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Stop Losing Experienced Nurses

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media, October 26, 2010

There's no substitute for experience, especially in nursing. Experienced nurses accomplish all their tasks in a shift and somehow their patients never know how busy they are. They still find time to check in, offer support, and even a shoulder to cry on.

Nurses who know the ropes understand  how the system works. They can communicate ably with physicians, pharmacists, nursing assistants, patients, and families and are the glue that holds "multidisciplinary care" together. They can take one look at a patient and know "something's just not right," fixing a problem  before it degenerates.

Finally, nurses with experience are role models and mentors for new nurses, helping the next generation become experts and passing along their wisdom. So it behooves healthcare facilities to retain these nurses as long as possible.

But experienced nurses are aging and exiting the workforce. According to data recently released from the latest National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses—which has been conducted by U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration every four years since 1977—the average age of licensed RNs is 47. Nearly 45% of RNs were 50 years of age or older in 2008, a dramatic increase from 33% in 2000 and 25% in 1980. 

Because of this looming crisis as experienced nurses retire, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation launched a national program in 2006 called Wisdom at Work: Retaining Experienced Nurses. The idea was to find out what will keep experienced nurses in hospital settings and find out what effect existing interventions have on the work environment for older nurses.

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6 comments on "Stop Losing Experienced Nurses"


David Reece RN (11/20/2010 at 9:36 PM)
If your wondering why hospitals lose nurses take a look at the ivory tower sitters in administration that blame the bedside nurse for all there problems. If you look at the Arizona lawsuit Johnson VS AZ Hospital Association et al.A nurse sued all 110 hospitals, the AZ Hospital Association for priced fixing payola etc etc etc. After 330 testimonies a disgusting picture arose, of backroom deals, bribes and even a blacklist came out. But no articles in the local press. For nursing administrators its all about Six figure incomes with bonus pay of what was left in the budget was their bonus. So its short staffing for the greedy few. Being a RN for 35 years I have been in the ivory tower and seen how greed corrupts. The disdain and hatred towards the bedside nurse is the norm. WE HAVE NO NURSING LEADERS. WHY ARE BEDSIDE NURSES AND ONLY GENERATE A BED CHARGE FOR REVENUE. Resp Therapy gives a breathing treatment there is a charge. A EKG tech does a 12 lead EKG there is a charge. If a CV tech sets up the ICU monitor there is a charge. IF a RN does this there is no charge. The list goes on and on of skilled task we do and no charges are generated. BUT it they are done by a Physician or tech they can generate charges. DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS NO ONE TALKS ABOUT. Being treated as a substandard labor that as one hospital administrator stated in a Newspaper article. NURSE ARE THE LEACHES ON THE BACK OF HOSPITAL PROFITS. Is there a shortage of nurses. NO Nurse's are sick and tired of being blamed for everything, and feel isolated, betrayed, and being manipulated and made to feel guilty if they refuse to work when in pain and exhausted. Hospital administrators have refined the guilt trip they inflict on nurses and many of us refuse to cower down to it. The few the proud the real nurses of care and compassion and understand empathy. We are the bedside nurse's. WITHOUT EMPATHY ALL THAT IS LEFT IS EVIL. I have yet to meet a CNO that had any empathy left. David Reece RN BSN MSN PhD and I still work at the bedside because I am a Nurse.

jean holveck (11/5/2010 at 9:04 AM)
The answer is to organize. I was fortunate that a few co workers did just that in 1976. It made all the difference in my career. By approaching our hospital as a group we were able to improve working conditions and thereby improve nurse retention. We were respected. We started with PNA. We are now PASNAP. Thank you California nurses.

Debbie (11/5/2010 at 7:20 AM)
Organizations must show they value their experienced nurses in order to retain them. If a nurse is viewed as an all in one employee i.e. secretary, nurse's aide, transporter, instead of a true professional, HR thinks its better to hire a nurse (more bang for the buck) than to hire ancillary staff who can reduce the physical demands of nursing. I am 46 years old, and have been in nursing 17 years. I transitioned to a specialty unit 9 years ago as I was burned out from the manual labor of working med-surg. It was extremely frustrating to work on 30 bed units with one nurses aid.