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Retire then be rehired

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Monday, September 12, 2011
Posted: 4 pm ET

If you could enjoy your retirement but continue to work occasionally on your own schedule would you want to?

One health care system in Michigan is solving its staffing problems by hiring back its retirees. The benefit from its point of view is experienced workers are available to fill the scheduling gaps that usually don't add up to a full-time schedule. The advantage from a retiree point of view is extra money and continued connection to an active work life.

MidMichigan Health, headquartered in Midland, Mich., serves a 12-county region with medical centers, urgent care centers, home care, nursing homes, physicians, medical offices and other specialty health services. Tonia VanWieren runs the "MyTime Gold" program, which allows employees in various departments, but particularly nursing, to retire, collect their pensions and then be rehired.

Once retirees are back on the payroll, they can use a computer program that posts all of the available unfilled work hours in their area of specialty across the company. They can bid on open shifts, working as few or as many hours as they want. VanWieren says she has people who work one day a month and people who work two or three days a week. She has lots of people who only work in the summer because they go to Florida in the winter. She even has one nurse who changed her retirement planning outlook and now works the equivalent of full time.

Nurses who don't want work that is physically demanding can work in related areas -- even if they've never done administrative or project work. For instance, VanWieren says she is keeping several retired nurses busy working on the system's electronic records conversion. Those who are moving into an unfamiliar areas must take orientation or training.

Workers make exactly what they made at the time they retired. As retirees, they are eligible for individual and spousal medical and prescription-drug coverage, and they can save in an employer-matched, 403(b) defined-contribution plan. Employees working at least 23 hours per week are also eligible for a cash-balance plan.

"This has turned out to be a phenomenal program," VanWieren says.

Graham Barnes, CEO of Concerro, the technology company that devised the scheduling software, says he doesn't think many other companies are using his company's product this way, but he sees this approach as potentially popular. "We're proud to support their approach to attracting retirees back to the workforce," he says.

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