Agism: realistic appraisal?

Nurses Career Support


Hi. I'm pretty convinced that nursing is for me, even after reading how horrible it can be. (Seems a challenge to tough it out and I havn't forgotten how cool nurses were to me when I was hospitalized).

What does concern me is my age: I'm 49, starting the yr of pre-reqs to get into an RN program (like LA County/USC nursing school). I have an MS from an ivy (still paying this debt) and hope to work in a trauma/er room. Will my age hurt me - rather, to what extent will it hurt me (am in good shape though)? I've seen plenty of agism everywhere, though many pretend this doesn't exist.

Secondly, b/c of the age issue, should I try straight for ER (will I be trained well I wonder) or do it right and get ICU and/or Med-Surg. experience first.

Any advice is welcomed and Happy New Year.


Muddywaters (Allan)


6,620 Posts

I graduated with a woman in her fifties and she did just fine. If anything I was a little jealous that the nurses and patients related very well to her, assuming she had more experience than the rest of us. If you're motivated and work hard you'll be fine.

As for the ER question, I really have no experience but my ER goddess friend tells me that med-surg experience is a real benefit to new grads (our hospital doesn't hire new grads into ICU at all).


1,301 Posts

Hi Muddy. Welcome to nursing. Your help is desired and needed. Because nursing is so diverse, you have so many alternatives. Normally, med-surg is the unit of choice for getting general knowledge and experience on most types of patients. After that, you may discover what type of patient care you prefer and then specialize. I personally recommend during your nursing career that you also spend some time in critical care, ER, ambulatory care, rehab, LTC, and home health. There are many other areas. I notice that most nontraditional employers prefer nurses with a wide range of experience. Best wishes.


11 Posts

Thanks all for your help.

Non-traditional careers? Now that sounds interesting. Male nurse to a decadent movie star, snacking on pate late at night.

Best regards,



5 Posts

Well, imagine my surprise to find another 49 yr old with a bachelors degree considering a career in nursing! It has been a long time since chem, physics, calc, biol. Fergus51 has given me a new fear - that with my age someone would assume that I have more experience than I DO. All these posts help to give boost to this divorced mother of two teenage guys - maybe we can learn A & P together.

live4today, RN

5,099 Posts

Specializes in Community Health Nurse.

Hello muddywaters! :)

Here is something that I hope will give you lots of encouragement as you make your mind up about entering nursing. ;)

"Ive learned that the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person." -- Andy Rooney

Although I do not consider 49 "elderly" -- I am 50 myself -- we do have a handle on life in ways that younger people do not -- not of any fault of their own, we are just older and acquired a lot of our knowledge and wisdom at the feet of "others older or more elderly" than ourselves, as well as having gone through so much of the "school of hardknocks" by the time we reach the 40 year mark. :)

I entered nursing school in my early thirties. I was married, had three elementary grade children, a big house to clean, and two dogs to care for, and I was nervous as heck, too! :eek: I had been out of school about 15 years when I decided to "go for it"! You are still "young" and at 49, you still have a lot of life left in you. You'll probably even appreciate returning to college now since you are more mature, and beyond the crazy lazy days of yesteryear! :chuckle ;)

So, go for it! You already have a college degree, so you already know what to expect study wise, instructor wise, etc. Just let yourself enjoy the experience, have fun as you learn nursing, and be passionate about it all. Otherwise, you may not enjoy the ride much! ;)


31 Posts

Hi Muddy!

Heck, I was already to spout all my "elderly" wisdom (I'm 51), but Cheerfuldoer beat me to it. I echo everything she said. I, too, got my nursing degree in my 30's while taking care of my two kids. It has been a varied road with trips into Psych, dentistry, oral surgery, telemetry, OR and now, ICU.

You'll be doing yourself a big favor in getting a good footing in med-surg at first. When I got to ICU, I really hadn't had a lot of floor experience and the learning curve was like hitting a brick wall at 90 mph! The other problem was that, because of my age, my coworkers and mentors expected me to know everything in the line of general nursing. I wish I had gotten the med-surg as the foundation....but the trip has been fun!

Like Renee said, enjoy the journey and open yourself up to the fun of learning.


micro, RN

1,173 Posts


What a cool name you use to describe yourself.....

With age comes maturity and wisdom.....

You will do fine.........and I do mean you will do fine.....



6 Posts

As a 50 yr old ICU nurse (and grandmother) you need to follow your heart. In nursing, you need to work where your heart is. You can do it. I also entered nursing in my thirties, as an ICU nurse.

In response to your question regarding being able to go right into ER nursing, it depends on the orientation process at your facility.

In the past, it was always assumed that you would need at least one good year on a med-surg floor before trying ER or ICU. That was when staffing was better.

Now that hospitals are fighting for ER and ICU staff, many have developed training programs for new grads.

Our facility has a program which is an intense preceptorship for six months. In meeting with prospective employers, you need to be very specific in your questions regarding on- the-job training. Is it a specific program IN WRITING? Our program has a competency based orientation manual. The employee has to demonstrate understanding of and ability to perform each function to the satisfaction of the preceptor.

What is your protection from being considered part of staffing in times of short staffing? Will they give you a spectific date for when your preceptorship is over and you are officially part of staffing? Can this date be extended if you need a little extra time, or what resources are available to you if you feel you need a little extra help in a certain area?

One reason I feel it is prudent to work med-surg for one year first, is that you need to develop/fine tune your organizational skills. In an ICU or ER (especially ER) you need to have very good organizational skills, and be able to think on your feet, and rearrange your priorities moment to moment. If you feel you have good organizational skills, go for it!

Good luck in whatever you choose.

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