How Difficult is Finding a Nurse Practitioner Job Over 50?

A reader recently asked me to address attitudes of employers toward nurse practitioners over 50. This is a topic I have frequently mulled over myself in helping NPs find jobs, particularly after seeing one recruiting firm note specifically on its website that it 'does not work with healthcare providers with more than 20 years experience'. One would think that in the world of medicine and nursing it would seem that more is better when it comes to experience. But, it certainly seems there is a 'sweet spot' where NPs are most employable. What does the job market look like for nurse practitioners over 50?

Just like employers are not allowed to discriminate based on race or gender in considering applicants for open positions, age discrimination is also a no-no. But, as we all know far too well, ageing is an obvious process and not easily masked. Unless an employer specifically states you are not a candidate for the job based on your age, ageism is nearly impossible to prove. So, for nurse practitioners, age can be a consideration in the job search process.

The Nursing Numbers

Overall, the nursing workforce is, shall we call it 'experienced', with a quarter of nurses over 50 years old. Prior to the 2008 recession, 73,000 nurses left the workforce each year, often as a result of burnout or retirement, leaving room for younger nurses to take over. But, given the stability of the nursing profession and the country's recent economic hardships, the rate of older RNs moving on has flat lined. As a result there are currently about 900,000 nurses over the age of 50 in the U.S. 

Nurse practitioner demographics paint a similar picture. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, the average age of nurse practitioners in the U.S. is 49 years. In some specialties, the average age is decidedly over 50. Psychiatric nurse practitioners, on average are 54 years of age while gerontology nurse practitioners (ironically) average 53 years of age. 

Employer Attitudes Toward Seasoned Workers

The are undoubtedly advantages and disadvantages for employers when it comes to hiring older nurse practitioners. Younger applicants, for example, tend to be more tech savvy. This is important in the days of electronic medical records. For professions requiring physical exertion, such as that of nursing, younger workers may be better equip physically handle the responsibilities of the job. Older, more experienced workers on the other hand have wisdom and technical knowledge often acquired only after years of experience. 

The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College took a look at attitudes toward older workers by surveying more than 400 employers. According to the survey, very few employers rated older workers as 'less productive' than their younger counterparts with most saying older professionals are 'more productive'. Experience and ability to interact with customers were also cited by employers as benefits of hiring more seasoned employees. On the downside, older nurse practitioners are more expensive to employ. Experience demands higher salaries and incentives like health insurance can up the overall cost of an employment package. Overall, two-thirds of employers surveyed said an older employee prospect is neither more or less attractive than someone younger. 

Job Market Outlook for 50-Somethings

Employer attitudes toward hiring nurse practitioners are relatively neutral according to surveys and national statistics on employment show a similar picture. The unemployment rate among workers over 55 is lower than that of their younger counterparts. Labor force participation among older employees has also been on the rise since the 1990's. Older employees who lose or leave a job, however, do have more difficulty reentering the workforce than those less experienced. So, nurse practitioners looking to get hired rather than simply keep their current position may encounter some difficulty. 

In Practice

As a nurse practitioner myself and in working with nurse practitioners looking for jobs, I do notice a bit of a stigma toward older nurses and NPs in some settings. There seems to be a belief that older nurses are 'stuck in their ways' or less moldable when it comes to training to do a job a certain way. While this is certainly a misconception in most cases, it can work against older nurse practitioners looking for work. This is particularly true for new grad nurse practitioners with extensive nursing experience. 

Statistics and polls favor a positive employment outlook for nurse practitioners over 50. Experienced nurses and NPs have a wealth of knowledge to fall back on, a valuable asset to employers. Experience, however can't be a nurse practitioner's only asset in a job search. Older NPs must still skillfully market themselves to employers with well-written resumes and impressive interviews to land jobs. 

How have you perceived employer attitudes toward nurse practitioners over 50?

 

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Comments

Curious as to what recruiting firm noted on its website that it doesn't work with HCPs with more than 20 years experience.

Faith

I too have found it difficult to find a job after the age of 50, I wish I had never gone back for my NP took out many loans and made more money as a RN and had more autonomy!! I live in the NC area and have been turned down for jobs d/t lack of NP experience yet I noted they had hired a new NP., sigh......

Charlene

I am a new NP and 48 years old. I have 12 years experience in nursing. It has been difficult for all of my class mates to find work, young or older. I look very young (get guessed 30-35 years old) which helps. I have had a few offers and am finalizing a contract now. In my area it is kind of who you know that helps in finding a position.

Nichole

I am over 50 and had 18 years as a critical care nurse before graduating as a ACNP. I had offers immediately and went to work out west where the scope of practice is much broader. However, when I returned to the south, the scope of practice diminished, as expected and the attitudes toward older workers did as well. It took me a lot longer to find a job and I was very experienced. I found that physicians out west worked until they were older and the physicians in the East commented how they wanted to retire in their late 50s. So if you want a job with more autonomy and want/need to work in your later years, go west.

Barbara

This article scares me as I just graduated as FNP at the age of 55. I have applied to several places over the last few weeks and have had zero calls. Without stating my age, my 30+ years of nursing experience probably gives it away on my resume. Sure hope something comes up soon

Mary M Bixler

What states are you in? I too am older and have tried to make sure I do not look it. I found it impossible to find a job with No NP experience and without the "right" experience. I have only been able to find employment doing Wellness visits as an AGNP. I do have some autonomy but not able to do my full scope of practice. Also I have to have the collaborating doc but they are hired by the company. I find that applications ask "date of birth" which is against the law, and if not given, the employer will likely wonder why. I also have loans that I cannot pay back by working which was my idea if I cannot get hired in a position that will allow that, so it was a useless track of education. It shouldn't be, but the hiring is not up to me. The author stated that age can't be hidden, but neither can race or some other Federally protected groups like gender etc. so it isn't just appearance alone. It is age and the misconceptions. I am tired of hearing that everyone has the chance t work and succeed" when I am having the difficulty I am. It is so frustrating to be so able but have no control over being able to get hired. I am in NC which is about to cut our legs off even more by preventing us from prescribing narcotics without checking with the doc first. What states are more fair to us who are great at what we do and what we can provide but are not 20-40? I was told by Employment Security that I was going to have to "dumb myself down" to get hired! since I published an article! Why? I'm tired of this!!!

Phoebe

I am 61 and just changed jobs and have other offers. I never have a poblem getting employed and have been a NP for 12 years and in nursing since 1982.

Janet

What happened to age discrimination?

Sandra Greene

I did not realize that my age is the reason why I have no steady job almost two years post graduation. I truly did not think of age when I graduated in my early 60's. what difference does it make? I truly regret going back to school, accumulating debt with no steady job to pay it back and live in a state that requires collaborating physician. None of 20 physicians will collaborate with me to do simple botox in which I am certified to do. I have given up.

Jenny

I just graduated with my AGNP last MAy at 51. 20 years of nursing experience. No problem finding my dream job. Good luck, and it’s never too late.

Tammy

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