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Work hazards for an aging nursing workforce


  • Jennan A. Phillips PhD, RN,

    Assistant Professor and Director, Corresponding author
    1. Occupational Health Nursing Program, School of Nursing University of Alabama, Birmingham, AL, USA
    • Correspondence

      Jennan A. Phillips

      NB 316 1720 2nd Avenue

      South Birmingham

      Alabama 35294-1210



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  • Rebecca Miltner PhD, RN, CNL, NEA-BC

    Assistant Professor
    1. Community Health, Outcomes & Systems Department, School of Nursing University of Alabama, Birmingham, AL, USA
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To discuss selected work hazards and safety concerns for aging nurses.


Greater numbers of older nurses remain in the workforce. Projections suggest that one-third of the nursing workforce will be over age 50 years by 2015. Employers will struggle to find ways to protect the health and safety of their aging workforce and prevent a massive loss of intellectual and human resources when these experienced nurses exit the workforce.


Review of recent relevant literature in English language journals.

Key issues

Repetitive motion injuries, fatigue and slips, trips and falls are three major work hazards older nurses face. We discuss several factors for each hazard, including: the normal physiological aging effects of diminished strength, hearing and vision; workplace variables of work schedules, noise and clutter; and personal characteristics of sleep disturbances, overexertion and fatigue.


Inconclusive evidence exists to guide best practices for designing safe workplace environments and shift patterns for nursing work.

Implications for nursing management

There are at least two areas administrators can reduce work hazards for older workers: (1) modification of the workplace, and (2) creating the infrastructure to support the aging workforce to encourage healthy behaviours.