I am an RN/Firefighter Captain. In my mid thirties, I attended a four year traditional school after becoming a firefighter. I had most of my generals out of the way and had worked as an EMT in a hospital. I worked 12 hr days 14 hour nights as a firefighter based on a split 24/72 schedule and worked part time as an EMT driving the ambulance. School was was 2-4 days/week for 2 1/2 years to BSN. I used vacation time and traded time with others. I studied at night on duty with permission of the department. I slept little, made my classes with minutes to spare, was always prepared, and very grateful to my co-workers for their participation. Near graduation, I had pneumonia and an inguinal hernia. I was on antibiotics for finals and on the surgery table two days after giving the graduation speech. I am living proof, if improbable, it's not impossible and certainly not as easy the old fashioned way. After graduation and surgery, I found a good med surg job, hired by my old headnurse, that led to to float pool (trading benefits for cash) throughout the hospital. My collateral skills are valued by both employers. I've work both jobs since 1994 at 72hrs/week total, but that gives me four days off/week due to the 24/72 fire fighter and 12 hr RN schedules. FD call-ins haven't been as bad a problem as expected and my hospital works around my schedule. I'm available four days a week and work two 12's.
The extra money allowed me to finance both my daughters' educations and keep them in cars and books. The first daughter took a job in my hospital as an ER nurse and the second daughter is a radiology tech driving a catscan machine in a trauma hospital.
My reward to myself after healing, was to get my pilots license and eventually my own plane. Flight nurses must be less than six foot two or three and under 200-230 lbs. (I'm not) with a few years of ER or critical care history. They don't want pilot/nurses, because of go/no go safety decisions that must be made critical to the flight. The helicopter pilot of the last air evac I routed in for a car accident asked to talk to the, "guy on the radio." He told me he'd never received better directions to the scene since he'd been flying. I told him I was a pilot. I was familiar with the airspace and routed him in advising him of local hazards to flight in a 30 second transmission.
The two jobs are rewarding for myself, my employers and coworkers, and those I serve. Someday, I hope to combine my education and experience into a third, yet undiscovered, career opportunity.