More must be done to better support older healthcare workers to help them stay in work for longer and to ensure they are not discriminated against in the workplace because of their age, nursing staff have urged.
Some among the profession have highlighted the need for greater flexibility at work while others have called out the ageism they have faced from colleagues.
These experiences were shared during the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) annual conference in Brighton last month as part of a motion which called on the RCN Council to ‘lobby employers to ensure the welfare and occupational safety of older healthcare workers’. It was ‘resoundingly’ passed by members.
As part of the debate, nursing staff shared how they had personally been affected by a lack of support for older staff.
Adrian Williams, an ADHD lead nurse in Liverpool, proposed the motion and said that many nurses were now working beyond retirement due to financial pressure or personal reasons.
However, he said: ‘This aging workforce population may require special accommodation to be able to continue.
‘We need flexibility, we need management to be accommodating… and we need to avoid age bias.’
Meanwhile, Linda Hiscock, a nurse from Devon, described the ageism she had experienced before her retirement.
‘I was made to feel that whatever I was doing in my job, I wasn’t doing it correctly, or I wasn’t being a team player,’ Ms Hiscock said. ‘It is such a horrible feeling.’
Ms Hiscock told the congress that she ultimately chose to take sick leave rather than continue returning to work due to the behaviour or her colleagues.
This included a senior member of staff telling her that ‘she didn’t know what she was going to be like when she got to my age’.
Nurses said they wanted employers to do more to ensure that nurses were not forced out of work, and to leave the workforce without having passed on their experience.
Addressing the congress, Margaret Holland, a tuberculosis from Buckinghamshire, said: ‘We must try to keep valuable staff to have them here to impart their knowledge to the staff who are going to come up through the ranks.
‘I’ve spoken to many staff who wish to come back and have met with a point-blank ‘no’. Trusts are supposed to offer flexible working hours, but many of them do not have a retirement plan and certainly do not have flexibility.’
Recently, concerns over losing experienced nurses from the workforce has seen the creation of a ‘unique’ mentoring programme in Devon, aiming to retain nurses within general practice.
The Legacy Nurse Mentorship initiative supports experienced GPNs to remain in work by partnering them with new-to-general practice nurses as a mentor.