2004 Salary Survey Results: Work environment may hasten nurse retirement

Work stress and dissatisfaction with the work environment may hasten the retirement of aging nurses, according to a study by the Center for American Nurses, an Austin, TX-based affiliate of the American Nurses Association.

Almost half (47%) of 4,000 nurses surveyed said the relationship with nursing management or administration caused them to think about leaving. Nurses also cited staffing concerns and "the effect of organizational shift from patient to finance or other [issues]" as reasons they might leave.

Yet nurses said they would consider postponing retirement if they could have flexible schedules or a phased retirement with shorter hours
or fewer days worked. More than one-third (37%) of the nurses surveyed said they plan to retire between 2015 and 2020.

"Most nurses retire from the bedside at 52 and from the profession at 62," says Claire Jordan, RN, MSN, president of the Center for American Nurses, noting that the average age of nurses now is 46.

"We are barely six years away from looking at 50% of the nurse work force leaving the bedside."

To retain nurses, hospitals need to alter the work environment to make it more suitable for older workers, she says.

"Nurses have jokingly said to me, I guess we’ll keep working if it’ll pay for our total hips and our total knees,’" Jordan adds. "The lifting issue is a big issue for nurses."

The need for accommodations came out in focus groups conducted by the Center for American Nurses. But most nurses said administration had not made any changes in scheduling or work environment to take into account the aging work force.

"Twelve-hour shifts in nurses over 52 just becomes almost impossible," Jordan points out.

Meanwhile, hospitals won’t be able to fill their nursing needs just with new recruits, she cautions.

"Obviously, one of the best ways to prepare for this shortage is to prolong the working life, to change the plans for retirement. We are trying to work up an agenda for all the acute-care employers [to retain nurses]," Jordan adds.

The aging work force also has a major impact on nursing injuries and workers’ compensation.