How Nurses Can Work Longer and Why


You may be saying to yourself, why would I want to work longer? You may say that now, but you may say something different five years from now. What if you need the money, what if you are working a job you love, what if you have truly found your purpose in nursing? What if you need something to do to keep from being bored and want to be compensated well for your time? Many nurses do not think about retirement until the last ten years of their career. Sometimes health crises can sneak up on you unexpectedly.

Many people think we are living longer and longer so advances in science will rescue us from our lack of self-care earlier in life. This is no longer the case, for the last few years, our life expectancy has been slightly declining. So, do not put all your hope in the advance of science. Although, through science, we are learning more about what is indicative of longer life and how to predict it.

Have you heard about the telomere effect? Telomeres are tiny proteins on our DNA. Longer telomeres are associated with a longer lifespan. Shorter ones are associated with reduced lifespan and a great prevalence of many of the chronic diseases you see in your patients. So, if you want to live longer, you want longer telomeres. Easier said than done, but it is possible through your actions to lengthen your telomeres. I recommend this book to learn more about telomeres and a longer healthier life.

I see many of my fellow nurses having health problems that are holding them back in their 50s & 60s and sometimes their 40s. This does not have to be your destiny. I am confident you can extend your career another decade if you choose or you can retire and have another decade of quality living. Either way, you are empowered if you are engaged in your health. Make sure you read my articles on Self-Care Part 1 and Part 2 to start taking action today.

As a nurse, you are very busy with career demands, family demands, and general life demands. In this article I want you to be aware that your actions today do affect your long-term health and the amount of time your body will hang in there for you and not hold you back from your best work.

One of the best ways to ensure you get a great financial return on all those years of nursing is by living longer. Think about it, most of you will have some kind of pension and when you pass away so does your pension and social security benefits to some extent. If you can collect on your pension for another five to ten years, think about the financial return on investing in your health not to mention the quality of life and priceless ability to enjoy life and your loved ones for longer.

When people get close to death who have taken great care of themselves, they have a quick decline to death, not this slow, gradual decline over ten years that we see in the chronically ill patients we serve who have multiple preventable disease processes.  Yet when they are discharged, for the most part, they are back to living a lifestyle that advances their disease processes.  Nurses do this by the way as well.

As nurses, our foundation is to look at the whole person, not individual parts as medicine teaches today. Nurses have also gotten caught up in the culture today, and I see many of my colleagues struggling with the same lifestyle and habits as the patients we serve.

I often hear patients say they have no control over how long they will live or the quality of their lives as they get older. I disagree with this myth and thought process. Are there factors out of our control that determine this? Absolutely! I believe there is more in your control than you think. Let me explain my perspective on this issue.

I have seen where a person’s environment, lifestyle choices, behavior, and attitude affect their health and outcomes. You do have control over your destiny. I believe you can have an impact on the quality of your life in your last days more so than extending your years. I have seen so many patients who spend their last decade of life in and out of hospitals and doctor’s office and spend much of their time and hard-earned money in the health care system instead of enjoying their lives and family. This does not have to be your last decade or two. You can work many years after your colleagues if you choose and your health does not have to hold you back from doing so.

There is also value in continuing to work. Many nurses (me included in the past) want to get to where they can comfortably retire one day and not have to put up with the hustle and bustle of direct patient care. However, I think you would see a sharp decline in the health of most of the nurses who leave nursing. Instead, work on finding an area of nursing or healthcare for that matter that you want to serve. Are there problems and frustrations in the system that you want to change or improve? If so, I am right there with you on that one. 

If you have the money, then that will give you options and flexibility with your time. You are no longer forced to choose the job that pays the most and may be more stressful. Also, the movement you get from a nursing job helps with your exercise. The interaction you get from coworkers, patients and other professionals will fill your social interaction tank. We need movement, purpose, and interaction with others. Your nursing career can continue to provide that if you will get informed with the correct information and take action. Your actions may not always work, but you keep trying. There are so many tools and resources for you to take control of your health. Use these tools and resources before you have to use pharmaceuticals or surgery which carry much more risk than what you can do yourself.

Let me know what you are doing to ensure your body will allow you to work as long as you want to and enjoy your life to fullest however you choose to spend it?  Also, I want to hear how you are taking care of your body and improving your health. Please let me know in the comments below so I can learn from you and others can as well.

Keep an eye on the blog for some future article to help you keep and improve your health over the holidays and into the new year. Also, I will be writing about how I am optimizing my health. Stay tuned; I have a lot planned so 2019 can be your healthiest year ever.

To your health!

Nurse Brian