“People who are not satisfied with their current jobs are looking into nursing because of the number of jobs available and the salary levels offered,” she says. “Additionally, more and more people want to feel like they’re making a contribution through their work, and nursing is the perfect opportunity to do that.”
Smart Business spoke with Johnson about why adults are entering the field of nursing as a second career and how someone without a nursing degree can make such a career change.
How can someone without a nursing undergraduate degree make a career change into nursing?
There are a variety of degree options to enter the profession of nursing, including diplomas, associates degrees, baccalaureate degrees and more recently the master of nursing degree. All of these degrees prepare you for bedside nursing, but the accelerated programs really are the way to go for someone with a baccalaureate degree. They can finish the program in less than two years, once they have taken the required prerequisite courses.
How can professionals benefit by changing careers and going into nursing?
The wonderful thing about nursing is that anyone who graduates from an accredited program will find a job. Another great benefit of a nursing degree is the starting salary, which is generally around $42,000 per year and can be even higher for those working evening or night shifts.
There’s also a lot of job variety for nurses. While most new graduate nurses work in hospitals, positions are also available in doctor’s offices, clinics, home care, community agencies and insurance companies. More specialized positions are available to those who receive a master of science in nursing.
What job opportunities exist for someone who decides to go into nursing later in life?
While nurses are needed in all sectors, hospitals and long-term care facilities are really struggling to fill their nursing needs, so jobs are especially plentiful in these areas. Most students go to work in a hospital initially and then go on to find the area of nursing that they most enjoy, whether it be in the hospital, community or business arena.
Another wonderful opportunity is to consider a career in nursing education. One of the main reasons there is such a nursing shortage in the United States today is because we don’t have enough nurse educators, resulting in a very high demand. Nurse educators have the opportunity to mold new nurses and do research, and they have greater flexibility in their schedules, with most major holidays and even summers off. To teach in a school of nursing, a master’s degree is required, a doctoral degree preferred.
How can a non-nursing professional prepare for a new career in nursing?
Prospective students should explore several different programs to find one that matches their learning style. Determine what prerequisites are needed to enter the program, and explore different options to get these met (classes, tests, etc.) Additionally, it’s always a good idea to shadow a nurse to see first-hand what he or she does. Hospitals are a great place to do this and it’s a good way to find out if this is something you really want to do.
If you are unhappy in your current job and are waiting to get into a nursing program, consider becoming certified as a patient care assistant (PCA). The training gives you a little more of an edge to do well in school and, by working as a PCA while going to school, you can really see what nurses do day in and day out.
How do health care providers benefit from this trend?
Typically, people who go back to school later in life are more serious and focused on their education than their younger counterparts. Health care providers who hire people who obtained a nursing degree later in life usually find these nurses can think critically and have a passion to be a nurse.
Older students have to make a lot more sacrifices to go back to school and are generally more motivated to perform well and to learn.
SUSAN JOHNSON, Ph.D., is an associate professor of nursing and director of the nursing program at the College of Mount St. Joseph. Reach her at (513) 244-4503 or firstname.lastname@example.org.