« The New Epidemic: MRSA? | Main | Thanksgiving 2007 »

November 20, 2007

Nurses - Getting Older and Feeling Tired

Bekaserdans72x725 Beka - Eyes closed, nurses were slumped over desks and computers, with glazed facial appearances. An air of stoicism and silence hung over the unit last night. Short-staffed once again. It is happening absolutely every single day. The desire to write nursing notes was disappearing as fatigue was rising. Several colleagues had worked 5 to 7 days in a row. Mind you - these were 12 hour shifts!

I kept focused on my two patients, doing things as needed and keeping busy. But I wondered as my birthday neared (Thanksgiving week this year) how much age was affecting nursing? I recall that when I was in my 20s, even with symptoms of dystonia, I could push myself and often work great blocks of time – sometimes 10 days in a row and not feel fatigued. I had no debt or loans at the time. By the time I reached my 30s, the hours were fewer, but if need be (for extra cash, a quick trip to Bali!), I could muster up the energy and pull off another 10-day cycle.

Now, lately, as I was passing the 40-year mark, two 12-hour shifts were enough for me. Shifts during the week had to be broken up. No longer were 5 or 6 days in a row possible. I came home, collapsing after a long night. What was wrong with me? Was I really getting old? Or was nursing becoming so difficult that it was leading to fatigue - mentally, physically and emotionally, wearing us all out? Was this a sign of the times? No wonder, my best friend Laurel, in her late 40s, was counting down to retirement at age 55! No buts, ands, or ifs!

How are you coping with long work hours as you get older?

A Wake-up Call For Nurses: Sleep Loss, Safety, and Health

Societal and Workplace Consequences of Insomnia, Sleepiness, and Fatigue

November 20, 2007 in Beka | Permalink


I am trying not to hate my job but it has gotten to where the job thinks it owns me. I want to quit nursing butI don't know how to do anything else. I am so tired. Help~!!!

Posted by: Linda | Oct 17, 2011 2:45:23 PM

Using the services of an experienced personal injury claims solicitor when making a workplace accidents compensation claim will not only ensure that you receive the maximum possible award of workplace accidents compensation, but will also eliminate the potential for an awkward workplace confrontation when you return to work after recovering from your injuries.

Posted by: workplace accidents | Apr 7, 2011 5:52:22 AM

Nursing Assistants work hard to do an effective job of meeting the needs of consumers. Complaints will continue to be file as long as Nursing Assistants maintain such high workloads. With the demand of this field continuing to grow, it is not likely that the workloads will get anything but larger over time.
nursing careers

Posted by: rashmi | Dec 27, 2010 2:16:21 AM

This sounds all too familiar! I've recently moved to another state at age 59. I'm in no way ready to retire from my nursing and education jobs I've held before my move. Call me naive, but I never anticipated that I would have a very difficult time getting a job in healthcare. I can't even remember how many jobs I've applied too and contacted via email that other "better qualified" candidates were being considered. Never even got an interview! So, I question now that if the better qualified candidates are young nurses in their 20's. Never thought I'd think along those lines until now. So, still looking for a job...I believe I have alot to offer with 30+ years nursing experience. In the meantime,I continue to fill out on-line applications hoping that some facility will recognize a solid and dedicated nursing career.

Posted by: Rose | Feb 21, 2010 6:34:07 PM

WOW-- I am a 55 year old male LPN. I work LTC and SubAcute only because my corporate career as a multi-media specialist disappeared about 6 years ago. I have a masters degree in Training and Development with 17 years experience-- but again that all ended. I had 500K retirement in pension that was ripped off leaving me with nothing at this age too. I was first an Aide in the 1970s-- then an LPN through the '80s. In 2002 I got my LPN Licence back because I was unemployed for over a year. So I have been doing pt time LTC work ever since. And Nursing is more demanding than it was in the 1980s by far.
More small tasks to do and more documentation and lot more customer service. And Corporate just walks all over the advanced practice nurses and Nursing Directors-. It freaks me out to work the floor in the SubAcute NOCs with 27 patients, One LPN and one Aide. Corporate says it cannot do any better on staffing due to budget constraints- This is all related to the healthcare crisis- Wnen I get the guts, I am going to quit being an LPN, get a truck and trailer and become a contractor or handiman or something. As a nurse I get hit, assulted by patient families, spit on-- exposed to dangerous, and potential law suits---then in trouble with management over not being able to keep up with the work loads.

Posted by: Steve | Aug 7, 2009 12:20:30 PM

I loved this web site. I too am in the fifties (54 this month) and I am in the masters in nursing program. I was starting to get less motivated and was wondering if someone would hire me when I completed my degree...would I be too old?

Posted by: Deborah | Aug 3, 2008 10:00:54 PM

For experienced RNs tired of the physical and emotional drain associated with bedside nursing and long hours at the hospital, the position of Clinical Coordinator at American Traveler may be the ideal change of venue. It’s an opportunity to continue utilizing your clinical skills and education but in an office environment with a team of staffing professionals.

“I worked as a nurse on the floor for over 11 years then moved up to management where I was on call 24/7, 365 days a year. I got to the point where I could no longer tolerate the physical and emotional demands of the job.” -- Deb Bacurin, RN

Deb Bacurin, RN said she took the job of Clinical Coordinator at American Traveler to improve her quality of life and spend more time with family and friends. She says her new found career as a clinical staffing advisor brings her immense satisfaction and was the perfect opportunity to put an end to the stress and strain of bedside nursing.

Travel nurse writer

Posted by: American Traveler | Feb 14, 2008 8:38:46 PM

I am 53 years old. Is it too late for me? the hospitals are being flooded with younger applicants. I've always wanted to do this and this is my only shot, but if I can't get a job, what's the use in continuing my 3 year long schooling?

Posted by: michelle | Feb 4, 2008 2:06:24 PM

am having difficutly deciding whether it's worth it to go to nursing school. I am 53 and already have a BS degree in business. I just recently became an EMT and have started A&P1, which I love. I've called the HR dept at a couple of hospitals who said the nursing field is becoming flooded with applicants. They are looking heavily at GPA's and taking only the best students. I'm looking into accelerated BSN programs, but this will still take me 3 years to totally complete. At 56 years old, I'm worried I won't be able to find a job. I have a great amount of energy, and look in my late 30's. Please give me advice!

Posted by: michelle | Feb 4, 2008 2:03:52 PM

I have been in the medical field for 22 years. I did not become an LPN until my mid 30s. I have a host of medical problems including fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease, many tendionitis problems (tendons can shorten with Fibromy) and more. I work at a long term facility where the majority of the staff takes 6 to 8 smoke breaks in 12 hrs and thinks this is a "necessity" I see a growing tread of non-caring and poor work ethics with the young nurses esp those in their 20s. When I was growing up in the 60s...hard work and conscientiousness was instilled into kids both from teachers, parents and society. I dread the thought of thinking I might one day be in a hospital bed or nursing home and have someone "who doesnt give a flip~~except to get a paycheck" take care of me!! I have pain issues every day~~but I am come in to work each week as scheduled and dont complain about every little thing. Theres a nursing shortage now...it will only get worst for us born in the Baby Boomer period between 1946 and 1964.

Posted by: CJ | Dec 19, 2007 8:02:28 PM

I am aproaching 64, have a large family I care for and work full time. I have experienced and worked at many different facets of nursing and have a PhD in Life. Like Charlotte and several of the other nurses, I have experienced many injuries on the job and via auto and sports accidents. I have a large medial herniated disc at L4-5-S1, spinal stenosis, neurogenic claudication, severe advanced OA in the lumbar and cervical spine, nerve compression at L4-5-S1 and again severe OA with nerve impingement at C6-7. My hands are full of OA in the DIP joints from unending charting, form completion, hands in and out of hot and cold water and now poorer vision from long long hours of working on the computer doing reports and ministry required date. I also fell onto my knees, crashing on a soapy floor at work destroying the meniscus and the result is the requirement of bilateral knee replacements. Still I go on as I need and like to work and do not limp around the bhospital seeking attention. I am a dedicated Health Care Professional and care for the patients as do many other nurses. I find the problems at work, is the cheekiness of the younger nurses, RPN's and in particular Nurse Practitioners who write riciculous time consuming orders for common nursing measures we would implement anyway, and we find we spend hours reorganizing and searching for lab and other reports because they are so disorganized and manage to misplace data but so adeptly deny the same. My pet peeves are nurses worrying when their next break or free meal happens, taking huge liberties and going for a cigarette break every 30 minutes and the worst of all is the vile gossiping and back biting which has caused great injury to their co-workers. I too am very tired of the inflated egos of full time, temporary and unmannerly shift nurses who have no clue and are constantly going on about their sick social lives, nurses who bring leud and disgusting comments into a conversation, are discheveled and physically unkept and then there are the nurses who sell sexual paraphenelia at work, ones that talk just to hear themselves, create unnecessary noise, and disruption especially in the nursing station when they are supposed to be working, and then running to HR if you tell them to clean up their mouths, move on and return to the reason they are being paid. More irritants are Supervisors who repeatedly fail to make cruical decisions lest they make the wrong one and have to atone for mistakes. They would rather leave you in the lurch and make the call. If its a good decision they smile, and if its not so good they run for the hills. I have revisited my self and attitude over and over again and refuse to take anti-depressants so I can tolerate the ones I call "Idiots." A lot of the nurses coming out of school now are unbelievably uneducated and lack even the basic tenets of common sense and very often lie about completing essential tasks at work. I fear for the day I might need to rely on the expertise that they lack. I pride myself on my clearness of mind and stamina despite my physical pain. I still swim daily and walk about 5 to 6 km daily and despite my physical issues I keep up with the best of them. I intend to continue working as long as the Good Lord allows and I will have the common sense to say when it's time to stop. Despite all of the aforementioned I still love my life and what I have chosen as a career and get really excited when I encounter another dedicated professional. For the present I will keep on keeping on, loving and laughing with the hope I can influence a few more "nurses" to be exactly that "Nurses."

Posted by: Sally | Dec 12, 2007 9:40:49 PM

I'm 53, and I went back to hospital nursing after 10 yrs of home care. The 12 hr shifts were ok at first but as time (a year) went on I felt dragged and worn. I am working 32 hrs a week and that is plenty. I work on a surgical onc floor , it is very busy, and physically taxing. I miss home care terribly but the pay just doesnt measure up to the hospital. The younger nurses have more energy but a string of 12's still kick the wind out of their sails too. I feel bad for the nurse who wrote about tiring of working w/ gossips and can't see a way out. Let me tell you, there are many many great nursing jobs out there. Don't feel for one min that there is no way out. when I returned to my home state , I had accepted a job at the University, but had at least 5 other offers to decide on in the month before I started at the Uni. Truth be told, I stayed w/ the best benes and pay. Now I am rethinking if its worth it anymore. I'm so tired working the nites. I'm working on some other things at the uni so I wont have to do floor work.

Posted by: Marci | Dec 12, 2007 8:14:11 PM

I am a non-traditional student just graduating with a BSN at the age of 46. So, I'm new blood and old blood at the same time! I have already applied to a DNP program because I know the demands of floor nursing will be significant. So I agree that reinventing oneself is important - I'm doing it back to back! One area not mentioned yet though requires no further education at all - telehealth call centers such as the one the VA operates for veterans. Also, insurance companies hire nurses for follow-up to ensure positive patient incomes. So don't think you have to go back to school to still do something you love...

Posted by: Jann | Dec 12, 2007 1:12:35 AM

I agree with everything you have said. I am pushing 50 and was a late starter in nursing. I'm already tired and am working on an MSN in administration and education. My body cannot keep up with the pace. I am generally very fit and healthy but I feel like my life is being drained away.....

Posted by: Kristine | Dec 9, 2007 7:11:35 PM

Tiredness is falling asleep at the wheel on a 45 minute drive home after 10 hours in aged care.All nurses are 45++ where I work.No one younger wants to work harder than acute care, so aged care will be lacking in trained staff in 10-15 years. What can we nurses do to encourage youger persons to take up the proffession? Then us oldies will not have to work so hard. Comments of an Australian R.G.N.

Posted by: mary | Dec 7, 2007 2:20:16 AM

I worked 17 years as an RN on an orthopedic floor (and many years as an NA prior to that). During that time my fellow RNs and I went through innumerable work "restructures" that were based on some hospital- hired consultant's idea of how we should be doing our jobs. Each restructure took us further and further away from what many of us felt was our true calling: professional, empathetic patient-focused care. New technology, more and more paper work, sicker patients, shorter patient stays, and ridiculous staff ratios made the workload seem overwhelming. For these and other reasons I often found myself frustrated and beyond angry. What was once a job, a profession that I absolutely loved had become an anchor dragging me into the pits of depression, causing physical pain that most days had me taking pain medication, and affecting every aspect of my life. I got out. I took a year off and now work as a Nurse Evaluator II for the State of California. I took a $1500 a month pay cut but the benefits are better, I work four-10 hour shifts a week, get thirteen paid holidays a year, I get to travel throughout the state, and the stress is little to none. I miss the "idea" of nursing, nursing as it was when I first became an RN......but I now have my life back.

Posted by: Katherine | Dec 5, 2007 12:22:51 PM

I too feel exhausted after a 12 hour shift, spent on either an ortho-trauma floor or a hem-onc floor. I usually have five patients. The amount of running back and forth and all the other work involved sometimes verges on the ridiculous. The aides are frequently not to be found, ending up with the RN doing a lot of getting of ice, water, towels, and changing incontinent patients. This problem is one of the main sources of fatigue for me. I find that frequently aides have an attitude that we act like we are "too good" for these types of tasks - but the truth is, I mostly just don't have time and doing all this extra work is taking away from critical thinking time, etc - the things we went to school for. I am going for my masters to get out of the heavy labor, because I don't think I can do this much longer. Either that or go back to psych nursing, where it is much less physical.

Posted by: Ildiko | Dec 3, 2007 5:43:49 PM

What I find to be most frightening is that most of us in the current nursing force are over age 40; some closing in on retirement years; are suffering from mental and physical fatigue, unrecognized by Upper Management- AND in 10 years, most of us will be truly retired at that point.

What will happen to our patients then ? To the Healthcare system at that point ? Will it crumble ?


Posted by: beka | Nov 30, 2007 5:34:43 PM

yes it's all so true, as I recall the last few days of my bedside nursing career. "This is a young woman's job" I said , to no one in particular, as the 12 hour shifts often stretched into 14 and 15 hours, trying to manage the constant traffic on the busy trauma/ortho unit.An offduty accident resulted in an addiction to pain killers which then led to sudden (involuntary) removal from my duties. This all occurred several years ago. What do I say about this today? THANK HEAVEN!!!The situation forced this old RN into a new field(Case Management) and into a career I truly love. The problem? I worry about the state of the staff I left behind and the weary masses in hospitals everywhere. Meanwhile, upper management spends millions on "charm schools" in an attempt to get sales-like ratings improvements, and "excellent care" votes on all surveys. Rotsa ruck!I really worry about the state of American healthcare. I really do...

Posted by: Norma | Nov 30, 2007 4:38:28 PM

I am tired of working with people who are more interested in their next cigarette break than answering the call bell of their patient. I am tired of the inflated egos of temporary charge nurses who have no clue and are constantly droaning on about their social life. I am here to work, to care for the patients who depend on us to notice if they are ready to code, not to stand around gossiping and blaming the patients for being sick.

Posted by: | Nov 29, 2007 5:00:18 AM

After 25 years of bedside nursing I gave up the long shifts and on-call hours and retrained as a primary care NP. I still get stiff and sore, but for now as a 56 year old I enjoy the care coordination challenges even though the physical lifting is less.

Posted by: Mike | Nov 28, 2007 5:31:11 PM

Thank you I am 57 have been in management last 15 years. I am also tired.I have arithitis in my spine neuropathy of hands and feet and a profound hearing loss. I was wondering am I alone ? I have cared for patients 30 years and cannot find a way out. I work 12 hours on the weekend and can hardly walk Sunday night.I donot want to reinvent myself I want out. Staff are not as they once were, now we owe them something.

Posted by: Dennise | Nov 27, 2007 8:56:18 PM

Reading the blog, and comment about tired nurses sounded SO familiar. I work with many "older" nurses. I am pushing 50, and am quickly trying to find another way to make my living. I also feel spent after even one - two 12 hour shifts, and have wondered, "Is it me?" I suppose to some degee my fatigue is age related. I also believe that as patients, and care regimens become increasingly complex, that contributes heavily to the mental fatigue that is just as debilitating as the physical feelings of being "worn out." I have also noticed that after years of fighting back the fatigue, that I no longer respond normally to my body's signals for rest. I find that I tend to ignore them, and only later when wracked with more emotionalism than is my norm, do I recognize that it is time to get some rest. God Bless.

Posted by: Elizabeth | Nov 27, 2007 7:35:23 PM

There is a whole world of nursing outside the ICU and hospital. The intensely physical work required of nurses in ICU and even Med/Surg became too much for this old gal by age 50 years. I experienced many injuries on the job: three herniated discs from that combative head trauma patient, bilateral carpal tunnel from lifting and pulling patients and endless handwritten documentation and hours of data entry into the computer. Then I fell onto my left arm, resulting in six surgeries in 10 years. I got a disability rating and a small settlement, but not enough to live on so I reinvented myself into a Case Manager and marketed myself as a consultant until I found my way into a new career, working in a outpatient clinic for mentally ill for the state. Am I happy? You bet!!! I am working Monday to Friday, bankers hours and make a decent living helping people who actually appreciate what we do. Did I mention how wonderful the doctor, therapists and other nurses are to work with?

Posted by: Charlotte | Nov 20, 2007 3:50:05 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.