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Flexible working and the contribution of nurses in mid-life to the workforce: a qualitative study

By Ruth Harris, Janette Bennett, Barbara Davey and Fiona Ross


BACKGROUND: With the changing demographic profile of the nursing workforce, retaining the skill and experience of nurses in mid-life is very important. Work-life balance is a concept that is gaining increasing prominence in today's society. However, little is known about older nurses' experience of family friendly policies and flexible working. OBJECTIVES: This study explored the organisational, professional and personal factors that influence perceptions of commitment and participation in the workforce for nurses working in mid-life (aged 45 and over). DESIGN: A qualitative study using a range of methods including biographical methods, semi-structured face-to-face interviews, focus groups and telephone interviews. Data were analysed using constant comparative method. SETTINGS: A large inner city acute teaching hospital and an inner city mental health and social care trust providing both community and inpatient health and social care. PARTICIPANTS: 34 nurses and 3 health care assistants participated in individual interviews, 10 nurses participated in two focus groups and 17 managers participated in individual telephone interviews. RESULTS: Four themes emerged: the nature of nursing poses a challenge to the implementation of flexible working, differences in perceptions of the availability of flexible working, ward managers have a crucial role in the implementation of flexible working policies and the implementation of flexible working may be creating an inflexible workforce. CONCLUSIONS: The findings suggest that there are limits to the implementation of flexible working for nurses. In some areas there is evidence that the implementation of flexible working may be producing an inflexible workforce as older nurses are required to compensate for the flexible working patterns of their colleagues. Ward managers have a key role in the implementation of family friendly policies and require support to fulfil this role. There is a need for creative solutions to address implementation of flexible working for all nurses to ensure that workforce policy addresses the need to retain nurses in the workforce in a fair and equitable way

Topics: nursing
Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2010
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2009.08.009
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