Looking too young to be an RN

  1. Hello everyone!

    I just wanted to hear what input anyone has on my so-called "dilemma." I am a 21 year old senior nursing student so I will be 22 when I graduate. I have worked as a student patient care tech at a large university hospital so I feel pretty comfortable in interacting with patients. I have come a long way since working in this role for almost 2 years as I am a generally quiet and soft-spoken person. When called, I am not shy about having to re-direct my patients.

    My problem is that I look very young. I hear it from co-workers and patients about how young I look. Patients always tell me that I look like I am still in high school 15-16 yrs old or look like one of the other RNs daughter. One of the older PCTs says that I'll be a great RN some day but that I just look sooo young that I may not be taken seriously.

    I don't take it personally and tell myself it is a good thing and would appreciate it when I am older. However, it does get kind of tiring hearing this over and over again. Working as a tech patients enjoy and seem to feel very comfortable having me take care of them. (The majority of the patients are elderly.) I am not sure how it may change when I am their RN though. It makes me nervous about gaining the trust of patients, co-workers, and doctors when I do start working as a new grad. I want to be taken seriously especially since I would like to work in an ICU setting and once I get my skills down go to school for my NP degree in the future.

    I obviously cannot change my looks but does anyone feel like I do? Any students or RN who are or were in the same position and how did you deal with it?

    Whew...it was great to write this all down since it has been on my mind for a while...any input would be awesome...thanks for reading! :wink2:
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  2. 27 Comments

  3. by   caliotter3
    You said you can not change your appearance, but you may be able to make subtle changes. I can't think of the title of people who do this professionally, but I have read about people that do make-overs, if you could find one to advise you. Perhaps there is a different way of fixing your hair; maybe, if you do wear make-up, a subtle change in the way you apply it, and the colors you use. The only definitive suggestion I could make, other than make certain, you conduct yourself as professionally as possible, would be to refrain from wearing the print uniforms, particularly those with pediatric themes (unless, of course, you go into peds). Many times I have heard people make negative comments about nurses wearing print uniforms, although, personally, I like them and I'm ancient. Sorry could not be more helpful.
  4. by   adnstudent2007
    I can relate completely to what you are saying. I also look considerably younger than I am and have been asked by a few of my patients if I've graduated high school yet! I am never sure if I should add yes, and college, and worked for a while, and then went back to school to be a nurse...
    I don't really have any advice for you, unfortunately. Once everyone sees that you are professional and knowledgeable, the age you look will (hopefully) not matter.
  5. by   cowpoke_rn
    I know how you feel. I started working as an RN at age 20 after graduating from an ADN program (now working on BSN). I still look very young and will be turning 24 in a few days. I was very worried that the doctors would not take me serious. It really comes down to earning the MD's trust by showing them you have the skills that it takes. Over the years I have developed some great working relationships with the MD's. You just have to have mutual respect. The patients usually were pleased to have a younger nurse (I guess we seem to be a fresh face or something). I found that the senior population treated me very sweetly, as if a grandson kind of. I since have changed my look, sporting more facial hair, new and more sophisticated glasses. The only problems I ran into were some of the support staff or CNA's, who were several years older than me, would give me attitude sometimes. (I mean no disrespect here) And I got the phrase, "I'm old enough to be your momma" from a lot of nurses. But I kind of liked that because I had a lot of great nurses who took me under their wing and taught me a lot. I'm referred to as the "baby" where I work now because I'm the youngest yet again. I also work with a great team though. Good luck......at least when we're 40 we'll still look 35!
  6. by   RN BSN 2009
    Just tell people, you worked hard, you passed your classes, you took the boards... You're a nurse whether they like it or not! You earned it the same way as everyone else!
  7. by   locolorenzo22
    Patients usually respond well to any well-meaning attitude...don't be one of those nurses who "hates" to work! Come in fresh-faced and ready to do your work, be ready to see your patients for who they are, not what they have....
    I work as a tech, and I have one AM tech who I hate giving report to at 5AM because she's always angry and says stuff like "17 should just go home already" as if the patient really has a major choice to just check out.....
    at 5AM, I've dealt with patients all night and I'm ready to go...don't cop me an attitude and ruin the 1.5 hours I'll still be up....
  8. by   Megsd
    I totally understand where you're coming from, as someone who was told on her 17th birthday that she looked 12, and was asked as a CNA at age 22 if she was old enough to have the certification (i.e. over 18).

    Fortunately for some reason I have not had a negative reaction to my appearance in clinical. In fact, a few of my patients are surprised to hear that I am a student -- they think I am an experienced RN! I think that regardless of appearance, what really shows your age (or at least your level of mature functioning) is your attitude and your interactions with others. So even if from across the room they think you're a kid, once you open your mouth they will hopefully realize you know what you're doing.

    And remember, as everyone tells me, we'll LOVE looking young when we get older!
  9. by   jov
    Quote from pacu_rn
    I since have changed my look, sporting more facial hair, new and more sophisticated glasses.
    now there's an idea. grow a beard or mustache

    seriously I would wear glasses even if I didn't need them. Glasses always make people look smarter and more serious.

    I distinctly remember the first time I saw my OB/GYN guy in scrubs. He came out of OR after doing a hysterectomy on my SIL and seriously didn't look a day over 15. People looked at him in the halls like he was a transporter or something...now of course he is 50 and looks 30. Don't give it another thought...before you know it you WILL look old enough!
  10. by   Soup Turtle
    Haha...I'm not a nurse yet, but I've always looked young for my age. I'm 32 now, and people always seem to assume I'm 24-26. I love it, but it was very frustrating when I was younger. Enjoy your youth despite people's comments. It won't last forever.:smiletea2:
  11. by   Bala Shark
    Remember looking young is better than looking old...So you want to look old?
  12. by   clearly_clara
    My friend had a similar problem, only she became a pharmacist at 22 instead of being a nurse. Same problems though - people assumed she wasn't the pharmacist since she's 1) female 2) very young and 3) quite pretty!

    In order to counteract that, she chopped off her really long hair to a "more professional" haircut and bought more work clothes that made her look older. Generally, darker colors work better than pastels. Maybe get navy blue colored scrubs or some other dark color?

    And I agree with caliotter3 - maybe change the way you do makeup? If you don't wear any, perhaps a lil bit of powder and eyeliner/mascara will help you look more mature.
  13. by   RNinJune2007
    Hello!

    I am also a fellow Nursing (RN) student who looks MUCH younger than I am
    I am 19, and will graduate at the same age and I look 15-16 IF I'M LUCKY! I've never had any problems with patients telling me I am too young to be competent, but have had one or two the last four semesters tell me I look young.

    When they say "you look so young" I just respond, well, I'm old enough!


    Anyway,
    Just prove your competence if you ever have a problem on the floor. I think it will be okay. There are RN's of all ages, you are just lucky to have gotten in on the "fun" early on in life....

    GOOD LUCK and don't fret...
  14. by   muffie
    enjoy it before time, gravity, life and the weather take their toll on you

    then you will be singing another song

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