Nurses Are Talking About the Real Reasons They Postpone Retirement

Laura A. Stokowski, RN, MS

Disclosures

May 07, 2015

In This Article

Why Should I Retire?

Every department seems to have least one of those Energizer-bunny nurses who just keeps going at age 70, 75, or even 80. We heard from a few of these nurses who love their jobs too much to retire before they are compelled to do so.

An administrative nurse wrote, "I am proud to be one of the older nurses who is still working at age 71. Love of the job is my main motivator to keep working. I have been employed 35 years in the same hospital. In 2014, I attended the 50-year reunion of my nursing class and was surprised that of the 27 graduates, almost half of us are still working in nursing." Another nurse enjoys the "camaraderie of working with like-minded, well-educated nurses" too much to retire. A frequent trait among these nurses is career longevity at the same hospital.

A nurse explained why today's nurses find it easier to work past retirement age than nurses in the past. "We are much fitter these days, and the changes and challenges at work keep our minds alert, not to mention the joint replacements that keep us active! I will miss nursing when I retire. I was born in 1946 and have been a hospital nurse for 50 years. I plan to retire on my 70th birthday but will still be available for occasional work. I will know I'm past my usefulness when they no longer call me!"

Another nurse maintains that the benefits of working more than justify forgoing retirement for as long as possible: "Those who remain employed and engaged in life tend to live happier and healthier lives into their golden years. Nurses who are satisfied and engaged in continued learning in their current field or trying out a new slice of the nursing career pie find plenty of reasons to keep on going. Many of my colleagues are highly engaged in their work and don't even mention retirement!"

This optimism is shared by a relatively young nurse who has high hopes of a long career. "I plan to live a long time. Healthcare is much better than it was in my grandmother and mother's time. What is wrong with working at least 15-20 more years? I would rather keep working than have to go job hunting at age 90 when I run out of money!"

The pride felt by some older nurses in their devotion to their jobs and their ability to continue working longer than many of their peers was evident in many comments. One nurse sees a distinct difference in attitudes toward nursing between older nurses and the younger generation of new graduate nurses, a difference that influences the desire to retire. A nurse in her mid-50s who loves her job, despite the long hours of standing, explains why she plans to work "until I drop. For years, I have watched young new graduates come and go. This is their time to 'shop and hop.' It is my time to stay the course and shine."

A unique point of view was offered by a self-proclaimed "baby boomer nurse": "It's not just the recession that keeps us from retiring. A work ethic inherent in the baby boomer generation makes it hard to retire. I have been working for 30 years, and I find it hard to imagine not working." At the age of 63 and still working full-time 12-hour shifts, one nurse claims to have more passion for nursing and more energy now than years ago when she was trying to balance a career and motherhood.

A nurse questions the wisdom of retiring, saying, "I'm 56 and I feel 20. Why should I retire? What would I do? I enjoy my job as a bedside nurse, and I get great satisfaction from nursing. I offer years of experience to my patients. In addition to working full-time, I'm currently in school. Remember, age 56 is considered young to be president of the United States. Retire now? Not this nurse."

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