56 With Multiple Back Surgeries Wants to Become an RN

  1. Dear Nurse Beth,

    I am an LPN that has been on disability d/t blowing out 5 discs while transferring a patient. Have had 5 surgeries to help fix issues. I am 56 yrs old and am thinking of going for my RN this fall. How realistic is it that anyone would hire a new 58 yr old RN? I am/ was a good nurse but am unable to do the physical stuff on a daily basis now. I want to work again but am really concerned that because of my age and past injury no one will take a chance on me.



    Dear Concerned,

    I'm glad you have recuperated from your back injuries. Has your doctor released you to work and do you have any restrictions?

    Technically you do not have to reveal your back injuries to an employer unless you are looking for a work accommodation. Even if you don't have restrictions from your doctor, being a new grad at age 58 with a bad back is a challenging start to a nursing career...

    There is ageism in nursing but the limitations from your back and the risk to your back are more concerning. How do you plan to provide clinical bedside care when you are unable to "do the physical stuff on a daily basis"?

    There are non-clinical positions, but many require a Bachelor's degree plus one to two years of clinical practice.

    The last thing you want to do is put your health at risk, and you have to listen to your body. You still have the "want-to" so the key is finding a job that matches the "can-do". An option to going back to get your RN could be putting that same energy into job searching. You may be able to find an LPN position in employee health or an immunization clinic.


    Best wishes on your decision,

    Nurse Beth

    Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!

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    Last edit by tnbutterfly on Jul 23
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    About Nurse Beth, MSN, RN

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    11 Comments

  3. by   kbrn2002
    I would agree with Nurse Beth. It's not impossible for you to find employment as an RN with chronic health issues, but you need to be realistic about the job prospects that will be available to you as a new RN. Will your current employer offer you a position as an RN? That would be the easiest way to transition into a new role if you are overall happy with your current employer. Otherwise you will need to be aware of what jobs are generally available in your area that first hire new grad RN's and second will be in a setting that you feel you can work in without risking further injury.

    Urban areas with multiple employers will of course provide the most options but even in smaller population settings there are clinics, dialysis centers, plasma centers, Assisted Livings, some Long term care facilities and Home Health that may offer RN jobs to new grads that wouldn't be too physically demanding for you to manage.
  4. by   Pixie.RN
    Another thing to remember is that your LPN to RN program will have clinicals that are potentially physically demanding. You will have to complete those clinicals to get to those possible not-so-physical RN jobs.
  5. by   Mavrick
    Quote from Pixie.RN
    Another thing to remember is that your LPN to RN program will have clinicals that are potentially physically demanding. You will have to complete those clinicals to get to those possible not-so-physical RN jobs.
    Exactly what I was thinking. You still have clinicals just like everybody else.

    First things first .... take care of your back, you will need it.
  6. by   Leader25
    It is nice to dream but the reality of nursing must be reviewed.Do you want to risk permanent back injury and life long debilitating pain? Can you picture retirement in constant pain ?
    I see my colleagues some decades younger suffering from shoulder,hip,knee ,foot, not to mention the mental issues..,you have a pre existing condition that many employers will look askew at since covering workers with medical benefits is getting more expensive. I am glad you are feeling better but if you can get through clinicals with whatever lifting requirement they have and then find a desk type job or whatever.
  7. by   Daisy4RN
    I don't think it is very realistic. That being said it is not impossible either. It just depends how important it is to you. Speaking as an older nurse myself I can tell you it will be an up hill battle to find a job. It will also be difficult while you are in school, clinicals etc. I would have a good plan before you start. Research jobs, pay rate, requirements etc. Also, most employees require a employment physical where you will have to disclose your back problems. I hope it works out for you whatever you decide!
  8. by   NurseBlaq
    One question: How do you plan on getting through RN clinicals?

    Plus, there's still some degree of lifting and strenuous duties as an RN. You won't go from being an LPN to cushy RN job fresh out of school as there are other RNs ahead of you looking for those same jobs for the same reasons.

    Duties aside, you didn't have carpal tunnel or knee surgery, you had 5 back surgeries which is major. I understand wanting to be an RN but do you want to risk your ability to walk for a few years of being an RN? Always put your health and well being above a job. Employers don't care about your long term health but you must. We don't always get to complete everything on our bucket lists!
  9. by   conroenurse
    I don't lift, bend, push, or pull and haven't for 10yrs. I do the meds, the bulk of the documentation and rounds with the Dr's. Every job isn't ness. bedside lifting and etc. But I know if you claim "light duty" chances are the HR won't risk it. There are jobs out there, you just have to find and present yourself as able IMO.
  10. by   Chrispy11
    You are the best judge of your physical abilities. I went back to school and can tell you clinicals are very taxing. I was required to have my doctor sign off on a physical before I could sign up for my first nursing class. During school I was injured at work and needed to get a doctor to sign off on my physical abilities before I could attend clinical again. You might want to check if you can meet the school's requirements first.
  11. by   Gratefulgirl818
    I am 43 with 6 back surgeries. (12 total orthopedic surgeries on my body) I got my LPN at 40 after 15 years as a CMA. I have found bed side care to be to tough on my body. However I have found that inpatient and outpatient mental health and addiction treatment allows me to provide care without having to do daily activities that put my back at risk. Also I found floor nursing in SNF was more med pass and overseeing the CNA's/LPN's for the RN's then anything and if I needed assistance with transferred I just asked for assistance from the CNA's. However I have decided to get my bachelors in a more management healthcare role so I will be a nurse that can do more from behind a desk. Hope it all works out.
  12. by   billswife
    Entering the job force as a new grad RN, it is unrealistic (and maybe unfair) to expect to be hired into an administrative position ahead of others who have worked bedside and have RN experience. The automatic assumption of discrimination also smacks of entitlement. I'm a few years older than you and have>25 years RN experience AND a bad back, yet here I am in the trenches.
  13. by   conroenurse
    billswife said Entering the job force as a new grad RN, it is unrealistic (and maybe unfair) to expect to be hired into an administrative position ahead of others who have worked bedside and have RN experience. The automatic assumption of discrimination also smacks of entitlement. I'm a few years older than you and have>25 years RN experience AND a bad back, yet here I am in the trenches

    GEESH Billswife, that sounds kinda "entitled" itself! But just FYI to all if a new grad is someone who might be a newbie RN but has yrs of LVN that is taken into consideration. Also my sister is DON and she says they look for "best fit" and of course at times who they can hire for less. (sigh that's healthcare for ya)

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