Retired clinicians tapped to fill staffing gaps, mentor younger employees


Even after just a few years, clinicians may be reentering a dramatically different work environment.

The rapid acceleration of technology can present a barrier, especially for those in older generations. Early on, Dewey said the Bayhealth team realized it needed to improve its computer documentation system training course to accommodate returning clinicians, giving them extra practice sessions and time learning their way around a simulation of the system’s electronic health record.

The health system often pairs former retirees with a nurse who can take care of charting and documentation while they tackle other tasks and hands-on care measures.

Dewey said there hasn’t been much of a so-called culture clash between retirees and other nurses. Instead, Bayhealth gives the returned clinicians the opportunity to share their experience from decades on the job and give feedback on areas of operation that need to be tweaked to improve workflows. The health system also allows retired nurses to propose reintroducing processes that have fallen out of practice.

“Each generation brings something to the forefront,” Dewey said. “My favorite thing about the baby boomers is they are workhorses. They are ride or die. The millennials and the Gen Z [workers] are super good with computers and all that technical stuff. So they play off of each other a little bit.”

Dewey said it’s important to consider whether older nurses can keep up physically due to all the walking involved at larger hospitals, and whether the expectations of the new role are realistic.

“The other thing that we had to get creative about was work hours,” she said. “Typically nurses work 12-hour shifts, and that’s not very appealing to nurses coming out of retirement.”

The system implemented four- to-six-hour shifts for formerly retired nurses, scheduling them during peak busy periods.

Most returning clinicians at Bayhealth choose to enter areas of medical surgery or non-critical care, although some have felt comfortable enough to work in the intensive care unit.

“You have to sit down and have a conversation [with them] about what they feel like their strengths are,” Dewey said. “Maybe you use them to do the admission assessment or to help with [your] new graduate nurses that [you are] trying to hire. [Maybe you] use them in skill labs, or with simple things like catheter insertions and nasal or gastric tubes.”

As with other clinicians, retention of returning healthcare professionals requires a strong relationship and robust communication, said Alana King, senior recruiter with Bayhealth’s talent acquisition team.

“If you can implement their expertise into a position where they are best utilized, it’s a win-win,” she said. “They’re gonna be happy and more likely to … stay, and maybe increase their hours, if they want to work for us.”


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