FAQs About a Nursing Education
Hollis Forster, RNC-NP
I hear questions from people all the time about nursing, the education needed, the possibilities of advancement and the kind of person you need to be to become a great nurse. Here are a couple of those questions and as time goes on, I will add to this FAQ list, hoping to capture the questions you may have about this career and its educational challenges and benefits.
• How Old is Too Old to Become a Nurse?
My immediate answer to this is never. There are some things to consider, however. The initial clinical rotations for the educational path of the registered nurse are quite rigorous. They demand early hours and lots of time on your feet. You usually do not have a large patient load and are given adequate time to perform your duties, but you will find that even after eight hours on the hospital floor, you must go home to another several hours of study. All weekends will be spent in study and most free time you will have a book to read, flashcards to review or a paper to write. If you have many family obligations (and who doesn’t?) the time commitment may be too demanding. However, there are on-line possibilities for completing class work and these alternatives for time away from home, may make the demanding educational path do-able for the more mature student.
Certainly, aside from that, starting nursing school in your thirties or even forties is not too old. According to the 2004 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses, released by the federal Division of Nursing in February 2007, the average age of a nurse in 2004 was 46.8 years. This was an increase from the same survey done in 2000, where the average age was found to be 45.2. Nurses are getting older and the demand continues to grow. So, if you have the drive and desire, act on it!
As an older nurse, you will have the maturity to understand the kind of effort that a new venture takes, and you probably will be better prepared to give your all to the educational system and to the profession. Also, after you have completed the education and training it takes to become a nurse, the jobs you can get are varied. You do not have to do hospital floor work, you can move into administration, clinic work or some other career path where the hours and work are less physically demanding, but still essential to patient care. Look around at nurses and their jobs and select a path for your education that will allow you to have less demanding hours and time on your feet as you age, but where your experience and knowledge of medicine and human interaction will be valued.
• What if I’m squeamish? Should I still go into nursing as a career?
There are nursing assignments that do not ut you in the path of the “blood and guts” associated with nursing. But you will not avoid some of it during the time you are training in procedures. However, my experience is that:
1. Every nurse has her moments of feeling “squeamish” in some circumstance. And it is interesting that some nurses will react to some issues, while others will find that circumstance entirely acceptable, but will react to some other instance. I remember going back to work after my second child, I had not drawn blood in a while and was given the job to do so. I was very nervous, but did as I was told. As the blood entered the tube from the patient’s vein, I was very excited, but also, started feeling very woozy. It did take me a minute or two to regain my composure, but I did, and went on with my day.
2. As you are practicing, you find your attention directed to the “big picture” of the care of a patient, not the details. You may be inserting an NG tube, starting an IV line or assisting the physician with a procedure and the end point is to achieve the procedure, not pay attention to the normal things that happen during the procedure. You will become less squeamish as you function in your role.
So, here are two questions…there are many more. I will attempt to collect questions and answers for this column so the nursing education process can become less intimidating and more inviting to all those talented folks out there who have imagined themselves as nurses.