Nursing Review Issue 2 March-April 2022 - Page 28


Passing it on

Rethinking retirement could ease impending labour shortages .
By Eleanor Campbell

Slowly reducing work hours and reshifting traditional retirement plans may help fulfil older workers and relieve worker shortages , new research has shown .

A recent study from Edith Cowan University analysed data taken from 398 mature workers in the Australian public sector .
The use of inclusive , mature age HR practices and increased opportunities for leadership enhanced their overall wellbeing and in turn , made them happy to stay at work , researchers found .
According to study lead Professor Tim Bentley , hospitals and healthcare organisations could benefit from implementing more age-inclusive workplace policies .
“ There is a tendency to think that older workers are not really worth training or giving them senior roles or redesigning their work to make it more comfortable ,” he told Nursing Review .
“ In order to retain nurses and stop them retiring , particularly those that retire early ,
26 | nursingreview . com . au the workplace needs to be much more accommodating .”
Up to 100,000 skilled workers are expected to retire from the Australian workforce by 2023 .
The healthcare sector will be among the worst hit , with around 85,000 nurses expected to retire by 2025 .
This is projected to reach 123,000 by 2030 .
With the average nurse aged around 49 , management should consider tweaking shift schedules , easing workloads and learning to accommodate physical ailments , according to Bentley .
“ The most effective things are always going to be the hardest and that ’ s the problem ,” he said .
“ Managers need to accept that it ’ s really important they recognise the value of older workers .
“ If you ask older workers generally across the board what they value most , it ’ s that they feel valued and that the organisation values them , and that is what would make them want to stay engaged in work .”
Workplace issues such as bullying , age discrimination and a lack of qualified staff , are also pushing more older nurses to retire .
Allowing veteran nurses to slowly delay their retirement may also give them time to
“ Managers need to accept that it ’ s really important they recognise the value of older workers .
pass on their skills to early career staff and students , said Bentley .
“ That way people don ’ t leave on one day , they slowly transition into their non-work life and also enable their employer to retain their expertise over a period of time ,” he said .
“ While they ’ re doing that , they can be training others and mentoring others , passing on those skills and helping address what is already and is going to be even more a massive skills shortage .”
While COVID-19 has no doubt been a global disaster , the pandemic may be an opportunity for workplace changes , according to Bentley .
“ It ’ s a huge step-change and I don ’ t think there ’ ll be any going back ,” he said .
“ We know all the research done prior to COVID and during shows us it ’ s a massive retention factor when people have flexibility .
“ There ’ s huge value in this , and this is something that can be extended to the nursing profession .” ■