Nursing Times blogger Martin Jones thinks about his pension and the career opportunities for nurses over 50.
My last blog was about sexually transmitted infections in the over-50s. This time around I’m examining career opportunities for an over-50 nurse. Younger readers, please stay with it. All comments are highly valued.
I’m 51, a HIV and sexual health nurse since 1986 and feeling a narrowing of career (and life) opportunities. This doesn’t feel like mid-life crisis but has certainly been on my mind since I received my NHS pension choice pack. According to my statement I’d need to work until 64 and a half for the new 2008 scheme to provide better value than my existing scheme. That’s 13 years away. What might happen in my nursing career between now and then?
Messages from politicians and the media suggest that, in order for our pensions to provide long-lasting quality of life in retirement we’ll all need to save for longer than the previous generation. But how much longer? Will 13 years be sufficient for me?
According to an online calculator my basic and risk adjusted life expectancy is 79.96 or 85.56 years respectively. Taking the more conservative, basic estimate, I feel a long way from my eightieth birthday. However decisions that I take now will have their impact decades from now.
Putting my pension choice to one side, there are other factors causing this Weltschmertz*. For example, time in one specialty and one job: I’ve been a HIV nurse since the mid-80s and working in Eastbourne for 16 years. That looks like a long time. Yet I was drawn to Mark Radcliffe’s blog a couple of weeks ago in which he stated that nursing ‘challenges our capacity to know, do, feel and be’. HIV nursing is what I do, what I know and what I am. I’m as vocationally driven and as motivated as ever. I’m committed to a cohort of patients, some of whom I’ve known for many years.
Additionally there are personal factors. My youngest child still has to complete a year of statutory education to be followed by two at sixth form college. I’m not in favour of moving him away from his home town, so by the time he sits his A-levels I’ll be 55. Then there’s university and three further years of financial dependence. I cannot envisage a new employer taking me on in my mid-to-late fifties at the top of the band 7 pay scale. Younger candidates inevitably appear to offer longer in post at lower cost than me.
So do I have any prospect of further career moves? Should I stay or try to move? As I commented to Mark Radcliffe, ‘I nurse therefore I am’. Will I one day feel ready to stop doing this? At 51, how can I know if, when and where my nursing career might end?
* Weltschmertz from the German, meaning world-pain or world-weariness (Wikipedia)
Martin Jones, Clinical Nurse Specialist HIV, East Sussex Downs & Weald. He has worked in sexual health and HIV since 1986.