Retaining an Aging Nurse Workforce: Perceptions of Human Resource Practices

Mary Val Palumbo; Barbara McIntosh; Betty Rambur; Shelly Naud


Nurs Econ. 2009;27(4) 

In This Article


The Large Baby-Boom generation is slowly, yet steadily, aging and entering a time in which demand and utilization of health care typically increases (Garrett & Martini, 2007). The resources of health care organizations, including human resources (HR), will be strained as this large demographic cohort moves eventually into old age (Kovner, Jones, Zhan, Gergen, & Basu, 2002; Kovner, Mezey, & Harrington, 2002; Mion, 2003; Schofield, Page, Lyle, & Walker, 2006). Registered nurses are central to providing health care; thus, the retention of RNs, who are themselves aging, is a key policy imperative (Buerhaus, Staiger, & Auerbach, 2000b). This is particularly important in rural areas because of the heightened challenges of recruiting and retaining an adequate supply of rural nurses. Almost a quarter of the U.S. nurse workforce live and work in rural settings (Cramer, Nienaber, Helget, & Agrawal, 2006; University of Washington Rural Health Research Center, 2007).

To develop evidence-based older RN retention strategies, 583 RNs in 12 health care organizations that serve rural populations completed a survey entitled "Your Valuable Career Plans: Guidance for You and Your Employer." Policies and practices most important to nurses' decisions to remain in their organization and the extent to which their organizations currently engaged in these practices were identified. As such, this study provides an indicator of progress or lack of progress in addressing older nurse recruitment and retention and also offers guidance for differentiating policies and practices for younger and older nurses.


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