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Staffing solution: bring nurses out of retirement.

Sometimes the best answers are the most obvious ones. If someone were to tell the average nursing home administrator that there is a pool of 186,000 nurses out there, many of them willing to work in nursing homes, he or she would probably conclude that the days of staff shortages were just about over. It would be just a matter of figuring out how to hire them.

Incredibly, though, it has been only within the past year-and-a-half that an organization has made a concerted effort to do just that. The Hillhaven Foundation, with a grant from the Retirement Foundation of Park Ridge, IL, kicked off its Project ONE-AGE. That's an acronym, and spelling it out pretty much describes the program: Older Nurses Enthusiastic About Geriatric Employment. The focus in on encouraging retired nurses to rejoin the work force, specifically in long-term care. ONE-AGE has started small; of the 27,000 retired nurses residing in Illinois, the project has selected 20, just to see how it will work out.

Nancy E. Hinkley, Ed.D., president of the Hillhaven Foundation, credits long-time gerontological nurse Mary Nagy, M.S., R.N., with the thus far successful recruitment and retention. "She is well-respected throughout Illinois for the work she has done, and she has provided these returning nurses with all the assistance they need."

"These are nurses," Nagy explains, "who has been out of nursing for 10 or 20 years or more who, for various reasons, wanted to get back into the work force."

The process generated some human interest stories for the 1990s. For example, there's Cathy Reznicek, R.N., who after years as a nurse in a hospital medical-surgical ward, got a little on-the-job training in long-term care, though she didn't see it that way at the time. She was obliged to leave nursing to care for her sick mother at home. "After that," she says, "working in a nursing home, with all the support available here, isn't difficult at all."

It also compares favorably, she observes, with the "high-tech" hospital care so prevalent today. "There just isn't the stress that you have in that environment these days." Ms. Reznicek points to a practical advantage, as well. She is able to work part-time as a night nurse, and appreciates that flexibility. "Let's be honest, the nursing home is happy to offer this to me because they don't have to pay twice as much for an agency nurse."

From the standpoint of Linda Singer, administrator at the 217-bed Alden Nursing and Rehabilitation Center near Chicago, "Many nursing homes are offering part-time opportunities now, and this works out well for these nurses and for the nursing homes. The important thing is that they take refresher courses because residents are needing more and more skilled and acute care. Nurses who do this will be very welcome in many nursing facilities, I'm sure. I know that we're ready for more of them."
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Author:Peck, Richard L.
Publication:Nursing Homes
Date:Mar 1, 1992
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