Nursing Student??


  • Career Columnist / Author
    Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development. Has 30 years experience.

Hey Nurse Beth.... I'm a licensed psychologist working for a federal agency. I've been thinking about lack of job flexibility as I get older, with plans to work a long time because I'm in great health and have no reason to stop. I've also developed a great love for working with mind/body conditions (board certified in biofeedback and lots of experience now with chronic pain, insomnia, and all kinds of stress-related disorders), and I've begun to really thinking about a career change to nursing. If I got into school in the next couple of years (and truly left my other career behind), I'd have an Associates and be starting as a new nurse in my late 50s. It's a late start and a big pay cut. But I think I'd love the work (probably in a local hospital setting depending on what opportunities are there) and would be in it for the long haul. I've been a psychologist for 22 years. Any thoughts? Is this a crazy idea? Signed...not actually a nursing student yet


Dear From Psychologist to RN,

Wow, you would bring so,so much to your nursing practice with your background, depending on the setting you work in.

But I just want to be sure you aren't setting yourself up for disappointment. Many nursing students have a romanticized idea of nursing until they're smack dab in the middle of a 12-hour shift with a blood transfusion and an infiltrated IV, a fresh post-op patient needing narcotics with a worrisome looking abdomen, 3 patients in isolation, and a patient who may or not be in early sepsis.

It's entirely possible to be therapeutic (we all try to be) but not to actively practice biofeedback and alternative interventions, much as we'd like to. Unfortunately, hospitalized patients are discharged at the earliest possible moment, leaving scant time for effective patient education.

Now that's in the hospital setting, and there are other settings that are not as intense.

As far as getting an Associate's degree, I'd go for an accelerated Bachelor's program with your educational background. An Associate's degree in nursing can be very limiting as far as job opportunities.

Starting in your late 50s depends a lot on your "real" age. Everyone is different. I landed a job I had only dreamed of at an age older than that :)

Best wishes,

Nurse Beth


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


14,633 Posts

I don't mean this in a mean way, but would have to say, based on my experience over the decades that, yes, that is a "crazy idea." I can only wish I were a psychologist with a steady Federal job, haha. I've worked in psych nursing through my career, and I've known quite a number of psychologists and social workers who thought about going into nursing because they felt that the RNs they observed were doing pretty much the same as what they did (in psychiatric settings, that is) but got paid a lot more money with a lot less formal education. Every one of those people I've known personally eventually decided, once they looked into what nursing school would actually involve and what RNs actually did, to stay in their current profession. My advice would be to not do it. Best wishes!


6 Posts

Love this answer!! Thanks so much. Boy, reading the allnurses forums has been an education! All of the myriad things you guys navigate. Wow. Also have to say that the cameraderie and eagerness to help that is so evident on these forums is another part of the appeal. That said, I get it that it would be a whole new world and might not play to my strengths :-) Certainly something to think long and hard about and maybe shadow some nurses if I could. I am going to take A&P I and II just for my own education, and as my sister the PT says, "everybody's got a body." And I'll probably keep lurking around here reading and learning because you guys are an amazing bunch. Thank you again so much for your feedback, Nurse Beth. Nurses RULE

Specializes in Wound care; CMSRN. Has 8 years experience.

Doesn't sound crazy to me, but I got my RN certs at 62. I also work in a federal facility. I can think of lots of applications for a psych background in nursing way beyond strait up psych nursing, which I have no experience in, beyond the psych nursing all bedside nurses do on a daily basis.

There are lots of programs out there that will turn a Bachelors degree in Psych or Soc into an MSN in 18 months. I haven't researched the particulars of a case like yours since I'm focused on ASN to Masters programs (don't really have time to screw around w/ RN to BSN) which seem to be pretty much limited to Education or Management tracks; but those programs are out there. I would think with some research you could be looking at a pretty broad range of opportunity, possibly only limited by your stated desire to stay local.

Late middle age academic adventures are the bomb, literally. They can really rearrange your life. Maybe you'd consider teaching nurses or supporting working nurses in an EAP of some sort? I'm looking at what looks to me to be a pretty high rate of job stress related disorders in the field. I'm looking at massive issues with chronic pain and addiction to painkillers in my patient population. I've looked at community liaison jobs where a psych + nursing background is the gold ticket. Forensic nursing is another possibility. If you really start looking, the possibilities represented by the combination of fields might be a little overwhelming.

My limited experience w/ federal employment shows me a system that is not particularly innovative or flexible, although that is not to say that there aren't thousands of working nurses and administrators who wish that it were more so. Whatever you do, have fun with it!

One last note; I'd encourage you to stick with "brick and mortar" nursing programs or at least programs that have that as a historical component. There's no quick and easy way to get a good solid nursing education. I consider myself to be extremely lucky in having been taken under the wings of some really solid 30 yr nurses as preceptors and mentors. I love those guys and miss the H out of them. Good luck to you.

You're welcome to PM me for more specific input or discussion on this.


3 Posts

Check into WGU'S program that will give you a BSN and MSN in the same program. I am starting soon, just taking AP II first. It is great for us older folks. I am in my first RN job, I'm 61 and was a paralegal for years. WGU is very cost-effective and competency based. You go as fast as you can master the material. Less than $3500.00 for 6 months of time. Good luck!