By E’Louise Ondash, RN
She talks about how the nursing care she received after a severe trauma was inspirational and never forgotten. He explains that working in home care allows him to know patients much better. She says that her people and organizational skills readily transfer to a nursing career, and he says that his years in a monastery were excellent preparation for helping addicts recover.
These are some of the thoughts of men and women who have chosen to be nurses after other long and successful careers. I read about them – a crime reporter, a judge, a chief of personnel for the New York Fire Department, and a Buddhist monk – in a recent issue of the AARP Bulletin. One of the featured nurses is 50; the other three are in their mid-60s.
They represent, according to the article, the increasing numbers of men and women who are choosing nursing as a second career at a point in their lives when most people are thinking about retirement. Their reasons are both altruistic and financial. Nurses today are compensated much better for their skills than in previous decades, and fast-track programs for those who already have bachelor’s and master’s degrees make the profession attractive to mature and talented people.
Entering a rigorous new career path in one’s fifth or sixth decade is a marked departure from the formerly traditional path to nursing. In decades gone by, most nursing students were young women – teenagers, really – fresh out of high school.
Many veteran nurses tell of how they knew from an even a younger age that they wanted to follow in Florence Nightingale's footsteps. Their motivations were certainly admirable, but at 18 or 19, these young women came to the profession with little life experience.
Second-career nurses have one very big advantage: they bring to their second careers a wealth of experience, knowledge and understanding. They already may have mastered the skills that an 18-year-old won't acquire for years to come. They may have witnessed multiple deaths; endured great loss; chronicled the pain, misery and mistakes of others; learned to work under less-than-ideal situations and with difficult co-workers; mastered balancing family and work; decided the fate of others; made a bad decision or two; learned how to say just the right thing; and even how to be patients themselves.
I have nothing but admiration for those who make the leap into a nursing career when they could easily and deservedly enjoy a life of leisure.
What advice would you give a newly graduated second-career nurse?
At you own graduation, if had known then what you know now, would you have approached your nursing career differently?
Tell us about it.