Many nursing students who are thinking of entering nursing as a second career worry they may be too old to go to nursing school. It can be intimidating to think about attending nursing school alongside younger students who are just starting out in life. However, older nursing students do have several advantages they may not realize that can help them get through nursing school and have a successful nursing career. If you are thinking of attending nursing school but worry about your age being an obstacle read on to learn why you might have an advantage as a nursing student!
First off, you’re not going to be alone. The average age of nursing students continues to rise, increasing from 24 years old to 31 years old in the last two decades. According to a recent national study, the average age of a practicing Registered Nurse is 47 years of age. Many people are drawn to go to nursing school later in life, deciding that it’s better late than never to achieve their dreams of becoming a nurse. Some may be stay-at-home moms who have raised their kids and now want to follow their own dreams and help people. Others may be switching careers later in life, and are drawn to nursing for the great career opportunities it offers. Still others may have had experiences caring for ill family members or friends, and realized they enjoyed taking care of others so they decided to become a nurse. Whatever the reason, there is definitely a place in nursing for motivated, hard working people who truly want to care for the sick.
To be a successful nurse, I believe you must have a good amount of common sense. Nursing requires quick thinking and the ability to solve problems. Older students can use their increased life knowledge and wisdom to help them make important decisions while caring for others. Often times people will become more confident in speaking to others and handling social situations as they get older. This is important in nursing, as a nurse who can talk to and connect with patients and their family members is always appreciated. It may be easier for older students to be able to use their life experience to ‘put themselves in the patients’ shoes’ and know what to do to best help their patients.
One concern for older nursing students may be the physical demands of being a nurse. Nurses who work in acute care settings (hospitals) regularly have to help lift, pull, and push patients. Of course if there are physical limitations you may want to pursue a less physically demanding area of nursing (such as case management, physician office settings, or insurance claims/reviews) but you still have to make it through nursing school. Being vigilant about proper body mechanics will be very important, as well as utilizing resources (such as lift machines or mobility aids for patients) available to decrease the risk of injury. Older nursing students also need to be careful to take good care of themselves while in school, which is difficult with the time demands of nursing school. Taking care to eat well, try to relax and de-stress as much as possible, and get an adequate amount of sleep can go a long way towards keeping healthy and preventing injury.
Depending on their past college education, older students may also have an advantage when it comes to attending nursing school. There are many newer ‘accelerated’ nursing programs for students who already have a Bachelors degree in another field that allows them to use those credits to complete a Bachelors of Science in Nursing degree much quicker than going the traditional route. One program, the Marian University second-degree BSN program available in Indianapolis, Indiana, allows students who already have a bachelors degree to complete their BSN and become an RN in only 16 months. The majority of the coursework is done online, with only the clinicals having to be completed in person. You can find out more information on that degree program here.
There are many accelerated nursing programs offered throughout the United States. To get more information on these programs, including a listing of all accelerated BSN programs offered, just visit this link.
While researching older nursing students, I reached out to a 53 year-old nursing student getting through one of her last semesters of her nursing program. This is what she had to say about being an older nursing student:
“The advice I would give is that if someone has a dream, desire, ambition, hope, etc. to go back for additional education (whether it is for a certificate or a degree), go for it. Yes, you might be like me having to read given chapters and areas three to five times when someone who is in their 20’s reads it once and gets it. Yes, you might be like me needing a lot more time to study. But don’t let that be a barrier. Give it your best, ask for help (especially on any exam you do poorly on), and move forward.”
If you have a dream to become a nurse, don’t let your age deter you from following your dream! I think the quote from George Eliot says it best, “it is never too late to become what you might have been.” You CAN do it, so go for it!
Did you get into nursing later in life, or thinking about going to nursing school? I would love to hear from you, share your story in the comments below!