Editor's Page: Graying of the Surgical Workforce


Why are so many OR nurses and managers delaying their retirement?

Joy Schmuckal, LPN, CST STRONG AT 70 Joy Schmuckal, LPN, CST, is emblematic of a graying surgical workforce.

At 70, Joy Schmuckal, LPN, CST, the surgical scrub nurse on our cover, is still working 5 days a week in the OR — more so because she has to than because she wants to. "People look at me and say, 'My God, she's still working.' I need to. I want to," she says. "It sounds wonderful to say 'I love my job,' but we all need a paycheck. There's just not enough money to comfortably retire."

If Ms. Schmuckal could comfortably retire tomorrow, yeah, she probably would, she says. "When I quit working, I have other things on my plate, other things I want to do yet."

Ms. Schmuckal hopes to pad her nest egg by putting in 2 more part-time years at the Northwest Michigan Surgery Center in Traverse City, Mich., before she finally gets around to doing more of what she loves, full-time: European vacations, wilderness backpacking, tent camping with her 2 grandchildren and volunteering at a national park. But these things cost money. Lots of it.

"The lifestyle I like to live is one that scares me with the economy," says Ms. Schmuckal, divorced since 1984. "The longer I can work now, the more I can build for my retirement and pad what funds are already there. That will add to my security."

Ms. Schmuckal is 70, but looks much younger, as trim and as fit today as she was in her 20s and fully able to withstand the rigors of OR nursing. Besides the support hose and the bifocals, there's nothing senior citizen about her. "It's all in how you carry yourself," she says. "Don't walk like an old person, even if you have aches or pains. Keep your shoulders back and your head up."

Defying old age and delaying retirement makes her the perfect symbol for our salary survey story on the graying of the surgical workforce. As you'll see in "Not the Retiring Type" on page 28, Ms. Schmuckal is hardly alone when it comes to OR nurses working into their golden years. Of the nearly 900 surgical facility leaders we surveyed, about 30% said they were planning to delay their own retirements and 40% said their staff nurses were planning to work into their 60s and 70s as well. The No. 1 reason for working longer: the fear of outliving your savings and investments, forgoing a good salary and healthcare benefits, and not being able to maintain the lifestyle to which you've grown accustomed. But several nurses also told us they're not hanging up their scrubs for the pure love of the job, for the circle of friends and for the sense of purpose, for the need to stay busy and to feel connected.

"You want to know why a 70-year-old is still working? I like my job," says Ms. Schmuckal. "I like health care. I like working with the surgeons and taking care of patients."

Your older nurses are trusted and reliable caregivers, natural preceptors and buffers against a nursing shortage. But managing a mix of younger and older nurses creates many challenges for you. Gen X and the Geritol Generation have very different views on, well, everything — including how long they plan to stick around.

' ' '

Hey, something's different. Yes, you'll notice as you page through this issue that we freshened up the look of the magazine. Not a total redesign, but more of a sprucing up from our talented art director, Ethan Anderson. As always, we hope you enjoy.

OR Excellence

Marriott Rivercenter San Antonio, Texas Oct. 13-16

Keynote Speaker Chris Malone
Surgeons view their interactions with your facility in a deeply personal way — they hate your anesthesia team, love your nurses and think your schedulers are out to get them. What's actually going on in their brains when they make these judgments? "We see companies and brands the same way we automatically perceive, judge and behave toward one another," says customer loyalty expert Chris Malone, author of the award-winning book, The HUMAN BRAND: How We Relate to People, Products & Companies. "To achieve sustained success, you must forge genuine relationships with your customers."

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