Survival Tips for Nurses over 50

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In the U.S., approximately 850,000 registered nurses (RNs) are between the ages of 50 and 64. If you’re one of these hardworking individuals, you know what a challenge it is to maintain your energy level and avoid RN burnout.


The good news is conditions are improving for older nurses. Donna Herrin, RN, MSN and senior vice president at Martin Health System notes that more hospitals and healthcare centers are improving work place conditions to encourage experienced nurses to stay on the job.


To help you not only survive but thrive, consider the following suggestions from peers and experts alike:


Reduce Workload. Ask your employer for accommodations that will make your work a bit easier, says Joan Borgatti, RN, MEd, author of Frazzled, Fried...Finished? A Guide to Help Nurses Find Balance. Some employers may reduce your shift from the grueling 12 to a more manageable 8 hours. Older nurses suffer job-related back pain more than workers in any other profession. In fact, one survey revealed that two-thirds of all orthopedic nurses and more than half of all ICU nurses suffer debilitating back pain at least once in their careers. It’s not unreasonable for you to ask your employer to provide hoists and lifts to help move patients.


Reduce Eyestrain. Squinting to read tiny type on computer screens can pose a challenge for older nurses. Herrin suggests that nurses ask for larger text and readouts on computers and other medical equipment to ensure accuracy and reduce eyestrain. Simple steps like these can maintain productivity and improve morale for aging workers.


Switch Units. Ask to work in pediatrics or outpatient surgery, which are typically less physically demanding than orthopedics or rehabilitation, says Debbie Hatmaker, PhD, RN, Board Member of the American Nurses Association that provides workplace advocacy for nonunion nurses.


Survive Night Shifts. Eat a full meal before your shift. As you well know, the cafeteria can be either closed or offer paltry leftovers at night. So carry some healthy snacks to get through the night. And get at least 8 hours of sleep during the day to avoid those 3 a.m. naps. When you get home at dawn, don’t go to sleep immediately. Relax for a while. Read or watch TV. Allow your body to tell you when it’s time to sleep. If you work multiple shifts, try to gradually ease into the night shift, segueing from evening shift to night shift to allow your body to adjust. Don’t rely on alcohol or sleeping pills to help you sleep. Allow your body to establish normal circadian rhythms for restful sleep.


Making life easier for older nurses is not rocket science. Employers want to keep you since you are an experienced and valued asset. So ask for things that will take the load off your workload. You may just get what you ask for.


Image courtesy of stockimages/


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  • Margaret Helmuth
    Margaret Helmuth
    Well, I thank you for your tips but on the front lines not only is that NOT plausible but I have yet to see any accomodations for anyone unless they were injured on the job and placed onto light duty.  I am also a veteran nurse with 26 years experience.  I have been through the front lines and back again.  My first hospital job was  located between warring white and black drugged addicted individuals who lived in subsidized apts. who unfortunately, came in the ER bleeding, high and difficult to handle, but we managed.  As my first GN position I was absolutely  terrified, my resting pulse was over 90 and in those days I was pretty athletic.  I remember my first manager pushing me literally into a code so I could continue to get this "from the frying pan into the fire" on the job experience. Well, hell I did get that experience and had an incredible woman by the name of Glady W. who was a veteran RN in her 60s at the time, who was kind enough to take  me under her wing.  I am grateful for her to this very day.  I have thanked her many times over. The doctors actually showed immense respect for this wonderful nurse who saw it in her heart to help this terrified white kid from Philly with the "deer in the headlight brown eyed new grad. nurse."  I have so many stories from those days, I could write a book.  From there I did homecare, hospice, LTC, AL, some teaching, subcontracting, etc. etc. etc.  I have done a little of that and this. As a subcontractor, I have worked in over 60 facilities Med/Surg and LTC in the years I did Agency work. I saw alot that went on with the nurses.I saw the Corporations coming and taking over our medical needs with their business needs.  Grant it EVERYONE in business needs a business plan but perhaps those who work closest to the patients should be inclusive of what "they" want to "change". I have watched this beautiful calling with some of the most incredible colleagues turn into a "CORPORATION".  Nurses have become and are still becoming pawns in the "new corporate structure of nursing" over the last decade or so.  Most of us who still work on the front lines (or perhaps elsewhere as well), many working respectful relationships are something of the past.  Nurses are given RIDICULOUS, dangerous assignments.  If they refuse and many, many many of you will agree, you start to become black listed.  I do not see this as much with our male counterparts but of course there are less males in the field.  Nursing has to change.  Too many are leaving broken, tired, physically, mentally and emotionally tapped out.  Where are accommodations for those with poor vision and yes after 40 vision seems to get worse. All of this is not even the TIP of the iceberg.  Last year when I had applied for an office medical kind of position, management said to me during my interview word for word "the bottom line is money".  I have been blessed to recognize certain truths when I hear them and that statement I knew was the truth for that particular company. Not one question during that over 2 hour interview revolved around nurses or their care of their patients.  I find  that despicable.  The fraud is beyond astounding.  Please, if you need some more facts, please check out  It will list by state how many places have ripped the government off millions upon millions of dollars.  In hospice and home care and many other settings nurses are being asked to document on the negative side so that the company can keep patients   on homecare service or hospice service when they no longer need it.  It's dispicable, these not  assumptions, these are the the facts. The latter website will astound you! Look what has come out of the VA.  All of us as Nurses need to revamp how this field is looked upon, how it is not supported, how nurses have to make a decision to falsify or fudge something or feed her 5 children.  And NOW most dispicable of all is they do CREDIT CHECKS!!.  Have they looked at the unemployment rate!  I lost my job through no fault of my own, received unemployment for the first time in my life and lost it when congress chose for the first time in unemployment history not renew the benefits.  I am a single mother with a teenage son. My credit has always been excellent until this last fiasco.  So, I have 26 years of life experience and nurse experience, love people and my patients and have a stellar work background but I do not have a great credit score.  The interviews go excellent and after you give them your SS# you do not hear from them. UNBELIEVABLE.  I wonderif they check physicians for the same.  We nurses all of us, I do not care about your initials, I respect them.  Many years ago I took a vow to protect and keep our patients, an oath, a promise. That becomes almost impossible when nurses become pawns, are placed in license endangering positions, work beyond the hours permitted are disrespected by their own managers. Given no recourse for a grievance or some kind of support gr...
  • Fatin Shidqia
    Fatin Shidqia
    Very nice article, exactly what I was looking for.
  • robert fagundes
    robert fagundes
    I'm sorry but your article is completely wrong. I Have worked for Sutter Health 34 yrs. in ED.LVN to RN.This past year I was forced into working  into working 12 hr shifts.Hospitals have gone corporate,without concerns of individuals,Military or Nurse Veteran. You cannot change units .. ie: surgery unless you are (qualified,certified) to work in unit. No training offerred. Looking for other work to retire.. Thanks.. Bob
  • robin l
    robin l
    It is the cut backs that make you tired. The consolidating  .one person doing multiple. Jobs is insane and getting unsafe. The problem with being an older nurse whether rn or lpn is that you are overworked and underappreciated. And at times higher management does not have a clue that if you neglect and abuse an experienced nurse they get tired and leave. School. May educated but it is the years of floor work that have the greatest knowledge most of what you learn is based on clinical experience. And as you add years on I fatigue  quicker. Very sad. Nursing is not nursing any more
  • Theresa M
    Theresa M
    Please offer me advice where can I learn  digital medical data entry . I was offered a job but it requiredknowledge of medical digital data entry especially used in endoscopy anesthesia. Even if I knew the manufacturers of these machine I could teach myself from the instruction book  I am a nurse anesthetist in the state of New York . When I worked in anesthesia we did patient record and drug entries manually. I really appreciate any suggestions you can offer me.  Thank You
  •  Martin L
    Martin L
    What about making it easier for educators in nursing to educate and pass on their wisdom instead of complaining that there are no doctoral nurses out there. I think we need to step back and get educators out there to bring forth the new nurses for the future and not stand on ceremony and teach!!!!!! we need more educators in all nursing schools!! Please reconsider the plight of nurse educators who are great teachers but don't have masters or higher but are brilliant educators..
  • George Jacob
    George Jacob
    If you've been successful as an older nurse, what are some of the strategies that have worked well for you? Are there things that you've found help you manage the aches and pains, or maybe people you know that have been helpful? Are there any ways to get past the feeling of walking on eggshells and the worry that you're going to get replaced by a new grad?
  • Charlene I
    Charlene I
    Sounds logical and reasonable.
  • Edie R
    Edie R
    I have been an Operating room nurse since 1993 & I love what I do but have been absent from work because of many physical problems.  I am 52 & I can tell you that working in surgery is Physically & Mentally demanding.
  • Kimberly F
    Kimberly F
    I can tell you that the hosp. I work at would laugh you out the door if you asked to be treated any different than a 30 yr old nurse in perfect health. It's the "don't let the door hit you in the ass" approach. There is always someone else waiting in the wings that's younger who's able and willing to take your job!
  • Alice L
    Alice L
    I have been a nurse a long time in ICU and I believe balance is the key / I love going to the gym  it keeps me fit  and puts me in a great mood  
  • Janice W
    Janice W
    Thanks for the info. I'm nearing 50 years of age and this news couldn't have come at a better time for me. I had thought about changing careers, but now I'm giving that idea a second thought. Thanks again!
  • Christopher P
    Christopher P
    I don't know where you live but I am over 50, going to school to be a FNpP  I have never had a harder time keeping up or finding a job.  Yes there are plenty waiting to take your place but as long as you pull your weight I believe you will have a job.  I did not think the article was useful.  You have to grow or go.  Quit whining and start shining!
  • Vilma H
    Vilma H
    This is very informative and realistic.Yes, we have to conserve energy when we are in golden years to enjoy our retirement years.
  • Ann D
    Ann D
    All of the above would be wonderful if one could get it. I just quit a job after 10 years, that mandated that I work10-12hrs a day 5 days a week  and sometimes more as a salaried manager. At 67, I was bullied and intimidated and eventually chose to leave as it was only getting worse. The saddest thing is that the care is in decline, all that is important is the hours and paperwork. Care and charting is all determined by the potential for a lawsuit.  I am a nurse to the core but major burnout is everywhere. I would never recommend nursing as a career and I sure don't feel like those who are coming out of nursing schools have a clue what nursing really is. they just want the money. All the comments regarding age discrimination are true, all of them.
  • Vallerie A
    Vallerie A
    As a member of the over 50 nurse group frankly I was expecting a bit more from this article. Specifically waysto identify employer challenges, for example the job that you know you want to keep and can do but having a hard time convincing your boss you can.
  • Margaret H
    Margaret H
    This article is good in theory. Reality is that most hospitals wouldn't help. And forget about finding a job. I am 63 and hospitals won"t even look at my resume or call for an interview.Even working in the ER for more years than I want to remember I don't  get an interview at a ambulatory Clinic.. I would love an easier job but I don't see it happening.
  • Mary B.
    Mary B.
    I did meet with the EEOC and shared my concerns regarding age discrimination.  I had applied for several jobs inhouse.  I've experienced new grads getting jobs I applied for though they had 6mos experience as new nurses.  The EEOC investigator told me to be grateful that I had a job and if I wished to pursue this large hospital would "find" an "instance" to disprove this claim.  The EEOC also warned me that pursuing such an investigation could actually jeopardize my continued employment.. I have continued to work with back injuries suffered on the job.    Upper mgmt doesn't really care if an employee "breaks" his/her back in the course of work because there a myriad of newly graduated nurses in this city with over 15 nursing schools.
  • Mary Jane B.
    Mary Jane B.
    I have sent out at least 200 resumes in the last three years and have had two interviews (I didn't get either job).  I have 30 yrs experience in healthcare and great references.  I think my age defintely comes into play no matter how "illegal" age discrimination may be.
  • wanda b
    wanda b
  •  Anne B
    Anne B
    I am 55 years old and just accepted a job after 4 months of unemployment.  I have certification in a specialty, a masters degree and varied experiences in out patient, hospital and clinic.  In the 4 months I was looking for a job, I had 4 interviews despite applying to over 75 jobs.  I have no idea why I did not get any of these jobs because the employers do not give you any feedback.  Most of the time, not even an email or phone call. Just nothing.I think that ageism is a factor, but I can not prove that.  They can not legally ask your age, but when the on line application demands the date of your highschool graduation, then they can easily figure out how old you are.  I can not do the back breaking work of hospital care, nor working night shifts, as others have said, I did that for years and have paid my dues.  I have a lot to offer but had a hard time finding a company that saw that and hired me.  I am going to be working from home doing phone case management.  In  this company, it appears that many of the nurses are experienced middle aged women, so I hope this is the right place for me.  I lost a job three years ago, when the health system I worked for eliminated hundreds of employees who were over 50.  When you can hire younger people for less, why keep the older ones who have experience and knowledge and organizational wisdom?
  • Stephanie N
    Stephanie N
    From my experience as a older nurse 48yrs old and burnt out from being understaffed, most employers are not interested in accommodating their experienced nurses.  This trend that has been more prevalent since 2008 due there is a greater surplus of young nurses who are fast, energetic and willing to go the extra mile to impress their employer.  Experience does not have much value in this new era.  Employers have so much to choose from due to the over saturation of candidates who are second career nurses.   Olders nurses are being displaced.
  • Shirley S
    Shirley S
    I too also have over 25 years of nursing experience.  I was feeling alone, but reading these comments has made me aware that I'm not alone. Every job fair I go to, the male representatives don't even look at you, even if they are over 50. If there is a 20 yr. old in front of you, expect to stand for a long time while he's giving 1:1 explanation about their company, then it's your turn and they hand you a brochure, smile, and move on to the next person. I am finding job fairs to be a waste of time.  Another one I went to, an older guy in a suit, went around the room passing out his card to young women under 30 years old telling them to "call him for a job".  At the end of that day, I only had one company that took my resume.  It would be helpful if your website would actually lists employers who will actually interview people with more than 20 years of experience or list a connection to the AARP.
  • Sheila F
    Sheila F
    I am 52 and having a hard time finding a job too. So frustrating!Sheila.
  • Mary B
    Mary B
    Switching from Med-Surg after 12 years and into Rehab Hospital for post CVA`s and knee surgeriers for the most part, has much improved by chronic back pain. But I recently started sitting in a whirlpool for 5 minutes 3 times a week after swimming and that helps very much.
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