1. Murray, Kathleen DNP, ARNP, NE-BC

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Retaining baby boomers

Q I'm a nurse leader at a community hospital with a significant number of baby boomer staff members. What are some organizational strategies for keeping these valuable employees in the workforce?

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Baby boomers are individuals born between 1946 and 1964. As a generation, they're loyal, hardworking, and take pride in their professional accomplishments. With a wealth of knowledge related to their jobs, they generally intend to remain in the workforce as long as they can. However, it's important for the healthcare industry to prepare for the largest number of nurses to exit the workforce; by 2020, nearly half of all RNs will reach traditional retirement age at 66 1/2.1


Your leadership team should begin with a thorough assessment of the current concerns of your baby boomer nurses to understand what strategies are needed to effectively retain this workforce, such as a flexible schedule that includes part-time work, job sharing, and the option to telecommute. The biggest challenges for continued employment of baby boomers are chronic health conditions and their commitment to the care of their parents and children. To address common health concerns, such as diabetes, assess your wellness programs and consider complementary medicine possibilities.


A good reference to start with is the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation white paper "Wisdom at Work: Retaining Experienced Nurses."2 Strategies from the white paper include:


* recognize baby boomers' valuable contributions. This generation's strengths include teamwork, loyalty, and high moral values. They normally believe that any worthy goal can be achieved.


* respect baby boomers' knowledge and experience. Baby boomer staff members want to share their expertise with their colleagues.


* acknowledge baby boomers' skills with personal relationships. Baby boomer employees have experience handling complex issues with confidence.



To support the baby boomer transfer of knowledge phase (transferring years of knowledge and experience to your future workforce), your organization should incorporate several knowledge transfer methods, including a structured mentoring program, simulation lab scenarios, strategically establishing job knowledge transfer positions, and potential incorporation into the clinical ladder or bonus structure. In addition, your organization may need to consider enhancing technology to improve workflow, modifying the physical environment to keep up with the demanding nature of bedside nursing, implementing a structured cross-training program that pairs a baby boomer with a potential candidate for replacement, providing flexible scheduling, and potentially tapping a baby boomer to function in a consultant role.


Your baby boomer staff members can and still want to contribute, and many may need to continue working for the income beyond traditional retirement age. You'll find that by implementing strategies to support baby boomers staying in the workforce, your organization will positively benefit during a well-planned transfer of knowledge phase.




1. Health Resources and Services Administration. The U.S. nursing workforce: trends in supply and education. [Context Link]


2. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Wisdom at work: retaining experienced nurses. [Context Link]