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Changing patterns of male and female nurses' participation in the workforce


Lesley Curtis
Personal Social Services Research Unit
University of Kent
Canterbury CT2 7NF


Aim  To examine how nursing working lives are changing and what might lie behind these changes.

Background  In view of continuing concerns about the shortage of nurses, it is important to recognize the factors influencing retention and the implications of changes in the workforce.

Method  Using an approach previously developed for estimating expected working lives, this paper compares results taken from the 1991 general household Census with the most recent Census. Changes in participation rates are examined and the age at which nurses exit the profession. The destination of those leaving the profession mid-life is also identified.

Results  Although the length of expected working life of a female nurse decreased by only one year during the 10-year period, the working life of a male nurse decreased by 9 years. The combined working life reduced from 19 to 15 years.

Conclusion  Although the emphasis on improving nurse recruitment and retention has been a priority for a number of years, this is not reflected in the length of time nurses remain in the profession especially male nurses.

Implications  Shorter working lives of nurses have important implications for the costs of maintaining a qualified work force and for human resource managers and workforce planners.