How old is too old?


this is my first time on this forum. i have been reading for a while and enjoy all the questions and has been very helpful in my quest.

my question to you all is "how old is too old?". i am 52 years old and just working on my pre-requisites. yes, you read that right. this means that i will be about 54 when i apply for nursing school. am i crazy? has my ship sailed and i should just hang it up? i have always wanted to be a nurse. i listened to my mother, who completed 8th grade tell me that i would never be able to go to college. i listened to her and 2 days after graduation from h.s. i was married. eight years and 2 babies later i was divorced. then i was a single mom trying to make ends meet. i finally signed up for some college classes, even though my mom was giving me those mom looks and making me feel it was a stupid thing to do. i made a's in my classes and that only encouraged me more. mom was shocked. i met a man who lived 3 hours from me and was raising his two kids. we were married a few months later and my life has been devoted to raising children. finally, i am to a place in my life where i can do something i want to do.

the community college i attend takes a total of 60 nursing students in their program. forty during the day, twenty at night. most 4 year colleges are the same. the community college had 400 applicants last semester. my chances are very slim at best. this will be a total career change for me. i am so excited to finally do this. i am strong and very encouraged. i am so scared at the same time. i don't want to waste anyone's precious time or money. this is an agonizing decision. you all are nurses, some may be my age. do i stand a chance? do i push on?

thank you for your help.


Specializes in LTC Rehab Med/Surg. Has 16 years experience.

I'm going to get hammered for my response, but the OP posed a question, and I'm going to answer.

I'm 54 yrs old and I'm just not as sharp as I used to be. I don't remember as much as I used to. I cannot "juggle" as many things as I used to. An irrefutable fact is that my 54 year old hips, knees and back are starting to act their age. Nursing is as much a physical job, as it is a cerebral job.

The thing is, I'm not a new nurse and I don't have thousands of pieces of info that I have to remember. I already know the basics. Some things are just plain automatic, which takes a strain off my memory. I honestly don't know if I could enter a nursing job with no experience at my age and succeed.

School would be the easy part. The OP could probably coast right through that. It's facing a workplace with a bias against age. Competing with "kids" young enough to be your grandchild.

It's a decision only you can make. Knowledge is never wasted. Dreams are made to be pursued.


199 Posts

hi mb - so you ask, "how old is too old?"

well i went back to school at 55, 30+ years after graduating from college. i thought it time for a career change from being a field biologist to nursing. far fetched? not really.

i went to an accelerated program that was 5 days/wk. i also worked pt, about 15-20 hr/wk. i was up everyday at 5 or 6 (depended on school schedule). when i wasn't in school (or working), i was getting to school/clinicals (1 hr away from home), studying, or sleeping.

i worked my ass off and ran circles around most of my younger classmates. i graduated in the top 5. my life was very regimented and i stuck like glue to a strict schedule. my husband was a jewel, he saw how dedicated i was and picked up the slack at home.

got my license in mid-2011 on the first attempt. got my first job this past fall doing flu shots at walmart. not exactly a dream job; but hey, it was a first job and i was thrilled to have it! btw, heard about the company right here on an!

got my current job, which is a dream job, working urgent care. when i interviewed for the position, they mentioned that they were looking for a "mature" candidate. someone whose personality and work ethic would mesh w/existing staff. someone who was flexible, and a quick study - they weren't necessarily looking for the most experienced nurse. ta da....i fit the bill perfectly.

yes, there are thousands of pieces of information to memorize. many procedures i've never heard about, let alone ever done. it's practically all new content. but the memory still is sharp, and my 58 yo bones are still in good shape. i eat right, exercise when i can, keep my body lean, and do what i can to keep my energy level high.

so, i ask - is it too late for you? if you have the drive and determination, you'll make it. but you'll never know till you try.

good luck. i wish you well. :nurse:


26 Posts

Thank you so much. I too, eat right, exercise and try to stay fit, after all, how can you try to help people be healthy if you are not. I am married to a wonderful man who is very encouraging and does all the laudry, kitchen cleaning and cooks dinner when I am in school! He is a gem!! I am working 30 hours a week in a call center, so not much thinking involved there....saving my energy for school. My intention is to take a CNA course from March to May on the weekends then go to work for a hospital in our area. I do not want to be blind and just have my head in the clouds saying "I will follow this 'dream' no matter what!". I am smart enough to know that it just may not be realistic. But if I think there is the smallest chance that I can go fo this....I will do it. My mom is still working at the age of 81....I know I won't be nursing that long...but I come from a long line of long livers :)


168 Posts

Maryea, you're an inspiration and you're not alone. There are many on this forum with similar stories. Why not go for your Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN) instead of the CNA ? If you're going to dream, why not dream big? With an ADN, you will qualify to sit for the NCLEX and upon passing, become an RN. :)


26 Posts

Thank you for your encouragement. I knew there had to be more out there besides me...we must be few and far between. The community college I attend has a point system. If I do the CNA it will earn points toward the RN classes, a 2 year program. Since I am knocking some of the classes out of the way now it will lighten my load when I am accepted to the nusring program. There was a reason I had decided not to do the ADN...but now I will need to rethink that reasoning. The first advisor I talked to at the school was not very helpful, maybe she talked me out of it. She was really very rude and I remember stomping all the way to my car with my teeth gritted saying, "I'll show you!!" Not because she was not encouraging me, but because she is an advisor at a community college, looking down her nose at me and said, "have you ever attended a college?" I informed her I had attended a university in another city before I moved here. She was not much of an advisor. Since then I have talked to 2 otheres who have veen nothing but encouraging.

I appreciate both sides of this issue. Imintrouble...I appreciate your thoughts on this too. I considered what you said, and you are right in that sometimes we are not as sharp as we use to be....however, I have met some young nurses that scare me more than the "older folks" do :)


35 Posts

Go for it! Im 37 and a lot of students at my school entering the health care field are between my age and older. If you want it, you can do it :)


91 Posts

Well I hope you are not too old because that means that I am too old also.

You are right thou on the competition with the Kids, plus with everyone trying to get into the medical field for a steady job, and only so many slots available,

I would suggest going the LVN route, then bridge over to the RN program, it will add one more semester to get your ADN, the advantages are less competition with the LVN to RN bridge programs, LVN take one year and then you are working in the field, plus working as a LVN will allow you to build on your knowledge base before you start the RN program, and you have many different options on where and how to bridge to an RN program.

MY carrier path has been, Carpenter, Machinist, Commercial Carpenter, Respiratory, LVN and finally getting ready to do the bridge to RN thing. The way I look at it is what I want to do for the next 10 – 15 years.

Good Luck

Specializes in Orthopedic, LTC, STR, Med-Surg, Tele.

I say go for it!


105 Articles; 5,349 Posts

Specializes in Gerontological, cardiac, med-surg, peds. Has 16 years experience.

I second that - go for it! Follow your heart and pursue your dreams :)


26 Posts

Thank you all. I will be checking into the LPN program again. I appreciate the encouragment, it helps me know I am going in the right direction.

Specializes in Critical Care.

If you are in good health and have a strong back and can pay for school without taking out student loans then I would consider it. But if you are going to have to take out a lot of student loans or have any neck/shoulder/back problems I wouldn't advise it. The problem with nursing is it's very physical and most places don't have adequate lift equipment. Obesity is a major problem with patient's 200, 300 and yes even 400, 500+ pounds that you are expected to help reposition, get out of bed, etc.

Also how well do you handle stress? This is a very stressful job, read the posts, many are depressed, anxious, stressed out and looking for a way out! Both new grads and experienced are struggling with the job due to unreasonable expectations and too high patient ratio's. Healthcare has become like an assembly line, run as fast as you can, fake a smile, be a robot on steroids ala stepford nurse.