Nurses aged over 50 years and their experiences of shift work




The Late Career Nurse project examined views and characteristics of nurses working in New Zealand who were born before 1960. This paper focuses on the experiences of such nurses who undertake shift work.


The mean age of registered nurses in New Zealand has been rising steadily, and 40% are now aged 50 years or over. While there is substantial literature on the phenomenon and consequences of the ageing nursing workforce, little is known of the particular experiences of nurses aged over 50 years who work shifts.


An anonymous online survey was emailed to eligible nurse New Zealand Nurses Organisation members aged over 50 years in February 2012. Quantitative and qualitative analyses of the 3273 responses received were undertaken.


Over 45% of respondents worked shifts or flexible hours. While shift work suited many, others noted deleterious effects on family and social relationships, physical and mental health (notably sleep patterns and fatigue), and decreasing tolerance for shift work as they age. Poor scheduling practices were particularly detrimental.

Conclusion and implications for nursing management

Worldwide, workforce ageing means strategies are required to retain older nurses in the workforce. Improved scheduling practices including increasing access to flexible and part time work hours, and development of resources on coping with shift work are recommended.