Nurse Leaders are the Key to Our Looming Workforce Dilemma

Monday, 22 July 2013: 1:30 PM

Catriona Anne Booker, PhD, RN, RM, BN, MNurs
Workforce Development & Education Unit, Centre for Clinical Nursing, Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Learning Objective 1: Identify leadership traits which influence workforce retention and

Learning Objective 2: Describe leadership strategies to support retention


 As healthcare faces a critical shortage of qualified nursing staff, this ageing workforce is further challenged as the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation prepares for retirement. While current retention strategies are focused on recruitment, little is known about end of career nurses’ (EOCNs’) retirement decisions.

 This Australian study explored factors that influence EOCNs’ decisions regarding their workforce participation, and identified leadership as a key factor which influenced their decision.


 A mixed method case study methodology was used to explore EOCN’s perceptions concerning their workforce participation. Data were collected from 218 participants (Registered Nurses aged 45 years and over) through surveys, focus groups and in-depth semi-structured interviews.


 The study identified the pivotal role that leaders play in the development of a shared and nurturing workplace culture which considers the work satisfaction and personal recognition of staff. However, in the absence of leadership support, staff found personal and professional friendships a strong motivator to remain in the organisation. Effort and reward balance was a critical aspect in work satisfaction which leaders could influence to optimise staff satisfaction. This study highlights the complexities of effort and reward factors which leaders should honour in order to optimise a balance between effort and reward.


Contributions to practice illuminate the commitment of the experienced nurse to support their colleagues in a shared learning culture. However the work environment compromised health and wellbeing of staff due to physical conditions such as heavy workloads. This situation highlights the implications for leaders in the review of work practices and job design to promote a safe and healthy workplace.

 Finally, there was an identified lack of organisational policy sensitive to the older worker. Leaders are well positioned to support an age sensitive culture, provide opportunities for pre-retirement planning and foster a safe and healthy environment.