Discussion: Older Nurses, Assets or Problems?

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Any thoughts?
I see elements of both, myself, but I’m far more interested in learning from others.

21 comments

  1. I can tell you what I see on a daily basis where I go from hospital to hospital doing special procedures and that is all these young nurses are on their phones on the internet and watching movies, when they should be giving better care to their patients. As far a lazy goes that is a problem with the young and the old. There is no reason to be on the phone during work time, especially at the desk, where families even see and hear what you are doing. Older nurses are being pushed out mainly due to increase in medical insurance and in their higher pay and PTO times. Younger nurses can benefit greatly from a seasoned nurse, if they just drop the attitude that they finished nursing school and know it all and will not listen to advice. Even as a seasoned nurse I am learning every day new things from nurses of all ages.

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    1. You’re absolutely correct about expensive nurses getting pushed out to save money; it’s far too lucrative not to happen somewhere. Experience is a crucial asset, and young nurses have much yet to learn. I raised thsi discussion partly out a concern that nurses who no longer wish to work, who’ve had enough, often have no viable option except to kee working anyway, especially given their relatively high compensation. That situation is bad for everyone involved. I see no reason to expect any large group of people is all good or bad, or all anything, really. The more you generalize, the more you lie to yourself. I know lots of fantastic young nurses, some better than others, of course. I know nurses of all ages who spend time on the phone or a computer that could be spent with patients. I can’t say I’m perfect in that regard myself. In any case, thanks for you input, it’s helpful and much appreciated – Greg

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  2. Tricky question. Passing of information from the old to the new would seen to be a benefit. After all someone has to teach the next generation. And I think nurses undergo ongoing professional development to keep them up to date with new information.

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    1. Professional development takes money and time (more money), so it’s typically kept to the absolute minimum possible. As you say, it’s a complicated question wiht no easy answer. I’ve been experimenting with discussion recruiting… Thanks for your participation!
      – Greg

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  3. I think the older nurse is an asset. They worked in the ‘trenches’ when one had 20 patients to themselves for a night shift (and no nursing techs, maybe an LPN if they were lucky). Of course they didn’t have the huge amounts of paperwork today’s nurses are faced with (even though we are supposed to going to a paperless medical record system, which was supposed to save time, but somehow seems to have created more work). Older nurses (how old are we going, what is old? 50s, 60s? – wow, I might be in the older nurse category) have so much experience to fall back on as long as they are willing to embrace the new technology and current research. I don’t think it so much age, but more attitude.

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    1. Experience offers important lessons. Of course, that does not mean that experienced nurses can keep up with work loads as set up today. Also, experience teaches both useful and counter useful lessons. Individuals pick and choose between the two. Attitudes, too, change with experience. Some learn wisdom, some only bitterness & despair. Such is life!

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    2. The answer I prefer: the demographic matters far less than individual factors. Generalization is tempting: with a single word, it lets you imagine messy situations are actually rather simple. Feels good, and misleads. We all have things to teach each other, including good habits and bad. My main concern lies with aging nurses who feel financially compelled to continue working as their ability to keep up safely fades. We really offer them no backup plan, and it can be a terrible trap. I’m 48, which means I have some years to go before I reach the AVERAGE nurse age… Imagine that!

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      1. 70s???? Oh my gosh, please let me not have to do this into my 70s. I think I would really be peopled out by then.

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  4. The purpose of the Rapid Response System is so the typically New nurse can get assistance quickly from more seasoned nurses. The new nurse may have only an inkling and a worry that something just ain’t right. Da-da-DAH! In steps super nurse, to the Rescue! Really, though, it is with seasoned nurses as it is with those just starting … every one has different strengths. The challenge is to fit the nurse to the right program. Some are designed for the ED, some for the nursing home.

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    1. We all have our own strengths, weaknesses, inclinations of course. Experience, too, adds potentially both good and bad. Wisdom and rust. Understanding and bitterness. Aging is not just learning, too, of course. Decline is inevitable, as much as is death in the end; what do we do with those who refuse to accept the inevitable?

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    2. It’s true, and I’m glad nursing is such a big tent. I don’t have to work nights because others don’t want to work days. I do psych, others do… all the other stuff! Experience is the best teacher, and you can’t have it yourself until, well, until you’ve built up years of experience! I’ve never worked with a formal system like the one you describe; it sounds great! Old/young is a source of many kinds of tension and conflict and misunderstaning, and most of us, it seems, get absolutley no support managing it all, leaving us with lots of unfortunate pain and distraction. Do you know of any link or reference on Rapid Response? – Greg

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      1. Thanks! We have rapid response of a sort for emergencies: one for psych stuff, and two for medical (one of them for codes), but nothing for anything else. None involves an experienced nurse helping a younger one. For that, each is on their own. Some ask, some flounder. When asked, some help, some punish. So it goes. Myself, I offer help all the time, invited or not, until someone tells me please, stop! That’s one of my rules 🙂

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  5. As long as the nurse’s mind is active, they have not become lazy and not keeping up with new trends, drugs procedures. They can be a valuable asset!

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  6. Both. Totally depends on the individual nurse. If they are at an age where they are obviously losing their faculties, a problem, obviously. But if not, and they keep up their learning, then their experience can be very helpful. My favorite nurse was about middle-aged, but the ones I forged actual friendships with during all my treatment were younger. There was a nurse who was more of Senior Citizen who knew EVERYTHING, but she was also kind of slow so they kept her mostly behind the desk (which was a good thing) and she would assist the newbies.

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    1. Both. The only true answer, of course. As you mention, we need to find practical ways to accommodate limits that arise with aging, in that nurses are an old and aging group, as a whole. So much experience we stand to lose otherwise – and patients harmed. Thanks – Greg

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