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How to get into a nursing career later in life?

by Eric
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While some people grow up wanting to be nurses and start their training soon after finishing school, for others, it is a career they switch to later in life. They may have worked in a completely unrelated field or spent time out of the workforce raising a family or caring for elderly relatives. Regardless, it is never too late to get into nursing, and with the demand for skilled nurses at an all-time high, there has never been a better time to find out how to get into nursing later in life.

Should you transition into nursing?

Training and working as a nurse is a rewarding experience, but it can also be challenging, so it is well worth researching your options carefully before getting started. While it can be physically demanding, there is no age limit on becoming a nurse, with people qualifying in their fifties. If you are keen on a career with long-term prospects where you help people and truly make a difference every day, then nursing may be the right career for you.

Getting qualified

There are a number of routes into nursing later in life, and much depends on what your existing qualifications are. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, even if in an unrelated subject, you can take an accelerated BSN program (ABSN) to become a registered nurse (RN).

If you are moving into nursing later in life, you may already have an established family home and be unable to move to attend a program. Fortunately, there is also the option of online study. A good example of a second degree online BSN program can be found at the University of Indianapolis. Through 100% online coursework with clinical placements at a setting accessible to you and two residencies in the on-campus state-of-the-art nursing sim lab, you can complete the program in as little as 15 months.

Before enrolling in an accelerated program, you need to make sure you have completed any prerequisites, which typically include courses such as anatomy, statistics, physiology, and microbiology to help prepare your knowledge base for your nursing program. These courses are widely available at accredited institutions, online, or at a community college.

If you do not already have a bachelor’s degree, you can choose to pursue a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or an associate degree in nursing (ASN), both of which qualify you as an RN. Another quick way into nursing is to qualify as a licensed practical nurse (LPN), sometimes also known as a licensed vocational nurse (LVN), where you will take on patient support duties. To do this, you must complete a practical nursing diploma, often available at a local technical college. This program typically takes a year, making it a quick route into the nursing field, but an LPN does not have the same earning potential as an RN.

After a nursing degree

To successfully earn a nursing degree, your program will include clinical placements and residencies, with the typical number of hours required for qualification being 700-800. Upon successful completion, you will need to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). This is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). You will need to pass the NCLEX-RN to become a registered nurse and the NCLEX-PN to be able to work as an LPN.

State registration

The next step is to become licensed to practice in the state where you wish to work. Each state has different requirements, so you will need to check the requirements for your state to successfully complete this step and start applying for nursing positions. When applying for jobs, you will want to talk about the experience you gained during your nursing program, but do not disregard your experience in your previous career. Even if is completely unrelated to nursing, you may well have gained some soft skills, such as good communication skills, organizational and management expertise, or the ability to work well in a team, which you should highlight to prospective employers.

time to start?

If you have decided to get into nursing later in life, there is no time like the present to start considering your options. Read up on nursing programs to see which ones will provide the thorough grounding you need and find out where you can best study for any prerequisites that you require. If it feels daunting to take that first step, remember that throughout your studies, you will meet others who have also moved into nursing as a second career and who, like you, are excited by the prospects such a rewarding profession can bring.

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