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Age Diversity in Perioperative: Appreciating Seasoned Leaders

August 9, 2022


Age Diversity in Perioperative: Appreciating Seasoned Leaders

Ageism is very real. One may think a robust resume and decades of experience would give you a leg up, but this is not always so. A member of our community, who wished to remain anonymous, said that advanced degrees could actually put one at a deficit, depending on the job. Or it is assumed that an older applicant can’t handle the technological aspects of the job. 

According to a 2018 AARP workplace survey, 2 out of 3 workers over 45 have experienced age discrimination. PwC’s 2015 Global CEO Survey found that only 8% of organizations included age as a focus area in their diversity and inclusion strategies. Creating a work culture that includes respect across generations should be a priority in any diversity and inclusion effort. 

Last month, we sent out a survey to the WP community asking them to share their experiences, if any, with ageism. We also asked our 2022 class of Road Warriors (Interim Directors of Surgical Services) to discuss their encounters with ageism and how being an interim impacted their consideration for permanent placements. 

Anonymous Director of Surgical Services, MPH, BSN, RN

“I have worked in healthcare as a nurse for over 40 years, with the last 20 in leadership.   I continued my education over the years, starting my nursing career as a Diploma nurse, obtaining my BSN, then my Master of Public Health. I received certifications in Risk Management, Hospital Disaster Preparedness, and I just completed my Green Belt in Six Sigma Lean Methodology and working on my Black Belt. As a life-long learner, I’ve challenged myself with different roles, creating a diverse portfolio and accruing a wealth of knowledge in my given field. I’m finding that when a new job opportunity does present itself, after reviewing my resume, it is assumed that I am at the end of my career, therefore irrelevant.  Or I’m a “short-timer” looking to ride it out until retirement, and I’m not in it for the duration. These are incorrect assumptions. 

Another ageism assumption is that I’m not skilled at using technology, which is also incorrect.  If anything, I have more skill at using the different software platforms required to do my job because I have taken on various roles in many hospitals, allowing me to learn them. I pride myself on having remained relevant and skilled with current technology. 

I am also finding that my years of experience come with a cost. It is more financially feasible for a hospital to recruit and promote from within or hire someone with fewer years as a nurse – even though these applicants are not as experienced. My pay rate is usually at the top of the range, although always negotiable. All of this is discouraging, but more importantly, it prevents any opportunity for me to remain in the field at the administrative level I wish to work at, at a rate of pay that I deserve.” 

Gayle Fox, MHA, BSN, RN 

“I’ve heard many times, ‘You look like you jump around a lot.’ I find this more from the permanent side because I think they feel that you just don’t have the energy level to keep up or are looking for a place to rest on your laurels. But as an interim, usually, there’s a huge difference because we are seasoned. Age comes with being seasoned and having that experience. And when you describe your background in that interview, they recognize that you can’t have all this experience if you haven’t been in the business for a minute or two. And they value that you have all of these facets to draw from.”

Jerry Thomas, MBA, BSN, CNOR, CRNA, RN

“From the standpoint of an interim position, I have not experienced this. Full-time positions? Yeah, a lot. There was a reason why I traveled often. My wife and I made that decision because where I live, there just aren’t any jobs available. I aspired to do more with my career, so we decided early on to keep our kids in a stable environment and not move them around. So that meant that I had to travel [as an interim]. Whenever I would look at a full-time position, I would get, “You’ve traveled around too much.” Well, they’re traveling around and job-hopping more than I was in today’s market! An attractive offer will take them away in a New York minute.”

Thomas Callan, MHA, BSN, RN

“I’m a 51-year nurse now, and it’s a matter of perspective. They can see you as highly experienced and bringing a lot to the table. Or they can look at you and say, ‘Well, you haven’t been relevant to what’s going on.’ 

I guess the best way to combat this is to go in and sort of sell yourself. Find the individual that you need to make the best impression with. In one of my past assignments, it was the charge nurse. You have to go in with your palms up, with the attitude that you are there to find out what is going on, and you need their help to understand what the situations are here. You start easy, ‘Have you thought of this? How have you handled that?’ You can’t go in with a heavy hand. I’m here as a change agent, but I’m not going to be a revolution. You must be what I refer to as an evolution.”