Although it’s generally never been uncommon for many to enter into the profession of nursing after receiving post-secondary educations and degrees in other fields, the number of middle-age nursing students appears to be on the significant rise lately. In fact, the number of people pursuing later careers in life sciences in general today appears to be increasing. But as a direct case in point for nursing, the next graduating class of 40 from Heartland Community College’s two-year nursing program in Normal, Illinois, has zero “traditional” students scheduled to become RNs on May 18th.
John Cook, a 47 year-old student set to graduate with the class said, “I was pretty surprised when I started. There was virtually no one right out of high school. I remember thinking that I’d be the oldest one in there by far and that’s not the case. It’s a huge cross-section of people with bachelor’s degrees in other fields, including a lot of moms.”
Vice President of patient care services and chief nursing executive at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center, Laurie Round, has said “the recession has driven some people from their original careers into nursing.” And when looking at some of the recent reports put out by the U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics, this bodes well for the future of nursing and healthcare in general: “Hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other ambulatory care settings added 49,000 new jobs in February 2012, up from 43,300 new jobs created in January. As the largest segment of the healthcare workforce, RNs likely will be recruited tofill many of these new positions.”
But with the increase in numbers of second-career nurses, the question becomes about their quality and ability to keep up with younger professionals in the industry. According to Laurie Round though, there’s hardly any question as to their ability at all.
She has said, “I love the energy, the intensity, the maturity, and the decision-making skills that they bring to the field. These people are choosing nursing while raising a family and working at the same time and that shows perseverance, commitment and discipline.” And Deb Smith, who is the vice president and chief nursing officer at OSF St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington has also weighed-in favorably on the subject saying, “They also have social skills and because they are close in age to nurses already in the field – the average age of nurses is 47 – they fit in with other nurses quickly.”
So while it appears that hospitals and other healthcare facilities may see a potentially significant rise in gray haired professionals in the coming years, it’s certainly nice to know that the quality of care won’t suffer a touch. And as we all continue to climb life’s ever-persistent age ladder, it’s comforting to know that there are great career opportunities for all ages within the healthcare sector, and a chance for almost anyone to make a difference in someone’s life.