to offer nurses subsidized or employer-funded access to fitness benefits. Memberships for local gyms or sports facilities can benefit mental and physical wellness. Subscription services that provide nurses with fresh and nutritional meals can help them continue to eat positively. This is particularly useful when long shifts can make fixing healthy food less practical or desirable.
Any robust wellness program needs to include specific mental health resources, too. This doesn’t just mean options for dealing with crisis periods or burnout. Nurses must be able to use services regularly to maintain wellness rather than treat symptoms. For example, access to telehealth counseling or therapy services can be good for aging nurses to gain care without having to find time to travel during their breaks or days off.
Flexible Working Practices
One of the key considerations for aging nurses is that their priorities may change with their day-to-day roles. They may be looking for less stressful or intensely physical lifestyle routines. On the other hand, it may be the case that they want to shift toward focusing their time on outside interests as well as their nursing commitments. It is worth arranging for nurses to have the option of more flexible working opportunities.
Working from home as a nurse is an increasingly practical option for many roles. The rise in the adoption of telehealth means that professionals who prefer to work remotely can still interact with patients. If nurses want to shift to different specializations when working from home, there are options for telehealth physiotherapy, psychotherapy, and occupational therapy workers. In addition, travel nursing could align with the reduced schedule some nurses want to keep as they age.
Hybrid work can also offer flexibility for nurses while still being a core part of the facility environment. For example, they can attend to management or administrative elements at home or in a more comfortable coworking space. Then, part of their schedule can be focused on in-person patient interactions or training and mentoring roles.
Aging nurses remain an invaluable part of the healthcare landscape. However, facilities and nurses must collaborate on support solutions addressing changing needs. This should include discussing ADA accommodations where needed, providing robust wellness programs, and raising awareness of access to more flexible roles. These more experienced professionals positively impact patients, facilities, and colleagues, so ensuring they can thrive in the workplace is vital.