Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Is a Second Career in Nursing Worth the Wait?



Nursing as a second career is a terrific choice. Of course my opinion is biased, but anyone giving nursing a chance deserves to be respected.

Those who choose nursing today must also be very patient people. There are no shortcuts to becoming a nurse, and most nursing schools have long waiting lists.

No, there are NO online programs to become a nurse. There are thousands of ads and teasers on the Internet which can literally tie you up for hours searching for that program they promise. If you do find it, I assure you it isn’t accredited and you’ll waste your time and money because you cannot become licensed unless you attend an accredited nursing school. You must have actual HANDS ON experience with real patients to become a nurse.

Some nursing schools do have some online classes and use virtual labs, but not an entire nursing program. There are online programs for nurses to expand their education, but none to become a nurse in the first place.

If this is a second career, do you have a college degree already? If you have a BA, BS or perhaps even a Masters degree in some other subject, you can apply to an accelerated nursing program to get your BSN or MSN. For instance, there are spectacular graduate nursing programs in Philadelphia, and you don’t need to start all over with an Associate’s degree.

There is also an active list of nursing schools which have no waiting lists.

For all nursing schools you will have to complete some prerequisites and this will help fill the 1-2 year waiting time. These include college level algebra, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, microbiology, psychology, and sociology. Some may require statistics as well. Check with the school(s) you are applying to or attending for specifics. For example, not all anatomy and physiology courses will fulfill the requirement, and chemistry is another that may be very specific.

Many schools require prior experience in the medical field. A semester course at a community college or adult education school can fulfill this by becoming a CNA or an EMT. Some hospitals offer on-the-job training for unlicensed patient assistants. These opportunities can provide you with a real insight into patient care, and some will open up other avenues of education. For instance, EMT’s who go on to become paramedics can bridge to nursing later on and that can be done online.

In all of this pre-nursing course work, be sure to put forth your best effort and earn the highest grades possible.

There is a tremendous shortage of nurses, and that also means there is a shortage of nurse educators. During the Clinton administration, Congress determined that funds to help support nursing education and pay for nurses to become nurse educators would need to be exponentially increased every year to meet the growing demands for more nurses. During his eight year administration, President Bush chose to cut those funds each year rather than expand them, and today we find ourselves in a real mess.

Every year nursing schools turn away thousands of qualified candidates because they don’t have enough teachers. As a result, schools have instituted a point system to evaluate applicants. Grades and experience can give you an advantage.

The Great Recession has forced many nurses out of retirement, and caused others to delay retirement. This has helped to ease the shortage, but it is only a temporary fix. Once the economy recovers, there is expected to be a mass exodus of nurses who have reached or surpassed “retirement” age.

To those waiting in the wings, the opportunities will be there by the time you complete your coursework. As a result of the economic crisis, many people are looking at having to work well into their seventies and nursing is a profession which can offer that opportunity. Working 12 hour shifts in the ER, ICU or even a very busy floor may not be ideal for aging nurses, but nursing offers many diverse options for employment away from the bustle of hospital bedside care.

And so my answer to those in their forties and fifties looking to become second career nurses, it IS worth being patient and forging ahead.

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