Nursing school at 36 and with a family?!

Just sniffing around out there to see if any Dopers have returned to school later in life for a completely different career path… I graduated from College with a liberal arts degree over 10 years ago, and have been holding meaningless office jobs ever since. I’m been dreaming of finishing my nursing degree (I dropped out of nursing school at age 22). I’m nervous, being that I work full-time, have 2 young children, and wonder if I’ll have the time. I’d go to a community college part-time, and my husband is very supportive of this, so it’s doable. Anyone care to share their insights? Any nurses out there care to comment on your perceptions of nursing?

Looking for some humble opinions on the subject :slight_smile:

I’m not a nurse but I do clerical work for nursing instructors at the community college. From what I’ve seen, the older students with families and jobs do just as well (or better) than many of the younger students. I think it might be because they’re good at managing their time, and they’re adaptable. And motivated. And mature. Maturity counts for a lot. :slight_smile:

Good luck!

I was working in IT and started an evening law school program at 31, married and with one child. It was tough, not impossible but very time consuming. At the end of my first year of what was supposed to be a four year program, I was laid off and had a second child on the way. I was very fortunate to have the financial ability to not look for another job and go to school for the two years it would take to finish school as a full time student. Most of those who did make it through one year as evening students did finish.

Going back to school while working is tough, it consumes more time than you can imagine. I don’t know about nursing schools, but my law school had a counselor on site and I would recommend making use of that resource before problems arise. Most of all, be sure you want to do it and be sure your family understands the commitment they are going to be a part of.

One of the courses I teach is a prerequisite for our nursing program, and that course is always JAMMED full of wannabe nursing students, the majority of whom are non-traditional age, changing careers, returning to school after time off, etc.

In general, those students rock my world. They are passionate, dedicated, motivated, and involved with the material. They challenge me with questions and demands for more information every day. As students, they tend to be the best in the class.

HOWEVER, many of them are WAY overstretched. A lot of them simply underestimate the amount of time outside of class that will be required for their coursework, and there’s a reason why 12 credit hours is called “full-time” - because for every hour you spend in a classroom, the rule of thumb is that you’re going to spend another 2 hours outside of class on class-related work. If you’re in a classroom 10 hours a week, that’s another 20 or so hours outside of class.

Obviously, some students need less time than this. Others, however, need more. Some of these students end up doing poorly not because they’re not capable of college-level work, but because working 40 hours a week, spending 10 hours a week in a classroom, with the concurrent approximately 20 hours a week studying, PLUS raising a family, is simply too much.

Everyone is different, so obviously YMMV.

Going to nursing school at 36 with a family to raise is no crazier than my sister going to medical school at 46 with a family to raise… including a kid with a chronic, potentially life-threatening medical problem.

My sister is now in her fifties, has her MD, and, while occasionally exhausted by her career choice and all the other things in her life, states that she is very happy she did what she did.

I have two kids, am 34 and in nursing school. Yes, it’s hard but there are upsides that AuntiePam listed. I was actually telling a prospective student those exact things yesterday. There are wonderful younger people in my class that I look at and think “wow I could get so much done if I had their schedule!” but part of that comes just from experience that they haven’t had yet. I worked in a deadline oriented business before so my time management skills were pretty good already. Some of those kids may take 6 hours to do paperwork that takes me 2 and it’s not because I’m smarter, it’s just that I know how to manage my time and I know when it’s best for me to work, etc… (for example, right now I am taking a mental break so I can start some paperwork for clinical tomorrow). These are things they’ll learn and I just have the advantage of already knowing it. Their advantage is that if they screw it up, they can pull an all-nighter or work straight through without worrying about making sure you get the kids dinner and put to bed.

Kolga is correct about the amount of time outside class. Before nursing school I was a “phone it in” student and I kept As and Bs - hell I made the president’s list without trying that hard my last semester with the nursing pre-requisites. This is different, though. I spend a LOT of time doing pre-clinical paperwork to be ready for my “disease of the day” or “surgery of the day” and there is no slacking off if you want to do more than just coast through. It’s hard when my parents have to take up the slack for me with my kids and I feel like I’m missing out on stuff, but I just tell myself it’s for our future and we’ll just have to grin and bear it for 16 more months.

Honestly, I think by tomorrow afternoon I’ll be a walking zombie but I’m off on Fridays and can take a little time before I start on post-clinical paperwork and by next clinical day I’ll be excited again! The fact that we are still green enough to do a dance of joy when we get to see procedures is what keeps us going back.

My email is in my profile or IM me if you want to know any more. If it’s something you feel passionately about do it. You won’t be sorry.

A friend of mine is doing much the same thing. She’s also working better than half time at a job (to provide health insurance for the family, as her husband is not able to work). She’s finding it exhausting but I believe is expecting to graduate after this semester, and is thrilled.

For what it’s worth, there’s a “mom” in our class (there are plenty of moms, but she’s the “Class’s Mom” if that makes sense), she’s around 40 years old, has 3 (I want to say 4 but I can’t recall if she’s got 2 sons or 1) kids, the oldest about 2 years out from college, and the youngest at around 8 or so years old. She also commutes from home which is a 30 min trip each way. But she’s one of the nicest students around, and she’s VERY on-top of her work, her work ethic is WAY more than any of ours because she REALLY wants to do this, and she finds the time to make it happen. She’s like supermom!

She’s now in her 2nd year of med school and she’s our mom because during the first year she was a tutor who helped tutor the rest of us in the subjects, so we all look at her in a motherly sort of way.
She’s found a way to make it work for her, and the key seems to be just making sure you’re focused, and finding the time to multi-task and balance it all out… She has spent many a late night apparently after putting the kids to bed to study with her eldest together and such. It’s really quite inspiring…

I’ve been a nurse for more than 20 years and I regularly work with nursing students. A few random thoughts:

  1. 36 ain’t old. Really, it’s not. You’ll be an RN before you’re 40, and nearly everyone you run into then will assume you are an old hand at nursing (talking about patients/family members here). You will be automatically trusted, which is the reverse of a 22-year-old bopping into the room and saying, “Hi! I’m Jennifer! I’ll be your nurse today !!!”

  2. Don’t do it if Mr. Bloom ain’t on board. Nursing school is not easy - particularly with two young’uns. You will need lots of quiet, alone time.

  3. Generally speaking, ‘older’ students have an easier time (life-experiences, maturity, motivation, etc.).

  4. I assume you realize that, once an RN, you’ll likely be working off-shift, every other weekend, and half the holidays. Some new grads may fall into a bankers-hours job, but that is extremely rare. Also, be prepared to work 12-hour shifts (which most consider a bonus, considering that you only work three days a week, but 12.5 hours is a freakin’ long day. Especially when you work three of them in a row).

  5. Figure out your comfort level working with doctors - or bosses - who may be younger than you.

  6. You know a lot of stuff, having had two children. Share your knowledge, but work hard to avoid becoming a know-it-all a-hole.

  7. Specific questions? Ask away (or PM me).

  8. Good luck!

My man Shagnasty was looking into nursing school recently. I chimed in to act as devil’s advocate. Here’s my take from some correspondence between us.

You may find Shagnasty has some insight, as he’s investigated this issue. Maybe he can be the good cop.

I guess it depends on what sort of institution you work at, but not a day goes by that I’m not saving some doctor’s ass by telling him/her what to order. If I had blindly followed every order I’ve received over the years, I’d have committed a dozen or so homicides.

Thank you SO much for all of your wonderful feedback! It was along the lines of what I was expecting, and enjoyed the devil’s advocate thrown in. I appreciate both sides - Lord knows I’m not only going into nursing because I’m sweet-as-pie and have a naive view of it. I know it’ll be tough and gritty, unexpected, and require a lot of humility. I’m a servent at heart, and having 2 kids and working with a plethora of people in my life has given me confidence and a different world-view than when I was 22 and dropped out.

Again, muchos gracias :smiley:

Well I’m a little younger, but I went back to school at age 28 for a veterinary technology degree. I had a 2 year old and a 4 month old, so I went went part-time evening classes. I’ll be done next June, and it’s the best decision I ever made.

No disrespect intended. I completely concur, and have nothing but respect and admiration for nurses. My point was merely that different positions have different frustrations. If she’s on the ball enough to consider nursing, she’s certainly on the ball enough to consider doctoring, and it would be a pain to realize that she went down the wrong branch for her after having made a big midlife jump.

You sound like 60% of my microbiology students. They do extremely well, in general, due to their focus, ability to manage time and prioritize.

Might want to PM Cyn she basically did exactly this, getting her RN at 38 IIRC.

You can certainly PM me if you’d like to ask questions from a professor’s perspective.