Employment transitions for older nurses: a qualitative study


  • Joyann Andrews PhD,

  • Jill Manthorpe MA,


Joyann Andrews,
Department of Social Work,
Brunel University,
Osterley Campus,
Borough Road,
Middlesex TW7 5DU,
E-mail: joyannandrews@hotmail.com


Aim.  This paper aims to explore the influences on employment related decision making in respect of nurses over 50 in the United Kingdom. It investigates the retirement and labour market relationship through the diverse experiences of older nurses and stakeholders in nursing.

Background.  The ageing of the United Kingdom nursing workforce constitutes a potential challenge for the National Health Services. There is evidence of increasing efforts to address this issue by encouraging older nurses to remain in the profession, dissuading early retirement and attracting nurses who have retired to return to nursing. However, decision-making by older nurses is influenced by a wide spectrum of factors and perceived employment options.

Background.  The paper is based on research commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation as part of its Transitions Over 50 programme. It derives from concern about inadequate knowledge of, and under-developed policy responses to, the ageing United Kingdom workforce and the specific implications of this age shift for the nursing labour market. The research consisted of interviews with nurses over 50 and key stakeholders in nursing in the United Kingdom. Stakeholders included employers, advisers and policy makers in nursing.

Method.  Interviews with older nurses and stakeholders in nursing were conducted over a period of 12 months. They included face-to-face and telephone semi-structured interviews with 84 nurses over 50 and 18 key stakeholders in nursing in the United Kingdom. Stakeholders included employers, advisers and policy-makers.

Findings.  Employers, policy makers and advisers and older nurses all identified a range of influences on nurses’ employment decisions including a lack of flexible hours, the stress of work, pension-related expectations and the pace of change. Some of these related to negative aspects of work that led nurses to leave (‘push’ factors), and others to the presence of positive factors in nursing or in pension options (‘pull’ factors).

Conclusion.  The study highlighted the need for increased implementation of more flexible hours of work and greater availability of part-time hours for older nurses. It revealed the salience of improved pay, adequate and flexible pensions provision, and opportunities for continued professional development to the recruitment and retention of older nurses.