Ugh I guess I have to admit I’m an older nurse now. My current role as QI (for hospice) automatically makes me one of the people you love to hate, but I always hope I don’t come off as old and outdated like some of those “older” nurses we always hated and hoped would retire SOON — like today!
I left hospital nursing behind me years ago and became a home health nurse which I dearly loved. It gave me freedoms, yet responsibility and a need to be able to work with little supervision. This required a strong work ethic and the ability to work autonomously. I finally felt like a real nurse who could actually spend time educating and helping patients. Today I work part time as the traveling QI analyst for 4 hospice offices.
As I began to age, and to slow down I needed more of a set schedule in my life. I entered the realm of management. I have had many roles mostly at the lower level, to suit my personal preferences and needs. I’ve also been in upper management, but I don’t need that hassle and responsibility now!
Management in nursing takes a lot of patience, a lot of creativity, and willingness to lead. We had great leadership classes in my BSN program, but way back when, they weren’t relevant. Although I could draw from that knowledge base, it wasn’t until I took some leadership courses and spent some time reflecting on my strengths and weaknesses that I feel I was truly able to be the leader I wanted to be.
The other side of that coin is that unless you are the top boss, you still have struggles with those above you who want to do things their way. And often they want to micro manage you. Or if you take a moment to think before you answer; they answer for you and think you to be an idiot. And then micromanage even more! (Too bad they didn’t take the time to truly evaluate the skills and value.) You have to play the politics and let a lot of irritating things slide off your back in any role and this is no different.
Nursing management is not for everyone and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to all. But it is a role that as you get older, takes you away from the trenches and the adrenalin rush that begins to haunt you and feel like it will actually kill you. You find a chance to slow down while still being relevant and helping to mentor new nurses entering the field or niche.
Other career paths for older nurses to consider as they need to leave the more physical work to the younger crowd include staff development and education, infection control and nursing informatics. Medical coding and quality assurance are growing areas especially in home health and hospice.
Leaving the bedside behind will require some research and further education along with sticking your neck out there to make a move from your comfort zone. There are rolls for nurses in the future that we don’t even see now. Hopefully they will take advantage of the knowledge base older nurses have to give and there will be many new roles for older nurses as well.
Hopefully one day soon I will be able to leave the day job behind and focus entirely on my writing. Many nurses have started blogs and written books to fill a niche the same as I have done. We all have learned to mesh the writing with our day jobs. If you like to write; share your story with others. Help them to find their way in the profession and share your insights. Older nurses are a wealth of knowledge and information and should not be cast aside. Working smarter, not harder begins with listening to older nurses so you don’t keep trying to reinvent the wheel.