Midlife Career Change to Nursing - Advice, please - page 6

by mcgocara31

23,164 Visits | 70 Comments

Hi all, I'm a 42-year-old lawyer who's seriously considering making a career change to the nursing field. (I've been an unhappy lawyer, in several different law positions, for 18 years now...). I am looking for a career that... Read More


  1. 0
    I could not have said this better! I, too am a former IT professional. Have been an RN for 5 years. EVERY DAY I work, I am SHOCKED by the disrespect that nurses show each other, the doctors show, the families and patients show. When one is used to respect in a professional workplace, the change is jaw-dropping.
  2. 0
    As a 39yo starting my pre-reqs I find this topic very interesting. The one difference I have is the V.A. is paying for my schooling so I won't take on that debt.

    Currently I'm interested in working in the ICU and possibly pursuing a NP in a few years. Do these comments reflect the same trends in those specialties or are they slanted more towards floor nursing? The reason I ask is most posts have stated floor nursing.
  3. 0
    OP, You have two aging parents and can't relocate. You're a lawyer and accustomed to making reasoned and analytical decisions every day. I'm happy for you that you posted on this site for thoughts and experiences of nurses. Once you make the commitment to become a nurse, it will become a full-time job. If you are able to get your prerequisites, then apply to BSN programs, then attend nursing school, then take licensure exam, then apply for jobs until you get hired, I say go for it. Here are my thoughts: Nursing courses are expensive. Nursing school is ridiculously expensive. Most nursing school instructors are not as rational and objective as most law school professors. They treat nursing students like errant children and the process can be demeaning. The first year out of nursing school, after all the time, effort and money spent, is brutal. If you're lucky, the years following that first year may get better. (They did for me.) What happens if one or both of your parents needs you during the years it takes you to become a nurse? Do you have siblings that can help out?

    The amount of paperwork and charting required by nurses is overwhelming. Facilities advertise that they have "gone paperless" and notes are computerized. Nothing could be further from the truth. You will chart, by computer AND written charting, endless checklists and notes. If you're charting is not complete and accurate, dire consequences could result.

    If you go forth, you will learn a tremendous amount, not only about anatomy/physiology, pharmacology, care plans etc., things that go into becoming a nurse - you will learn alot about human nature and about yourself.
  4. 2
    Wow, such negativity! While a lot of what has been said is true, I passed my NCLEX at 45 and got a job right away in my chosen dept in Northern Calif, and most of my classmates did the same. It is tough out there and nursing school is awful at times, but if you really want it, don't let others discourage you. I love my job and am so glad I put in the time and effort to get here. I work with amazing nurses who are so supportive and nurturing to those of us who are inexperienced. I've been an RN with an ADN for over a year now and would do it all again. Just wanted you to know we're not all unhappy with our jobs. Good luck with whatever you decide.
    HomaShahabzadah and MissH1967 like this.
  5. 2
    I've only been a working RN for 2 weeks, so bear that in mind. My responses may be a whole lot different in 5 years.

    I'm 43 and a career changer out of a fairly lucrative I.T. niche. Driving a desk has been the worst thing for my health, hands down. While nursing isn't going to be easy on my body, it's driving me already to get more active and exercise, because I'm finding out just how important that core strength is. I got to the point with my I.T. job that while I was good at it, I hated it. I wasn't solving problems anymore, and the only thing that got me out of bed in the mornings was that I'd lucked into a fantastic team to work with. I am of the opinion that you shouldn't let yourself get trapped by a paycheck in a job you hate.

    I have to say the most important thing is to go into this with your eyes WIDE open and to have a PLAN. What many of those responding are saying is absolutely true - pay isn't great (I'm taking about a 40% pay cut), conditions are hard, and you have to take a lot of malarkey in the job. There isn't a nursing shortage right now in any urban area that has nursing schools. My area has something like 8 nursing schools dumping grads in the market every 6 months. It's competitive and you need to be prepared for that. There are a lot of changes coming down the pike for healthcare, and I would venture to say no one knows what it'll look like in 10 yrs but the next 10 yrs will be interesting to say the least. And I believe we're going to have a massive shortage again, we just don't know exactly when it's going to happen.

    In my case, I had no choice but to keep working my 40-60 hr/wk job while re-taking my sciences and a couple of other pre-reqs, as well as through nursing school. I have a little medical background (was a Paramedic in my late teens, early 20's) so it helped with the studying, as well as I didn't have any illusions about nursing being a glamorous career. They told me I couldn't get through nursing school working full time, but with an understanding boss and flexible work time (and work from home) I managed it, though my grades weren't as good as I'd have liked (graduated with a 3.37). I was prepared to continue with my I.T. job and perhaps get a part time weekend gig or volunteer with a local shelter clinic as an RN while I pursued my BSN if I didn't find anything. (BSN programs weren't flexible enough, so I had no choice but to go ASN.) I didn't get any of the primo residencies because I hadn't been working as a tech. I knew I would be free to move anywhere I needed by the time I finished my BSN (kiddo heading off to college in 2 years) But, because I made a positive impression on one of my instructors, I got asked to interview for an ICU position in LTAC which is where I started 2 weeks ago.

    My long term plans include getting my BSN ASAP, working my way to the ED at the local county hospital where my passion lies in ED care of underserved populations. I plan to do that as long as my body will let me while I pursue whatever at that point is entry for NP, and then I want to work with underserved populations as an NP. I also have the "out" given my particular I.T. niche of going into Medical Informatics if for any physical or other reason I cannot or do not want to continue in direct patient care.

    What I can tell you I love about nursing vs. I.T. no matter the pay difference:
    * when I leave shift, my work is over until I go back on shift. No more late nights coding to meet a deadline or carrying a pager and having to take my laptop with me on vacation in case something goes wrong.
    * my time is my own when I'm off shift. Eventually I will have the choice to work OT shifts (and I'll need to in order to pay off some debt), or I can pursue some of my interests that have slid over the last 5 years in school.
    * on that note, when I *do* work OT, I actually get paid for it, as opposed to 50-60 hrs/wk with no increase in the paycheck.
    * I leave work every day feeling like I made a direct impact in people's lives.
    * the activity is already better for my body.
    * I'm always learning and encountering new things. It's absolutely a mental challenge.

    Are there issues with co-workers, bosses, doctors, corporate politics, patients, patients families, low staffing, not enough/right equipment? Absolutely. I can see through the "new shine" of my job to see that there are parts of it that suck rotten eggs. But I found similar issues in every industry I've worked in. It's a matter of what you can deal with, what you don't want to deal with, and what work gives you satisfaction enough to deal with it.

    Ok, so I ramble enough to have gone to law school myself - or so I've been told. Bottom line, don't go into nursing if you think it's some kind of glamorous career or that it's a stable/solid career where you'll always have work. Those are myths and you'll end up hating it more than what you're doing now. If you don't really know what's involved in being a nurse, try to find some way to shadow some nurses on the job, you really need to know what you're getting into. If you decide this is what you REALLY want to do, then put together a solid plan with lots of contingencies and flexibility. With your legal background, you should have a similar "out" as mine if down the road you get 5 years or more of experience and decide you can't/won't take it you can go into medical/nursing legal specialties. Get *real* clear on what the job market looks like where you're at and figure out your options if you don't get a job soon after graduating.

    Best of luck to you!!

    (edited for clarification)
    HomaShahabzadah and MissH1967 like this.
  6. 1
    Kudos to you! I found myself in the same position this summer-I'm 53 and after more than 20 years as teaching (K-12 and at the college level). I worked as a nusing assistant for a few months at the hospital where my father (who is deceased now) was a hospital administrator for 16 years. I loved it! Professionally I felt so wanted, needed and respected. I also felt my intelliegnce was appreciated by other workers, especially nurses. So although I have a BA in Education, two Master's Degrees (one in English, the other Adult and Tech Ed), I am back in college earning a BSN. I had the basic sciences, but need to take more. I LOVE Anatomy and Physiology, the nursing courses, and the other courses I need to have. I have already had a lot of the other core requires classes such as English and communication, so all I need are the sciences and nursing classes. It may depend on the geographical area, bnut I think there's a shortage of nurses everywhere-and so many areas have speicalized. For example there is forensic nursing, rehabilitation nursing, etc. If you can't find a job right away (which I doubt seriously) you may want to investigate medical litigation of some kind or medical contracts since you are a lawyer, and a nursing degree would help you in your work besides make you SO credible-you could demand any salary you want. The medical field is wide open-I have been thinking about pursuing medical writing. I could go ahead and get a BSN and work in that field with the background and education I already have.
    Good luck! You aren't alone in wanting to make a mid-life professional change!
    MissH1967 likes this.
  7. 1
    If you really want to become a nurse go straight through and get your MSN to become a nurse practitioner. They are in demand and are well paid. Good luck.
    Last edit by ArtistRNJD on Mar 27, '13 : Reason: more concise and to the point
    HomaShahabzadah likes this.
  8. 0
    I have to agree with many posters when they tell you there isn't a shortage of nurses. Also, I am 43 and have been a RN for about 3yrs now and the place I work for is closing down within the next 3yrs. I will be up against much younger nurses and nurses with more experience than myself. It's a very tight market and I am more than a bit nervouse.

    If you decide to go into nursing, I wish you the very best but it's lip service here too. Many pts treat us like servants, management demands more and more for less and less, and I know you may think it will be less hours, but I've been mandated to work the whole noc shift. 16hrs is hell when you work pm's and have to stay for nocs. The grass in not always greener.
  9. 0
    I became a second career nurse in my late 30s after being in science research. I was able to quit my old job to work on pre-req's exclusively (I had to take five 3-ish-credit courses) - prereqs took me about 8 months (local community college (highly recommended if you can get a slot - may vary with location) and univ of phoenix (the only good thing I have to say about them is they're convenient)). I got my BSN from an accelerated program that took 4 semesters (17months). I had two job offers within a few weeks of graduating (both through connections I'd made in school). With part of the year doing weekend option, my gross pay last year was just a couple K shy of my starting salary as a researcher at a nonprofit research company, so not too bad.I'm still pretty new.
    My take on the nursing shortage is that it really depends on location. And your ability to find a job will likely depend on where you go to school and where your clinicals are located (and thus what kind of connections you can make). I'd recommend nursing assistant experience to potential second career nurses, and especially to those who would go through an accelerated program - you can get a first hand look at the work involved (so you can bail earlier in the process if you decide it doesn't appeal to you), and develop resume building skills that will serve you well when you start your first job. If I had to do it over again, I would've done NA work during prereq's and possibly during nursing school too (though time was tight in the accelerated program).

    I agree with others who have posted that respect is often lacking - I sometimes feel like management treats the staff nurses like we're all delinquents. Very different feeling from when I was research project manager (and from how I and other managers treated those under us). I would say that some of our staff do not behave in ways that demand respect, so I try to tell myself that that is where some of the disrespect from management is directed. One on one with management, I feel respected for the most part. Collectively, I feel like management tries to squeeze every last bit out of us they can in the name of the bottom line. They add new responsibilities and expectations while neglecting to account for the additional time required to comply. A friend has described the hospital as a factory, and staff nurses are just part of the assembly line. We're also expected to provide excellent customer service, but are lacking in time to do the kind of relationship building and patient education that was the ideal we learned in school.
    All that said, I'm glad I made the switch, love my coworkers, and really like working with (most of) the patients.
  10. 0
    Be aware that being a lawyer may actually impede your prospects for nursing employment. Many nurse managers are fearful of their own jobs and see competent nurses as threats to their positions, thinking everyone else wants out of bedside nursing (they do) and are next in line for their jobs (they aren't). I have sat in many interviews with very bright prospects only to have the hiring manager diss them and hire the frail timid less experienced ones whom I have been told they prefer because they can "mold them" to what they want (and not be challenged.) Needless to say, these poor fodder don't last and we have a revolving door of never ending interviews and orientation.


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