Psychologist thinking of late in life career change....advice?

  1. I'm a licensed psychologist working for a federal agency. I've been thinking about lack of job flexibility as I get older, with plans to work a long time because I'm in great health and have no reason to stop. I've also developed a great love for working with mind/body condtions (board certified in biofeedback and lots of experience now with chronic pain, insomnia, and all kinds of stress-related disorders), and I've begun to really thinking about a career change to nursing. If I got into school in the next couple of years (and truly left my other career behind), I'd have an Associates and be starting as a new nurse in my late 50s. It's a late start and a big pay cut. But I think I'd love the work (probably in a local hospital setting depending on what opportunities are there) and would be in it for the long haul. I've been a psychologist for 22 years. Any thoughts? Will a brand new baby nurse get hired at age 57 or 58? Can I keep up with this younger generation (whom, by the way, I deeply respect and find to be so very smart and resourceful)? Will I even get a chance to try?
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  2. 28 Comments

  3. by   ImLovingIt
    In some areas, an associates degree will not be enough to get a job in a hospital. However, I did an associates degree and then did WGU's rn-to-BSN program in 6 months. Working the floor is hard --physically, mentally and emotionally. There are older nurses in the hospital, but it's dominated by the younger set.

    If job flexibility is your goal, I am not sure nursing in a hospital is going to get you to a more flexible job. It's holidays and weekends. It's likely not going to be the day shift. Your schedule is dictated by the hospital (I know my schedule 6 weeks at a time, so planning 2 months in advance is an educated guess at best).

    If you are making good money now and enjoy your job, I'd say no way. I'm not seeing a life long "I want to be a nurse" in your post. I advise you to talk to "real" nurses in your social circle to get a better idea if this is for you. Nursing sounds great, but it has very high turnover and addiction issues, so....
  4. by   Marisette
    There are healthy nurses who start careers in their 50's. However, it may be harder to find employment. There is a risk that employers will assume you are not able to perform the physical demands of the job, or are not as computer literate as the younger nurses and less desirable for employment.

    Many of the ads I see for nurses in my area request staff nurse level 1. Long ago, we were just nurses, now we have nurse levels 1, 2, 3. Nursing staff level 1 jobs are entry level jobs and I don't know if an experience professional like yourself, will be acknowledge for your previous experience. That means, your previous experience, may not mean much to a potential employer so you may not be monetarily compensated for previous experience. You stated monetary compensation was not that important to you, but you may find that it is more important than you think once your in nursing for awhile and are forced to give up some benefits or make lifestyle changes.

    Today's nurses need to have a long term career plan to get into the nursing specialty of their choosing. Sometimes, this means working in an area that you may not desire for awhile in order to gain experience and proceed to your desired specialty. A combination of education and experience is required for advancement. I'm not sure what motivates YOU to be a nurse. However, I often hear reasons like a desire to help others and being a caring person as reasons to become a nurse. These are noble and legitimate reasons. However, longevity in nursing requires many skills sets. Among them, a great deal of assertiveness skills, organization and managment skills, and people skills. How do you handle challenging and difficult patient's ? What do you do when the resources needed to perform your job are not available or limited because of budget restraints? You will be accountable for performing within policies, and government regulations and this will impact all your nursing care. Many areas in nursing are fast paced environments, no time to mull things over, time restraints can be stressful. Are you prepared to work in stressful environments? These are just some things to consider. I'm sure there are others....
  5. by   live4ward
    Thanks so much for your feedback! I absolutely agree that I wouldn't get credit for past experience, and shouldn't............nursing would be almost an entirely new skill set, and a field I would enter with great humility. Yes, I would be starting at the bottom of the totem pole and would not get too far up in the relatively short time I'd be doing it. Very good advice. Thanks so much -----
    Last edit by live4ward on Jul 13 : Reason: replied to wrong comment
  6. by   VivaLasViejas
    For what it's worth, I think it would be a mistake to change course at this time of your life. As a psychologist, you have the power to influence lives in many ways; you make a difference. As a nurse, you would have little to no autonomy; you'd have to get used to working nights, holidays and weekends; the work is both physically and mentally harder than you think. Healthcare facilities are almost universally understaffed, often leading to burnout, and the powers that be don't care---all they're concerned about is the almighty dollar and Press-Ganey scores (a measure of patient satisfaction that has little to do with the reasons patients visit the hospital or clinic). And yes, it is much harder to find a job when you're over 50...there are indeed anti-discrimination laws on the books, but employers can always find other reasons not to hire you.

    I don't know why your current career isn't satisfying your desire to help people, but please consider the perks of having a say in how you work, making good money, and enjoying a normal schedule before you jump ship. I wish you the best no matter what you decide.
  7. by   JKL33
    I'd like to be an encourager and say "go for it!" but I just can't. The poster above me says a lot of what I'd say. I'd recommend contemplating whether Nursing is "an interesting idea" or whether it's "Bucket List" material. If it's bucket list, then you have some hard decisions to make. If it's merely something you've thought about, I would say emphatically: NO WAY.

    I mean, here's what's sad - - those things you mention in your post, the great loves you've developed? Anything remotely related to actually connecting with people? TPTB in the hospital don't give two hoots about any of those things, in reality. Not even one hoot. Everything is now reduced to how much you can do, with the least amount, in the quickest time humanly possible. And yes, any autonomy or respect you might be afforded in your current role will be gone. So then you also throw in a pay-cut AND the possibility that you will face undisclosed age-discrimination? Again, I'm sorry but...well, to even continue pondering this should mean that Nursing is on your Bucket List. So...is it?

    Best wishes ~
  8. by   BirkieGirl
    there are also options called a 'fast track BSN' program that allows you to finish a BSN in a fairly quick amount of time, calculates other career into the hours, plus any baseline gen ed credits, etc. I don't know exactly how they work but worth taking a look.

    I don't think that 50s is too late to get started, i'm all about lifetime learning and encourage all staff I work with to continue their learning opportunities at any age. I agree though, an ADN might not be enough, depending on the hospital and their hiring patterns.

    I would also encourage you to visit the HR office at the local hospital and inquire about shadowing, and do several entire shifts in multiple areas. This will give you an idea if you could really love it.

    Nursing can be very rewarding and most nurses aren't paid what they are worth, but at the end of the day you can take pride in your work and feel like you really made a difference, and that makes it all worth it.
  9. by   caliotter3
    Unfortunately, as I found out the hard way when closer to 39 than to 50, getting hired as a new nurse is easier said than done. Age discrimination is alive and well in nursing. Obtain a nursing license if it fulfills a desire, but don't rely on nursing to earn a living.
  10. by   ponymom
    The saying "Don't quit your day-job" comes to mind....
  11. by   live4ward
    Absolutely fantastic feedback; thank you!!
  12. by   live4ward
    Appreciate all of you so much for taking the time. This forum is enough to make me want to be a nurse just because you guys show such great interest and camaraderie with each other (even when calling each other out lol)......and yes, the other things I'm reading have helped me see all the mighty challenges. It's pretty fascinating. I realize I'm being drawn by the notion of more job options, but I also need to look at the factors working against me pretty honestly. (This work is truly fulfilling; the downside is the lack of demand in my field if I want to change jobs at some point, and I probably will...I've got a pretty long commute and I work in a system with a WHOLE lot of cumbersome bureaucracy). These forums sure help me remember the saying "the grass is always greener" :-) Again, thank you guys. Once again, my respect for nurses if validated 100 times over ---
  13. by   EllaBella1
    I would also suggest looking into accelerated BSN programs rather than ADN programs. Associates degree nurses are finding it harder to gain employment in hospitals, and most hospitals who hire them require them to complete their BSN within a year or two of hire. I would skip that step and go right for the BSN.

    In terms of finding work as an older nurse, I started in a nurse residency cohort a few years ago with several nurses in their 50s. The beauty of nursing is that there are people from all walks of life that all start in the same place. If it's a passion of yours, I say go for it.
  14. by   cyc0sys
    I changed careers late in life myself and didn't become a nurse until my mid 40s so I understand your quandary. I'm working on finishing up my BSN now but it has been physically and mentally exhausting between the working the floor and school. It also can be frustrating starting out at the bottom rung, especially if you have ineffective management 'running' the show. However, sometimes its a relief not to be in charge and work as a minion.

    If pay is not an issue and your in good health, I'd go for it. I don't know where you're located but where I'm at there will allows be work in LTC/Rehab for older-new nurses. Hospitals might be difficult for your age but some do offer entry level programs for new grads.

    Personally I'd consider going the NP route or maybe considering PA. The people I know, in similar situations, have been most successful on those routes. The older-new nurses I've worked with, tend to burn out quicker, get less respect from the younger generations, and have more difficulty with management because of certain expectations. That doesn't mean they aren't good nurses. Most of them are stellar because of their life experience, focus, and ability to deal with people of all age groups. But some tend to be slower on tasks then management allows.

    Best of luck with you're decision.

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