BMC Nursing (Nov 2021)

The meaning of nursing practice for nurses who are retired yet continue to work in a rural or remote community

  • Martha L. P. MacLeod,
  • Lela V. Zimmer,
  • Julie G. Kosteniuk,
  • Kelly L. Penz,
  • Norma J. Stewart

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 20, no. 1
pp. 1 – 13


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Abstract Background Although much research has focused on nurses’ retirement intentions, little is known about nurses who formally retire yet continue to practice, particularly in rural and remote settings where mobilization of all nurses is needed to assure essential health services. To optimize practice and sustain the workforce stretched thin by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is necessary to understand what it means for retired registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) to work after retirement. This study explored what nursing practice means for RNs and LPNs who have formally retired but continue to practice in rural and remote communities. Methods A pan-Canadian cross-sectional survey conducted in 2014–2015 of nurses in rural and remote Canada provided data for analysis. Textual responses from 82 RNs and 19 LPNs who indicated they had retired but were occasionally employed in nursing were interpreted hermeneutically. Results Retired nurses who continued to practice took on new challenges as well as sought opportunities to continue to learn, grow, and give back. Worklife flexibility was important, including having control over working hours. Nurses’ everyday practice was inextricably tied up with their lives in rural and remote communities, with RNs emphasizing serving their communities and LPNs appreciating community recognition and the family-like character of their work settings. Conclusions Retired nurses who continue to work in nursing see retirement as the next phase in their profession and a vital way of engaging with their rural and remote communities. This study counters the conventional view of retaining retired nurses only to combat nursing shortages and alleviate a knowledge drain from the workplace. Rural and remote nurses who retire and continue working contribute to their workplaces and communities in important and innovative ways. They can be characterized as dedicated, independent, and resilient. Transitioning to retirement in rural and remote practice can be re-imagined in ways that involve both the community and the workplace. Supporting work flexibility for retired nurses while facilitating their practice, technological acumen, and professional development, can allow retired nurses to contribute their joy of being a nurse along with their extensive knowledge and in-depth experience of nursing and the community.