Age Discrimination: How to Reinvent Yourself as a Baby Boomer RNDoes ageism exist in the world of nursing or is it just something we made up? All of us have been there. You leave a hospital job where you've been for several years and you intend to reinvent yourself and start over. Sounds simple, right? Not necessarily. Especially if your driver’s license says you are the quintessential Baby Boomer in a murky zone: 60!

Going Back in Time

Unbelievable as it may seem, if you've survived to the big 60, you may remember when there was only one or two nursing textbooks. Anyone out there remember Luckmann and Sorenson? How heavy it was to lug around! What about index cards, drug cards and (shudder) care plans.  Nothing was digital or downloaded. No CDs or apps or Quizlet to help you study for the Boards.

It wasn’t even called NCLEX then and you had to drive two hours check into a hotel, and take 5 exams with a pencil and bubble in all your answers. 75 was not the magic score and you had to wait three months to find out if you were the real deal. Really, I don’t remember what the passing score was, but don’t blame that on a poor memory. Lots of things have happened since I took that test.

Age Discrimination - Does it Exist?

Okay I have made my point. Now try to find a gig as an RN. Ageism does exist in nursing. Competition is fierce. You are up against a cohort of twenty something's with no wrinkles, gray hair or recollection of not wearing gloves! You know the old saying, "You can get two new grads for the price of an experienced RN."

The older nurse is not alone. Research indicates that 40% of nurses were over 50 in 2010(1). We are an aging profession (2). Although this may be a comforting demographic when someone is trying to change jobs, it may work against her or him. The population of nurses is getting older and this has been acknowledged in the literature (3).

Age discrimination in nursing is not really talked about or accepted as real, but it is bubbling under the surface (2). Some of the discrimination is due to the image of the young nurse running down the hall responding to a Code Blue versus her older counterpart walking fast but not running due to fear of slipping and falling due to her osteoporosis. Sure, experience matters and a strong dose of self-confidence can work wonders when someone makes up their mind to leave Job A.  

What's It Like Right Now?

Let’s just say you have made your exit. Now what? Let’s say you can’t wait to get hired by a hospital. You decide to work for a nursing agency which will give you more flexibility in your hours and quicker pay. It is not like the old days when you just showed up with your nursing license, driver’s license and social security card and you left with a job in place. Now, everything is different.

You can no longer think you will get a shift the next day. Now, things are at a slower pace, and you must meet all the same hospital standards which include computer specific orientation for a hospital system. After taking, a Level 2 background check, drug screen, references and entity specific training, into account, you are looking at a 3-4 week wait. 

As you wait to start your agency shifts, keep applying to hospital jobs and even try to think out of the box and apply for non-clinical positions, such as case management, nurse auditor and product demo positions. Also, look into teaching positions if you have a BSN or MSN. These may be harder to break into, but networking also helps. An entrepreneurial spirit also is crucial. This may be the best time to break free of the past and invent a new and better version of you, the Baby Boomer RN.

Share your story in the comments below.


Friedrich, L.A., Prasun, M. A.,  Henderson, L.,Taft, L. (2011, October).
     Being a seasoned nurse in active practice. Retrieved
     November 5, 2015 from http://dx.doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2834.2011.01294.x

Kagan, S.H. & Melendez-Torres, G.J. (2013, September).  Ageism in nursing.
     Retrieved November 5, 2015 from http:// dx doi:10.1111/jonm.12191

Keller SM; Burns CM (2010, October).  The aging nurse: can employers
     accommodate age-related changes?
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