Nursing Retirements Have Critical Implications
by, 06-14-2010 at 03:37 PM (3923 Views)
An article in the today’s Washington Post, written by Darryl Fears, states, “Health-care economists and other experts say retirements in that group [nurses] over the next 10 to 15 years will greatly weaken the health-care workforce...” I am glad to see more attention being paid to the implications of losing our most experienced nurses.
Several years ago, I heard David DeLong, an expert on the aging workforce; speak about the notion of lost knowledge. He remarked that as highly experienced workers retire, companies lose critical information that resides deep within their minds. This concept resonated with me and I set out to learn how it applied to the aging nursing workforce.
Dr. Patricia Benner’s work informs us that experiential learning is a requisite for the development of expert nurses. As nurses transition from novice to expert they develop clinical judgment, which can only be acquired through experiential learning. When the nursing workforce experiences massive retirements, we will lose years of wisdom that is critical to reducing medical errors and preventing catastrophic events. The key to success lies in being able to capture and transfer experiential knowledge from our seasoned workforce to novice nurses.
I have spent the last several years talking with healthcare groups about this looming problem and identifying tools that will help us address this issue and improve workforce practices. In addition to complex knowledge management programs, there are simple tools we can incorporate such as developing a storytelling program or clinical narratives to pass on critical knowledge or incorporating critical knowledge into pre-retirement mentoring programs. But the point is – we have to start now.