Career advice

How to stay enthusiastic after years of nursing

Nursing in your 40s, 50s and beyond is difficult if you don’t feel valued. Here’s how to sustain your enthusiasm and make maturity an advantage.

Nursing in your 40s, 50s and beyond is difficult if you don’t feel valued. Here’s how to sustain your enthusiasm and make maturity an advantage

If you have been nursing for some time you may be used to change, but that
may not make it easier. Picture: Alamy

Nursing teams are usually made up of a broad range of knowledge, skills and cultures. Experience only comes with time, and though we are becoming more aware of the need to respect diversity, ongoing misconceptions surrounding ageing can make working as a mature nurse challenging.

If you have been nursing for some time, ‘change’ may feel like your middle name. Yet this doesn’t mean it comes easily. In fact, keeping up with clinical and administrative advances can be exhausting, and you may find yourself reflecting on the past and thinking that nursing seemed simpler then. This can leave you feeling disheartened or burnt out.

Boost confidence 

If you are surrounded by younger staff with long lists of qualifications, it can also be difficult to avoid the comparison trap, thinking that every nurse you come across is brighter and more able than you are. If this sounds familiar, you need to find ways to boost your confidence so you can believe in your ability to offer patients and colleagues your care, wisdom and compassion.

Healthcare will continue to evolve and challenge you, so balance this with the knowledge that you can overcome the hurdles and use your age as an advantage rather than a hindrance.

Tips for staying enthusiastic at work 

  • Remain inquisitive: Sometimes attending yet another training day can feel like a chore. So try to think of what you feel passionate about, such as an aspect of your clinical speciality or any softer skills you value, and look for formal or informal learning opportunities that you might enjoy. Keeping an open and inquisitive mind can help to keep you motivated.
  • Stretch yourself: It can be easy to get stuck in a rut, so try to take on something new every now and then. For example, speaking at a conference or writing a paper for a nursing journal. The size of the challenge isn’t important, as long as you step outside your comfort zone. Facing your fears can be liberating.
  • Share your experiences: No nurse was born with the ability to take charge of a ward or break bad news. Though you may look at younger colleagues and think they pick up new skills or technology quickly, they may also be wondering how on earth they will ever know as much as you do. Try to be as open and honest as you can, sharing experiences and vulnerabilities. Showing that you don’t know everything can help to break down any barriers that age may seem to form.
  • Listen to your body: You have been around long enough to realise that you won’t get rewarded for being a martyr. So watch your energy levels and look after yourself. If long shifts are taking their toll, see if there is a flexible option. You won’t ever feel valued if you don’t value yourself.

Mandy Day-Calder is a freelance writer and life/health coach

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