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.
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