Nurse-to-Nurse Advice: Why Nurses Over 50 Can’t Find Jobs

Our Why Nurses Over 50 Can’t Find Jobs article struck a nerve and generated a lot of reader interest and comments. Seems this topic is a very real and present experience for many of our fellow nurses. It's one thing to run an article about an issue and something entirely different to post one that offers suggestions and solutions for how to deal with it. Rather than try to wax eloquently with our own tips, we pooled a few of your fabulous comments to offer real-nurse insight and advice. Check it out and don't forget to share your own advice and encouragement in the comments section below.

"Age discrimination in the nursing profession has been occurring for YEARS! I have been an RN for almost 36 years, always at the bedside, mostly in critical-care units. I saw so-called age-discrimination issues early on in my nursing career. Hospital-administration officials would focus on the oldest, most-experienced long-time employed nurses and, suddenly, nurses who had always received satisfactory to above satisfactory scores on annual evaluations were told they were lazy, stupid, non-compassionate and, worst of all, non-law/policy-abiding. At that time, we as younger nurses, thought that the targeted nurses just had lost it or were not supposed to continue in nursing. Now, that I am much older, I beg to differ, because these same practices were used against me in one of my jobs in my later years of my career. Luckily at that particular job where I was the one being targeted, I saw the “writing-on-the-wall, kept myself active in professional organizations and dual-certified and always tried to keep myself valuable in knowledge and hands-on skills and because of that, I think I finally found my present place of employment that treats me with respect and dignity. I am a member of a professional union at my workplace but you, yourself, have to do the work to keep yourself valuable. It’s time-consuming and a little expensive but well worth it, to keep yourself current in EBP knowledge and skills. Network with other nurses to get your foot in the door, develop a resume that “pops-out” from the rest of crowd, go back to school if you have to and above-all, keep a positive attitude about change because change is here to stay whether we like it or not.´-Linda

"These nurses can find a position in Private Duty Nursing through Nursing Staffing Agency and can sign with same agency to do LTC per diem. I’ve been an LPN x36 years and due to health issues tried an agency as I can work only maybe 3-4 shifts a month. If I had good health I could work 80 hours a week. If I knew how much easier this is then all the personalities and witches…, not to mention Safety Fairs et al. I’ve had done this sooner! I get notices every day of job opportunities not only for other agencies. Check it out." --C Marz

"I turned 61 today and am still working full time in a nursing job I have had for the last 10 years. I am very grateful to still have this opportunity but at the same time I realize it all could quickly change. It’s not so much just an age thing, but face it, us older nurses have visual and hearing impairments. We all have bad backs and joints. We can’t maintain our bodily functions for hours without attention. We find it difficult to work nights, long shifts and take call. Now when you figure that the wages are based on experience, who wants an old nurse that can’t see, hear, work like a dog and could cost the employer in worker’s comp? We would benefit from a strong nurse’s union to protect our senior nurses. One that is strictly for and about nurses. My goal is to hang on as long as possible and take care of this old body so that I can still do a good job. It is also important to pass on as much working knowledge to the younger generation of nurses, and perhaps then we can be remembered for making things a little better." -Old Goat RN

"I am teaching and will be 70 next month. My mentor is 74 and still teaching. There are sooo many jobs for nurses in Arizona." -Guy L.

Check out these articles (Changing Careers Within Nursing, Top Tips: How To Be Considered For Your Ideal Nursing Job, Find A Nursing Job With Help From Friends, How To Create The Perfect Nursing Cover Letter) for more career advice and don't forget to visit ModernNurse Jobs for the latest job openings in your region and area of interest.

Any other career advice for nurses over 50? Share in the comments section below.

43 COMMENTS

  1. I retired with 32 years under my belt- med surg, psch, ICU, CCU, PACU, open heart, psych, home health and hospice. Now can’t get back in the game. They want young and starting at bottom of the wage scale, not experience and knowledge.

  2. I graduated nursing school at 54 years old. I have been trying to get a job RN job without success. Been to job fairs, had virtual interviews and it’s always the same result. We will contact you with results, but nothing happens. Whenever I follow-up with text, email or call no one responds. I never knew that ageism was so rampant in nursing, no wonder there is such a shortage because the young nursing managers, recruiters and hiring managers are practicing discrimination on people over 50. So sad

  3. I do have to agree that as an RN with my BSN I am finding it more difficult to find the right position. Should I go back to school for my Masters in Nursing but for what. I already make top pay as an Rn in my region will it matter. I love to learn but it is also costly. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks Almost 60 RN.

  4. Hi there. I am 52 year young RN with 23 year experience in various aspects of nursing. It took me 11 months to get a hospital job. I had gone to numerous “waste of time” job fairs and interviews. The only way I got this hospital job was through an x- coworker of mine referred me.
    In the Miami area it is who you know.

  5. I am 54, did I just write that? Wow! I’ve been an RN for 25 years, a very early start in my career as ADON, then DON in LTC and child and adolescent in-patient psychiatric facility; admin for most of my career with an ADN/associates degree. Over the past 9 years working as a telephone depression case manger of which I love, I also have past experience in research, home health, community/public health. Considering pursuing BSN to make myself more marketable and have more options available to me when I reach retirement age. Thanks for sharing all of your experiences!

  6. I don’t find that an issue in psychiatric nursing in these days we are overwhelmed to say the least I am 60 and we are still looking for psych nusrses that have experIence, theses are hard times and we we need everyone we can to care for Issues of the heart, Thank God I work for a Catholic Hospital and we can reach out with God in our conversations, God Bles

  7. I graduated from nursing school at 55 with a BSN. I thought that the hard part was over until I tried to find a nursing job. I was unsure on what specialty I wanted to focus my career on, so I thought working Med/Surg would be the best oppotunity to build a solid foundation. I tried every hospital in my area. I would do well with the phone interview but as soon as they saw me with my silver hair it was over. Most of the interviewers were much younger than I. Needless to say this was very discouraging for me. I started thinking that there must be something wrong with me why couldn’t I get hired? Than one day I met with a fellow classmate who was a year older than I. We started to compare notes on job hunting. Turns out she had the same thing happen to her. I did work as a private duty nurse and a school nurse, which I enjoyed doing both of them. I have been fortunate to have met some fabulous RN’s that were so generous to share their wealth of knowledge with me and I also had the misfortune of working with more than one nurse ratchet! These were the younger ones that did not hesitate to throw me under the bus if given the chance. My last job was with a very respected organization , I was thrilled to have the opportunity and was planning on staying there until I retired. I made sure not to make any mistakes. Arrived early, stayed late, gave 110%. Then I started to get called into the supervisor’s or nurse educator’s office office with the impression it was for orientation but instead I was interrogated. This happened several times. I wasn’t going to let anyone find something to write me up on. So they made up things, accused me of doing & saying things that I did not do. I was not given a chance to speak or defend myself. I was let go. That was it. My supervisor said things to me that were mean, she said I was evil. Who gets the right to say that? I was stunned! When I walked to my car my head was spinning! I couldn’t believe what just happened to me. In hindsight I realized they were trying to get rid of me all along, but couldn’t find any dirt. Turns out a younger nurse who was a friend of my preceptor wanted my position. Hmmm? I’m very disappointed with everything. Why did I put myself through the torture of nursing school to find out this what I get to deal with when trying to work. Mention age discrimination and everyone becomes an ostrich, sticking their head in the sand. I have nobody in my corner to defend me and I’ve done nothing wrong. All I wanted to do was take care of people. That’s what nursing is all about.

    • Hmmmm. Next time, set your phone out and tell them you are recording this conversation for your own records. You may always request a witness of your own choosing to be present during these types of meetings for your own protection. I suggest you select someone you know well who will back you. UNION affiliated hospitals are the only ones who fight on behalf of RNs

  8. You can always find work in corrections. I love it. You finally have a patient base where so many (certainly not all) will listen when you try to educate. You do have to change your attitude and approach knowing that their lifestyle is different on the inside and most likely on the outside as well.

  9. I am 71 and still working full time in the operating room. I have 49 years of experience and currently serve as a Clinical Coordinator, responsible for staffing and ordering of specialty supplies and equipment. I also fill in a OR Supervisor. I often think about retirement, but those around me and above me in administration do not want to loose my knowledge and expertise. I often get headhunters calling to see if I would take another job. There are plenty of opportunities for experienced RN, regardless of your age if you are willing to work.

  10. I’ve recently worked 2 jobs that were “rush, rush, rush” constantly. I have over 30 years experience. Nursing home, urology, diet center, agency, Med-surg, home care, Faculty physicians pediatrics, private practice pediatrics, instructor, pediatric primary care, clinic pediatrics. I am detail oriented, dedicated to my clients and their families, and to my students. My attention to detail, staying with an issue until its resolution, being on time, being on the unit and at the bedside on time immediately after breaks has finally been appreciated in the area of home care nursing. These families and the current agency have been truly remarkable in appreciating the experience I bring with me to the job each day. They are flexible with my time when I find the need to extend my day longer to meet the needs of a child/family. I wish all older nurses could share in the experience of pediatric home care.. Do your research and find an agency that appreciates all those years of experience that allow you to do all you do. One that welcomes you and allows you to work at your pace to make those decisions and actions that require attention to details. The parents will surely appreciate you, and so will your fellow nurses.

  11. I agree. I am a very healthy 56 year old nurse practitioner and would like to relocate to be nearer my daughter, but am having a hard time finding a job. I have over 30 years of experience as an ICU nurse and a nurse practitioner, but everyone seems to ask me “how much longer are you planning to work?” I plan to work for at least another 10 – 15 years.

    • It is not legal for a potential or current employer to ask your age, how long you plan on working, how many vacations you plan on taking, if you’re pregnant, if you’re contemplating a sex reassignment, etc. During your interview you will need to find a polite way to deflect and not answer that question or anything similar. People will ask it in several ways trying to trip you up. Know your rights with regards to interview questions.

    • Frank, I agree!!! I am 71 as well and still working just about full time as an infusion nurse. I travel over 2 states and go into peoples home to deliver their infusions. I decided that when I can’t find my way home its time to step away!!! Until then I will keep on moving.

  12. I have been a nurse 35 yrs. Moved to Psych when I couldn’t lift anymore. Found hospital was getting rid of senior nurses and hiring new grads because of pay.
    The hospital advanced a younger nurse to DON who had never worked a med-surg or Psych and had no idea how to evaluate. Actually wrote me up for sending out a patient who ended up in ICU! Saw the writing on the wall as I was on the top of wage scale. I loved my job but had to leave. It is all in the money and no longer patient care.
    I am positive I can go to a private agency but am so disappointed with the state of nursing.

    • Keep trying to find your “dream nursing job”. Also, use grammar and spell check. People notice these things and will eliminate you due to this. I’m sure you’re a great RN – let it show on paper. good luck!

    • MD Shamsad ALam, i think you should consider going to bedside nursing, it is more challenging and exciting. I worked over ten years with psychiatric patients on the unit before going to teach..

  13. Wondering why the post I made today at 12:26pm is buried down with the 2018 posts where it won’t even be read? Would appreciate it if it was put in chronology order like the others.

  14. I’m almost 61 and graduated as an RN at age 55. Working in LTC, I’ve worked 12 hour shifts, 8 hour shifts, days, afternoons, as an ADON and as a Supervisor with no problems. I get lots of exercise, have made many friends among my fellow nurses, and LOVE my patients and their families!

  15. To “old goat” RN and several other’s that seem to imply that nurses over 50 have physical deficits that make the discrimination reasonable……how many older (and typically male) CEO’s & Presidents get told they are too old to do the job?? Another example of how nursing suffers because it’s a female dominated profession. We don’t get idolized for our years of experience, we’re just deaf/blind/washed up/worker’s compensation risks! There are issues with younger nurses too…more call outs, over confidence errors, more likely to switch jobs frequently & if nurses reflect society (and of course we do) more likely to be dipping into the benzo’s and opiates! I welcome the backlash – discrimination can go both ways!

  16. At 57 I left my job due to constant ridicule of my work even though I have been a nurse for over 30 years. The manager felt the tech in our department was more valuable and reliable….she’s also much cheaper than I am. I consulted other medical personnel to get their opinion. Found out the hospital was looking to save costs. Were they trying to rid of me for this reason? I may never know. It certainly made me think if nursing was what I wanted to continue in. I have interviewed for several positions. Phone interviews go very well. Once I meet them, it seems I never get called back. It’s depressing and discouraging and I’m not quite sure what to do. Any advice or input is greatly appreciated.

    • Have you considered (maybe you have, not sure) looking into other areas of nursing instead of bedside care. There are so many areas that would gladly hire an experienced RN. I have been a nurse for 33 years and I had to go on disability but after a while I’m better and want to work. I actually found I can sign up with all of the school districts in my neighborhood and be a substitute school nurse and/or substitute teacher as well. I get calls everyday now and I love it. I can work when I want and they are short days compared to a shift in the hospital.

    • Head high, walk the walk, confidence, smile!!! I get called as a travel RN at least 10 times a week. Reputation will become your best friend. If you have not already tried it, a chance to work somewhere you’ve always wanted to vacation is an awesome experience. good luck!

  17. Our hospital was bought out and all the older and high seniority staff started feeling targeted across the board. They felt as if they were on a watch list and started to be get written up for multiple small offenses that were never issues before. Things that could not be proven. No union and no recourse to take. Three write ups and your done. Needless to say our unit lost most all of the seniority pay staff.
    When a new graduate nurse makes $10-15 less per hour multiplied by multiple staff across all units it all starts making sense. Other benefits of a young nurse include no families to care for, less cost of insurance pay out, and a moldable employee without any extra ties but to their new profession. This practice must have its payouts in the long run because it seems it is becoming the trend of the future. Higher safety risk and cost of training apparently must not be the greatest concern.
    I look forward to a day when job security and a decent day at work is the norm rather than just an unrealistic dream. Instead it has become ever increasing demands while being short staffed routinely.
    We need a public rally cry. Healthcare is suffering, not only for the patients but for everyone who cares for them. It is a slow move in the wrong direction. In a sense it’s own drug resistant infection.

    • Went through same thing in our CM dept. All mature seasoned nurses…master’s degrees, CCM certs and very hard-working/patient centered. Brought in a new manager who spent the first year cleaning house and forcing early retirements. She was always making comments about “high pay grades” and unusually high vacation time due to longevity. Within a year she had the department whittled down to one senior nurse…all the rest had only a few years experience, no certifications and no advanced degrees. Balanced the budget, in simple terms. I was badgered into submission with constant write-ups and no opportunity to defend my side. The new, younger nurses mirrored the manager and treated me like I was an old fool. It was so demoralizing.

      Eventually I did leave and took another job. Even though I am treated respectfully, the manager gives all the choice opportunities to young nurses. She makes it quite clear that her time and attention is embedded elsewhere.

  18. I made my last job change at age 56…went from working in a surgeons office to Homecare then last 15yrs in Hospice. Fortunately had a good recommendation from a friend who worked there, and was hired immediately…lucky for me! These last 2 jobs brought together the years of nursing experience, maturity and independence that I had developed and I loved every minute of it. The wealth of nursing knowledge and people skills we older nurses can bring to a job can help us to serve as roll models for the newer nurses. I know at times the younger nurses think we are has beens and know it alls, but overall I think we have much to offer…just give us a chance!

  19. I have never had a problem getting a position in a hospital after 50 , if anytning I have had to turn down jobs. I keep getting offers even now at age 63 that I have to turn down.. I have medically retired due to health issues but still work 1 to 2 days a month for a Home for Hospice which I feel is really nursing at its best and allowing people to die with dignity and families to have support during the process. I get to be at the bedside more and have time with the patient which I really enjoy.

    • After 40 years in the same area of Nursing and being newly widowed at 62, I was terminated over a she said-she said incident of which they believed the junior employee over myself. I was the longest tenured RN there. I found out quickly that no one is interested in hiring an aging diploma Nurse who doesn’t have diversified Nursing experience. I’d love to retire, but am still raising a teenager and need at least a part time job to support us. Plus I’d really rather retire on my own terms. I never wanted to believe that “Nurses eat their young” but in my situation it is completely true. Just another stressor on me in what seems to be a fruitless endeavor.

  20. 57 yr old RN, BSN…I switched to hospice for health reasons, and I found my dream career. Full time, part-time, contingent and on call. So many options, RN Case Manager, Admissions Nurse, Management, Quality Review and more. Great pay, autonomy, and true interdisciplinary team work, including physicians. How often are you consulted by the attending doc regarding patient/family interventions?

  21. Did get my RN until I was 49. Due to breast cancer diagnosis did not get my first job until I was 50. I did have a difficult time finding a job in a hospital setting. I wanted to specialize in pediatric nursing so instead I took a job in a facility for children with intellectual and severe physical issues that needed round the clock nursing care. I did this for two years, then moved to adolescent psych nursing for a year. I now, at 54 have my dream job of working in a pediatric specialty clinic. I did feel there was some age discrimination within the hospital settings. But, in the end it all worked out for me.

  22. I am 57 years old RN with 26 years experience. I keep up on education and stay involved with management. I am in Phoenix, Arizona and if you are older and experienced, not washed out, there is a place for you here. I told my company I was retiring in a year and a half, they are making offers to get me to delay retirement.

  23. I’m 64 retired Major Army Nurse Corps RN NP type. I cover an urgent care in Modesto. I still hit the gym almost every day and do kenpo karate. I’m not getting older, but getting better. God bless to all my not so over the hill nursing brothers and sisters.

  24. I changed my area of nursing at age 40, not because I felt any pressure from my employer but because I knew it was becoming harder to run and pound the floor like I could when I was much younger. I took a job that was more cognitive and then moved up to an administrator in the same area. I think you have to plan to move to a different kind of nursing when you see you are feeling the wear and tear of working a floor.

  25. I’ll be 66 this year and have no plans to retire from my acute-care position as a psychiatric/behavioral health nurse. I “fell” into this job 4 years ago after having been away from hospital nursing for over 2 decades, during which time I struggled constantly and unsuccessfully to get my foot back in the door. Someone decided to give me a chance, and although this was a new specialty for me (I had previously worked in maternal-child health), I acclimated and fell in love with it. I can’t minimize the challenges older nurses face in the work force because I’m there and I get it. When I leave this job it will be with the realization my career is over – there will be no more golden opportunities down the road – and I’m not ready for that finality yet, while I still have a choice.

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