International nursing leaders have today published a 10-point plan aimed at improving support for older nurses and helping them to continue in work.
The new report, titled: Ageing Well? Policies to Support Older Nurses at Work, focuses on the necessary action required for an ageing nursing workforce across the globe.
It follows the World Health Organization’s (WHO) State of the World’s Nursing report, published earlier this year, which highlighted one in six nurses around the world are aged 55 or above and expected to retire within the 10 years.
The WHO, therefore, estimates that an additional 4.7 million new nurses are needed in order to replace those set to retire. This is on top of a global nursing shortage of 5.9 million.
Today’s report from the International Centre on Nurse Migration (ICNM), the International Council of Nurses (ICN), and CGFNS International warned of the challenges around trying to replace an ageing workforce and ensuring that age related discrimination was not preventing nurses from working if they still wanted to.
Report authors have produced 10 recommendations to help support older nurses in their work and careers.
“The need to implement policies that take into consideration an ageing nursing workforce and nurses’ career-cycles is imperative”
They hope the suggestions will help “ensure fairness and respect to older nurses, and to value the additional skills, qualifications and experience they often bring to the care environment”.
The recommendations include understanding the workforce profile and employment needs of older nurses, avoiding age bias in recruitment processes and offering flexible working that meets the needs of older nurses.
Other recommendations suggest there should be policies in place to help ensure older nurses can access professional development and career opportunities, and also occupational health and safety policies that enable their wellbeing.
In addition, the report suggested that there needed to be pay and benefits that met the needs of older nurses, and that they were supported in advanced and specialised practice and mentorship roles.
A job redesign to help reduce workload and stress could also help to optimise the contribution of older nurses, noted the report.
Older nurses must also be provided with retirement planning options and flexible pension provision, it added.
Lead author Professor James Buchan, from the WHO collaborating centre at the University of Technology in Sydney, said: “We need to improve the retention of older nurses, otherwise we risk losing the most experienced members of the profession at a time when the pandemic has exposed the risk of global nursing shortages.”
He added: “Policies need to be in place to enable individual nurses to ‘age well’, in parallel with policies aimed at overall retention and support of older nurses to be active members of the profession.”
“I suspect nurses who pre Covid had been intending to work up to their normal retirement age, may now say they have had enough”
Report co-author Dr Franklin Shaffer, president and chief executive of CGFNS International, said: “The need to implement policies that take into consideration an ageing nursing workforce and nurses’ career-cycles is imperative.
“Understanding the challenges related to their retention and replacement will be critical for the development of policy responses that adequately address the healthcare needs of our changing world.”
Meanwhile, ICN chief executive Howard Catton, who also co-authored the report, warned about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the nursing workforce.
“After the past nine months, nurses are exhausted, some have post-traumatic stress disorder, and very many of those who came back to the workforce to help out are not staying,” he said.
“I also suspect that nurses who pre-Covid had been intending to work up to their normal retirement age, may now say they have had enough.”
The report authors warned that international recruitment of nurses to fill gaps needed to be handled sensibly and ethically.
Mr Catton said: “In the past, rich countries have seen importing nurses from poorer countries as a key part of the solution to address their own shortages.
“That has never been acceptable when it robs countries with weaker healthcare systems of much needed nursing resources.”
He warned that in a “post-pandemic world” there could be “different migration patterns that mean the usual ‘donor’ countries will no longer perform that role”.
“Each country should aim to be self-sufficient in producing enough nurses to meet their population’s needs,” he added.