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Retaining older nurses in primary care and the community


F. Cheater: e-mail:


Title. Retaining older nurses in primary care and the community.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study conducted to examine issues associated with the impact of age on the retention of female primary and community care nurses in the National Health Service in England.

Background.  Little is known about why older nurses in the primary and community care workforce leave and what might encourage them to stay.

Methods.  A cross-sectional survey using a semi-structured postal questionnaire was carried out during 2005. Responses were received from 485 (61%) district nurses, health visitors, school nurses and practice nurses in five primary care trusts in England. Data were analysed to test for associations.

Results.  Older nurses were more likely than younger ones to report that their role had lived up to expectations (P = 0·001). Issues important for older nurses were feeling valued and being consulted when change was implemented. Important factors encouraging nurses to stay were pension considerations, reduced working hours near retirement, and reduced workload. For those with degree-level qualifications, enhanced pay was a factor encouraging retention (= 0·044). Nurses might leave in response to high administrative workloads, problems in combining work and family commitments (P ≤ 0·001), and lack of workplace support (P = 0·029). Retirement and pensions advice was not widely available.

Conclusion.  Since two-thirds of nurses were generally happy in their role, it is important that the conditions necessary to maintain this level of satisfaction are continued throughout a nurse’s working life. Nurses may all too easily consider leaving prematurely unless policy makers and managers ensure that their working environment reflects the issues nurses consider to be conducive to retention.