Is it too LATE to go to nursing school?

Is it too late for me to go to nursing school?  Well as someone who graduated from a second degree nursing program (BSN) in my late twenties, the answer is NO, it is not too late.  Late twenties is still fairly young but some of my fellow students were much older.  In America there are different programs for nursing such as LPN, RN or BSN  each with varying time commitments and costs.  I will write more on those programs in another post but the answer straight away is that you can switch to nursing at any age.  Okay with that settled let’s jump right into my nursing salary and then later your WHY.  Both of these are important motivations to get you started researching and applying to nursing school.

This is the first post in a series group for what I will call “Pre-Nursing”.  Before we start… if you have any questions that I can answer about nursing school then write in the comments below or on twitter @NurseWealthy

School will be a struggle… is the pay any good?

In my second degree BSN class most of my peers in that cohort were 22 year olds who had just graduated with their degrees in biology, psychology, nutrition and had to enter a new academic program that would guarantee a specific job.

Their alternative to nursing school was settling for a $30k salaried research position or to be a well educated barista / nanny.

Nursing pays a little better than that and with pretty darn good benefits. Starting out I was hired to $30.25 an hour. At a traditional number of 2080 hours in a working year then that’s not a bad salary:

$30.25  X  2,080 hours in a year = $62,920

Hang on there new nurse because as soon as your manager allows you then start picking up shifts! ESPECIALLY if you’re single with no kids.

It’s pretty common for nurses to do an additional 8-hour shift once a week and let’s say that’s all overtime. Also hey… your coworker really wants to go to her niece’s baptism, so help out will you!? You’re doing her (and your wallet) a favor.  It’s win-win.

$30.25  X  1.5 (Overtime Multiplier)  X  8 Hours  52 Weeks = $18,876

$18,000… that’s less than my entire BSN nursing tuition cost!

Let’s round these up and summarize, $63,000 + $19,000 = $82,000

That’s not bad for a new nurse with only a year’s experience.  Here’s a take away: those numbers are very appealing but it won’t seem worth it when you’re cleaning up a huge patient mess or get a really bad patient assignment. There are plenty of people with nursing degrees who couldn’t last 6 months and quit (I work with some of them now!).

I must be too old Mr. TWN… I’m 30/40/55 years old!

My nursing mentor graduated top of her class in accounting, worked for one of the big four firms for 20 years and then decided to become a nurse.  To her it wasn’t about the money it was about her impact.

Helping to alleviate suffering in this world is a calling that is so profound it enriches you on a spiritual level. Aside from your impact on your patients nursing offers sooooo many more schedule options than being a 9 to 5 accountant for PricewaterhouseCoopers.  I worked with a WOC nurse (Wound care, Ostomy, & Continence) that put her kids on the bus and then strolled into the hospital to help floor nurses with packing wounds, applying wound vacs.

Let’s back up… Okay I’ve convinced you to go to nursing school. Now you want to:

  1. Stop cutting chicken at Chipotle and start earning a lot of money (and start building wealth!)
  2. Have a job where you are having a tangible daily positive impact

Well then let’s briefly touch on applying to school. Before you apply to nursing school it’s wise that you can explain or demonstrate that you understand the rigors of nursing and hospital work. Nursing departments will want to talk with you about your personal exposure to a hospital setting. Age isn’t a big issue here. In my class the average student age was closer to probably 35 and several of my school peers were in their late 40s and 50s so age doesn’t have anything to do with it although you may have to be selective of what type of nursing job to have to spare your back.

To prep for nursing school entrance you want to show that you know how difficult the work is and also that you have a compelling “why”to get into the career.

Something that nursing applicants think will work for a “Why” (but doesn’t) is their personal experience being a patient or being a relative of a patient. This isn’t going to get you admission points. Telling them a dramatic story about your sisters car accident and recovery can’t be your main anecdote to get accepted. You need to start volunteering or take a job at a doctors office or hospital. This shows that you’ve had some exposure to the nitty gritty and didn’t lose your lunch and quit. The ideal candidate nursing schools are looking for is a current tech (nurses aide) in the hospital.

Of course if you want to know how to prepare for nursing school admissions then I’ll write a post on that soon. …But back to the topic.  The real issue here is not whether its too late to start, because it’s never too late, but whether you have the fortitude to withstand the job.  You owe it to yourself to get exposed to the profession first.  New nursing students are taught that you cannot enter this profession for the money because even an ill-prepared but well paid nurse will quit when they find themselves knee deep in melena or getting kicked in the chest by an ER patient.