Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association

An ageing nursing workforce

Elizabeth M. Graham A and Christine Duffield A B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Centre for Health Services Management, University of Technology, PO Box 123, Broadway, Sydney, NSW 2007, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Health Review 34(1) 44-48
Submitted: 27 August 2008  Accepted: 29 July 2009   Published: 25 March 2010


There are well documented workforce shortages in nursing. Many strategies have been suggested to resolve the issue, including increasing migration or training places, changing skill mix or nurses’ roles, redesigning nursing work, and greater use of unregulated or unlicensed workers. One of the contributing and growing factors is the ageing of the workforce, but methods of retaining older employees have been given very little attention.

This paper examines the impact of ageing on individuals, the ageing nursing workforce and the implications for government policy given its current status.

What is known about the topic? A generation of ‘baby boomer’ nurses are reaching retirement age. The nursing workforce is in crisis due to there being less entrants to the workforce as a result of lower birth rates, wider choices of career, and nurses leaving the profession for less stressful, more satisfying jobs.

What does this paper add? This paper outlines the necessity for the employment of retention strategies for older nurses in the workforce. It dispels myths about the functional capabilities of ageing nurses.

What are the implications for practitioners? Health managers should canvass ageing nurses to discover strategies that would encourage them to extend their working life. Only then could it become feasible to plan practical solutions to ease the global nursing shortage.


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