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A phenomenological study of nurses' post-retirement experiences

Marcia Denise Adler, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Parallel evolutions occurred in the 20th century. One was a dramatic increase in life expectancy and the second was the number of women present in the workforce. Limited research exists on the subjective meaning of how women experience being retired. Length of retirement is relevant to women who, because of gender differences in longevity, can anticipate spending a substantial amount of their adult lives retired. This qualitative research explored how registered nurses experience post-retirement life. Understanding the lived experience of being retired and the meanings retired, registered nurses ascribe to their retirement experience will help researchers and future retirees recognize how older nurses create new life-roles once they are no longer engaged in the practice of nursing. This research utilized Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) qualitative research methodology to explore the retirement experiences of Midwestern nurses. Participants were a voluntary sample of 20 women who self-identified being at least 60 years of age, and retired from their primary nursing career for a minimum of five years. Through the research process three major themes surfaced. They were, Grief and Loss, indicated by the participant’s responses about leaving work and the loss of valued life roles and friendships that occurred through years of working together. The second theme was, Transitions and Adjustment. The participants described the process it took to reestablish new lives without the structure of work. Choice and Independence, was represented by the evolution of new passions for life including taking care of themselves and becoming engaged with vulnerable populations. The findings correlated with specific aspects of Merton’s role theory and Erikson’s eight stages of development. Implications for women in general and nurses specifically were articulated when the participants affirmed, women will retire and need a plan for using their time and to build social relationships beyond family members. These insights provide a framework for working women to begin planning by identifying areas of interest and developing a broader group of social relationships. The research participants suggested their ability to navigate their new roles without work would have been enhanced if they had planned more broadly for retired life.

Subject Area

Gerontology|Womens studies|Nursing

Recommended Citation

Adler, Marcia Denise, "A phenomenological study of nurses' post-retirement experiences" (2016). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10242369.