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Ask a Nurse: Choosing a Second Career in Nursing

Read real-life testimonies from nurses who pursued a second career in nursing!

Q. What advice do you have for someone who is considering a second career in nursing?


A. It’s important for those interested in pursuing nursing as a second career to look at nursing with a realistic view. Nursing, like any career, has its good days and its bad, its ups and downs. Nursing school is not the most challenging part of the whole experience, but rather the daily reality of delivering care and interventions for people – individuals whose lives depend on our care.

Nursing is very rewarding, but it is also challenging. Potential nurses should ask themselves whether they have the ability to handle the challenges, while embracing the opportunities and rewards of a caring profession. If the answer is yes, I recommend they look more into nursing.

-Christopher Fogarty, RN, BSN, at Mercy Medical Center in Canton, Ohio, and winner of the February 2012 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation New Careers in Nursing Essay Contest. He has been a nurse for over two years.

A. Stop thinking about it and do it! Nursing is an intellectually stimulating, physically and emotionally demanding opportunity that is full of rewards.

-Michael Relf, Ph.D., RN, ACNS-BC, AACRN, CNE, FAAN. From 2008-2014, he served as the assistant dean for Undergraduate Education and director of the Accelerated BSN Program in the School of Nursing at Duke University. He has been a nurse for 27 years.

A. The most important piece of advice I can give to someone considering nursing as a second career is to get some experience working alongside nurses. Whether this means volunteering in a hospital, becoming a nursing assistant, or even just finding a nurse and asking to shadow him or her for a day, I can’t stress enough the importance of seeing firsthand what nursing is all about day-to-day.

Nursing is not easy; in fact it can be very, very hard at times. It is both physically and emotionally challenging and often takes a strong stomach. Can’t stand the sight of blood? Not a good communicator? Can’t multi-task? Maybe nursing isn’t for you, but it is far better to find this out before you begin than halfway through.

-Dylan Green, blogger behind The Second Career Nurse, is an emergency room nurse at the University of California at Los Angeles Health System. He has been a nurse for three years.

A. First, if you are even thinking about becoming a nurse, go ahead and sign up for a human anatomy class at your local community college. It’s not expensive, and nearly every BSN program will require this class. I made the mistake of thinking I should only start taking classes once I was sure I was going to become a nurse. Because there are so many prerequisites, however, it’s better to get started early. Some people take years to complete them because of work and family commitments. You will have plenty of time to decide whether this is the right path for you or not, so just get started! Second, seek out someone in your current profession who has become a nurse. You might need to dig around on LinkedIn, but it will be worth the effort. In my case, contacting two journalists who are now nurse practitioners was an essential step in starting to believe that career change was possible.

Finally, don’t get overwhelmed by the details of the application process. Call up the financial aid office to confirm how much the program will cost. Take time to visit the schools and ask questions. And keep your eyes on the prize: you just need to get into ONE school!

-Andrea Useem, a Digital Health Content Advisor for ICmed, LLC, and a nursing student at The George Washington University School of Nursing.

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