I still call nursing my first profession, despite beginning an apprenticeship in tool and die right after high school; it didn't last very long, though, and I went right back to upgrade my sciences and was off to nursing school
by the time I was 19.
20 years ago there were 7 guys start in my class, with 5 guys finishing out of the 55 that graduated in total. All of them except one were right out of high school. The one mature student had been a hospital orderly for 20 years and decided to get his RN, so he already had his foot in the door, so to speak, because back then an orderly was doing simple procedures like vitals, catheterizations, NG tube placements, etc so it wasn't a whole new world for him.
I really think it had to do with maturity; the guys who perhaps were considering nursing in the back of their minds weren't mature enough to follow through because of the smaller numbers of males in the profession and the fear of not being accepted or being in a female-dominated world. I definitely see more mature male students than younger ones, and it has alot to do with being mature enough to accept what they really want to do and know that being happy and fulfilled in your work is more important than what anyone else thinks about the work you do. Too many guys make too much of a big deal about the whole gender thing, and realize afterwards that it really isn't an issue at all and wish they would have went into nursing sooner.
Also, whether male or female, mature students have a better understanding of what they really want to do with their lives, and priorities certainly change as you get older. Job satisfaction trumps wages but this takes maturity to realize.
I also believe that a mature nurse brings more to their profession than a very young nurse (as is true in many professions), because oftentimes life experience trumps basic nursing knowledge in the field and I know that my nursing practice gets better as I get older, not because my skills are more honed or my senses more accute, but becasue of that certain sage, deep-down feeling you get in your gut that sets you into auto pilot mode. Now that I've married, had kids, and soon-to-have grandchildren, and all the experience in several fields of nursing, I feel much better prepared as a person to deal with some issues that arise that I now realize take that level of maturity that only comes with time that I wasn't mature enought to realize earlier in my career.
There's something to be said about the ignorance of youth, granted, because it got me by at times years ago, but the wisdom of an old fart like me trumps the whippersnaper's lack-of, and even an old fart just beginning their career will still bring much to the table that the fresh-faced youth cannot.