When Ellen Elpern, MSN, RN, retired, she was eager to invest more time and energy in her profession. She also wanted to maintain a connection to the medical center where she spent almost 40 years providing inpatient care. But she soon discovered that few volunteer positions are designed for someone with her level of expertise, and that online applications tend to go nowhere. “I was surprised at how difficult it was to give away my time and talent,” she recalls.

When she finally picked up the phone and called another hospital closer to home, she found an entirely different reception. The volunteer department at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial welcomed her and put her to work administering patient satisfaction surveys. That assignment got the ball rolling, but it wasn’t long before Elpern felt “like I could be doing more.”

Then one day, another volunteer overheard her interacting with a family on an intensive care unit and recruited her for a recently created volunteer assignment: working with patients to explain and complete advance directives, the legal documents that ensure a person’s treatment wishes are carried out if they can no longer communicate. Elpern had finally found a way of contributing that fulfilled both her needs and those of the hospital.

Encore Performance

The challenge: Convey the variety of ways nurses in the baby boom generation can continue to contribute their expertise after retirement and inform institutions about the types of opportunities that will attract nurse volunteers.

Our solution: Create a series of photo essays illustrating the ways four retired nurses are enriching their communities and finding continued satisfaction in remaining vital to the well-being of others.

Client: The Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action at AARP