Thinking About Changing My Career Path - Should I become an RN and wait to have children?

Dear Nurse Beth Advice Column - The following letter submitted anonymously in search for answers. Join the conversation! Nurses Nurse Beth Nursing Q/A


Dear Nurse Beth,

I am from the Philippines and would like to change my career path. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and had worked in several NPOs (Non-profit Organizations) before immigrating to the US.

I just got married and my husband and I are in a dilemma whether to have children first and study and get a career later OR study first and have kids later. If we do decide for me to be an RN first, how soon could I have it and how do I start considering that I have no experience in the medical field whatsoever. Help please ?

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Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development.

Dear Undecided,

Without knowing what classes you've already taken, I would realistically plan on it taking about four years to earn your nursing degree.

You will need two-to-three semesters of science prerequisites, including Anatomy, Physiology, and Chemistry. Let's say you can get that accomplished in one year, which would be on the fast side.

Then you have to apply to nursing school. The time between applying and starting nursing school can easily be one semester, and sometimes longer. Nursing schools often start two times a year, in the fall and in January.

Associate's degree programs take two years. If you attend an associate degree program you would have an associate degree in science and a Bachelor's degree in Psychology. Your Bachelor's degree does not convert to a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN).

Bachelor's degree nursing programs take four years.

There are some quicker options for students like yourself who hold a Bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field.These are called accelerated BSN programs and allow you to transfer your general education credits to your BSN program. You would then graduate with a BSN. An accelerated program takes one and a half to two years.

Either way, you will have to attend clinical rotations in a physical location (hospital). Be sure and choose an accredited nursing school. Look for the Accreditation Commission For Education in Nursing (ACEN). They accredit all types of nursing programs (associate's, diploma, bachelor's and master's). The Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) accredits bachelor's and master's nursing programs.

Good luck to your and your husband whatever you decide.

If you decide to go into nursing, I think going back to school before kids is by far the best choice. Nursing school is very tough! I've seen many struggle to be able to handle nursing school and family life. Some of the girls I have worked with are younger and able to do both, and are even working while getting their BSN and/or MSN and have children. But I see how stressed out they are and how little time they have left for their children in the most important years of their kids' lives. I got my associates and worked a few years before having kids, so by the time I had my second, I was able to go part-time and be there a lot more for my boys. Now, over eighteen years later, I'm working in the same hospital I started in. I still have only my associates, I'm still part-time, and I make almost $40/hr in a small town. I know every situation is different, but once I was a mom, that became the most important thing in my life. I'm so glad I went to school first!!

Specializes in Adult MICU/SICU.

I agree - nursing school first. I remember class mates telling me they had to lock themselves in a room to study while their little ones banged on the door to be let in to spend time with mom or dad. I never wanted to attempt that. Plus, kids cost a lot to raise - even on a nurse's salary. Do yourself a favor and wait if you can. If you are waiting for the perfect time to have kids, that time may never arrive … however not having that stress may make nursing school infinitely easier to accomplish. Good luck regardless of your choice.

Hi, I am in my first year of hospital nursing. I hope my experiences can help you. I am very timid and unsure of myself as well. I have become very overwhelmed at times. I had to Change the way I think about things. If I have a skill that scares me, I watch plenty of videos on it, observing people's techniques. When I am at work and I have to do something I haven't done much, I try to change my thinking from fear to excitement over a chance to practice a new skill. I slow down, think about each step and really take my time explaining the process to the patient. The patients seem to appreciate me taking the time with them and really caring about what I am doing. Verbalizing what I am going to do helps me to focus. I also will ask a highly skilled pct or another nurse to come in with me the first time. I run through what I am going to do and I ask them to just let me do it and help me if I need it. I have found that there are some really great nurses who remember how hard it was starting out and they have really given me a lot of support. I have also found that some pcts really know a lot about these skills and can be lifesavers. If I wouldn't have taken this job right after graduation I probably never would have, it has been a difficult year. It has been getting better and I have formed some really strong relationships at work. I hope this helps, best of luck to you. I hope to mentor new nurses some day.

Addendum: I too have interests outside of nursing. Great thing is I work 3 days a week and can pursue those other interests on the other 4 days.

Omg do school first!!!

i say this as I lay in a toddler bed cuddled up to my 5yr old who for the last 2yrs has been in complete hell because I am never home and when I am then I have no time or attention to give her. She's spent all this time acting out and misbehaving for attention that I wish I had an abundance of to give her. I regret no taking the plunge and finishing my LVN/LPN->RN before having her but with my lupus, RA & hormone level problems we knew there would be fertility issues and we knew in-vitro was probably our only chance. The specialists said the younger I was the better the success. It didn't change the fact that I missed so much of her life that are times I won't get back. It doesn't change the fact that I always had to be at the library because I couldn't study at home with her noise and acting out. I spent every moment I could with her and most nights it meant being home to put her to bed and sleeping cuddled with her in her bed... not so great on my back or joints but I'll take what I can get.

I know we explained to her why I must be gone so much and I know she understands but it doesn't change her feelings that I am never there for her. It doesn't change her crying for daddy and not me when she is scared or hurt. I finished and passed my Exit Exam May 16 and have spent every second possible with her to make up for it but nothing ever really can change how it made her feel. I know she'll understand better when she's older but it is still heartbreaking now. Also I was extremely lucky that my husband has a job that he can leave work for childcare emergencies or holidays. Some of my classmates did not have that luxury so they missed days that easily could've affected their ability to be allowed to continue. We were allowed to miss 1 day every two terms. That is not a feasible reality when you have kids, it just isn't. We started with 30 and ended with I believe 15 or 16, we lost many due to just plain life occurrences. Having to work to support their families affected their ability to study. One her husband got injured so she had to drop to go back to work full time. Just every day normal life.

Make it easier on yourself and your husband, school first then kids. Even our program director said students with kids probably wouldn't make it through, there can't be any priority higher than nursing school or you are setting yourself up for failure.

my child is a higher priority but thankfully I am lucky enough to have a spouse who can drop everything for our child and who is slightly understanding. Nursing school might have cost us our marriage though.

Absolutely do school first!!! I'm in Nursing school now, Associate level ASN-RN no less, and it is by far the hardest thing I've ever done academically, and this will be my 3rd degree. Previous Bachelors don't even compare. However hard you've heard it is, it's harder. Do yourself a favor and don't make it infinitely worse by having the demands of a young child at home. Those in our class who have kids are much more stressed and struggling than the rest of us, even when they have family helping out at home. Don't do it to yourself, your spouse, or your kids if you have a choice. It's not fair to anyone.

As a side note, if your Bachelors in Psych is from the Philippines, it probably won't carry over to the U.S directly. I would recommend eventually speaking with an academic adviser at one or more colleges to see which courses they'll give you credit for, and what would be involved in transferring your degree over to here. This may vary from college to college, so if the first gives you discouraging news, check with a couple others who may honor more of your credits or even give you life experience credit toward some courses. I know it sounds like you won't be using your psychology degree any time soon, but once you get established as a nurse and get a couple kids into elementary school, it's something you may want to pursue later...especially if you ever consider focusing on psychiatric nursing.