Statistics say that the average person changes their job between five and seven times in their lives. As we grow older, although the frequency of these changes slows, the importance of them grows. No longer do we have to live up to someone else’s expectations and fulfill someone else’s dreams. No longer do we have time to waste wondering whether we’re capable of doing what we always wanted to do.
Around 7.5 million people over the age of 25 go back to some form of schooling to gain the qualifications they need to change their careers entirely. One of the qualifications on offer is nursing, and it’s a popular one. But what is it about nursing that makes it such an excellent choice for those in their later years who want a change of career? There are many different reasons, and although each individual will have their personal ideas of what it means to them to become a nurse, read on to find out more about the most common ones.
Nursing requires a good amount of knowledge. It requires an education and the right qualifications – at the very least it requires an RN. But what it also needs is experience.
This is not just the nursing experience that will be gained over many years of helping patients and dealing with doctors. The very best nurses also have plenty of life experience, and if they are coming to the profession late, this is experience they will no doubt already have.
They will know exactly how a decision can make all the difference, and how to cope with disappointment, how to solve a challenge that others might not have an idea what to do about.
With this experience, and the ability and willingness to learn, older nurses have a definite advantage over those who are turning to the profession directly from high school, which accounts for the vast majority of trainee nurses.
Age isn’t going to matter to any medical facility that needs nurses. With a nursing shortage, anyone who is willing to work and who has the right qualifications stands just as much chance of getting a job as anyone else, with age being the lowest barrier to entry. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be 371,000 new nursing jobs available by 2028; this equates to a 12 percent growth forecast for the profession.
In this regard, potential nurses can rest assured that taking the time and spending the money on getting a nursing degree will not be time or money wasted. In fact, with the issues of ageism in health care becoming a bigger problem, having older nurses who can relate to older patients can only be a good thing.
Yet more than this, not only are older nurses more likely to find a job once they graduate, they will also have plenty of choices when it comes to their career. They won’t have to work as an RN in a hospital if they would prefer to do something else. They can specialize, choosing to learn more about senior care, neonatal nursing, ER nursing, oncology, orthopedic medicine, or perhaps even working in an OR.
In other words, as an older nurse who has spent a lot of time thinking about what direction they want to take your career in, they will already have a good idea of the options, and they can do what they need to get there. As an older nurse, they’ll have a better understanding of who they are and what their strengths are, making it much easier to choose a discipline and speciality.
What about working hours? Nursing is notorious for long hours, shift work, and no regard to time off required. Or at least that’s how it feels to an outsider. The received wisdom about nursing is that the hours are long, there are shifts to contend with, and new nurses are often given night work because no one else wants it. Some of this is true, and some is embellished.
What can be said, though, is that the schedule of a nurse isn’t what would usually be called ‘flexible’. And with more people than ever choosing jobs because they offer home working or staggered hours (around 90 percent of employees would take these opportunities if they were offered), isn’t the way nursing works outdated and no longer relevant?
Clearly not everyone thinks like this, and older nurses are far less likely to worry about shift work and not getting time off over a holiday than a nurse fresh out of high school who is used to the world working remotely. Older nurses are much more settled in their lives, knowing what works for you and what doesn’t. They’ll know whether or not shift work agrees with them. They’ll manage it in a pragmatic way even if it doesn’t. They have chosen to take on the challenge of nursing, and that means the good and the bad.
It’s clear that there are significant benefits for medical facilities when it comes to hiring older nurses, but what about the nurses themselves? Is it really worth their while studying hard and spending money on a new degree in nursing?
The answer is yes; it is worth their while. Not only is the median salary for an RN $73,300, as a nurse, older people will have a career that really does mean something – they will be changing lives on a daily basis, and they are helping people at their most scared and most vulnerable. If not for a nurse to give them hope and help with their pain, many patients would not recover as quickly as they should.
Plus, nursing is a challenging career. There will be problems to solve every day and issues to have to think carefully about. As an older nurse, keeping your brain active is excellent for your long term mental health.