According to a 2005 white paper by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the average age for a nursing graduate has risen to 31, and 73 percent of nursing students are considered "nontraditional," meaning they did not enter the program directly out of high school. The age of graduate nurses is rising, and while the steps are the same for a nursing student age 50 or older, some special issues attend students of that age.
Obtain copies of all previous transcripts and bring them to an academic adviser to determine what classes, if any, will transfer to a nursing program. Credit for health-specific classes like anatomy and physiology usually expire after two years, but other classes may not expire for 10 years, and some classes (like English and other general education requirements) may not expire at all.
Choose a nursing program that fits best with your current responsibilities, such as caring for children, grandchildren, spouse or elderly parents. Evaluate your health and energy levels to determine if a full-time, part-time, night, day or online program will work for you.
Earn an associate degree in nursing (ADN) from an accredited community college, for the quickest path to become a registered nurse without any traditional health care experience. An ADN program usually takes two years and prepares you to sit for the NCLEX, the national registered nurse licensing exam.
Seek out schools that offer accelerated second degree-to-BSN programs if you have a bachelor's degree in another field. These programs award you a bachelor's of science in nursing and prepare you for the NCLEX. Accelerated programs can take anywhere from one to three years, depending on how many classes from your previous degree transfer.
Find a school that offers a LPN-to-RN transition program if you are already a licensed practical nurse with up-to-date credentials. Such programs typically take a year or less and also prepare you to take the NCLEX.
Protect your health and safety during clinical training and while working as a nurse. Use lifting devices to move patients, wear comfortable shoes, take frequent breaks if possible and maintain a balanced meal and sleep schedule.
Tips & Warnings
- Some older students have trouble mastering technology and multitasking. Take extra time to study new devices and avoid fast-paced units like the emergency department.
- Always ask for help if needed to avoid injury to yourself or to your patient. Nursing is a collaborative profession and you will not be looked down on for asking for assistance.
- Don't expect special treatment because you are older. Do not abuse sick time nor expect to be exempt from night and weekend shifts typically given to less experienced nurses.
- Photo Credit nurse on duty image by Pix by Marti from Fotolia.com
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