Meet Joan, a Registered Nurse (RN), mom, owner of a Pomeranian, and lover of football. A woman who tells it like it is, Joan shares with you the one trait you need to be a nurse and confesses the fears she overcame to embark on a nursing career. She supplies the information and resources you need start your way onto a nursing career. Joan will inspire and encourage you, that yes, you can become a nurse over thirty-five and there is life after divorce.
“I went back to school at age 42. I was sure I was too old. I was afraid I would fail.” – Joan
Why did choose nursing? I was looking at a divorce in a few years, and I wanted new job training so I could support myself. I needed to prepare. I enrolled at the community college to study to be a paralegal. On my first day of school, I met a woman who would be my study partner for the next year. She dragged me to nursing school information sessions because SHE wanted to be a nurse.
One day, I decided, “I can do this!”
My experience with nurses was in clinics, home care and hospice. I envisioned visiting little old ladies in their homes, taking their blood pressure and talking about diabetes management. I had no idea what I was in for! Now I work on a busy post-surgical/medical floor in a large hospital.
How old were you when you started nursing school? I was about forty-two. I was sure I was too old. However, nursing schools like older students, because they are perceived as more serious, grounded, and responsible. I know I was all of those things compared to the student I was at twenty.
Tell me about a typical work day for you? I work a twelve hour night shift from 7pm to 7:30am. My day begins with a huddle with the charge nurse and all floor staff. I receive my report on typically 5 post-surgical patients. For the next 3-4 hours I do physical assessments on each patient, pass out evening medications, evaluate IV sites, wounds, dressings, drains, and charting my findings. In between, I distribute pain medications, receive new patients to my floor and call doctors to share updates and ask for new orders, and chart. I evaluate each patient throughout the night by giving pain medications, dressing changes, assisting patients with toileting, re-positioning, ambulating, eating and of course, do more charting. I closely monitor confused patients, run to answer bed alarms, replace pulled out IV’s, assist other nurses and CNA’s with their patients, chart, and repeat all night long. At 7am, I meet the oncoming day shift nurses and report on my patients.
“I like helping a patient at 3am who takes advantage of the quiet darkness to confide in me their fears about their illness, their fears about surgery, their worries about home, the dog, the kids.”
What do you love about your job? I love my job because I like being a caregiver. I like helping a patient at 3am who takes advantage of the quiet darkness to confide in me their fears about their illness, their fears about surgery, their worries about home, the dog, the kids. I can listen to them, offer reassurance, provide a warm blanket, medicine to make the nausea go away, or sometimes just BE with them through this often frightening, humbling and uncomfortable experience. I’ve learned about my patients by listening, but I’ve bonded with them by sharing my experiences and learning that they’ve had a lot of the same happy and sad events in their lives. We become friends for a little while.
What education or training requirements are there for your job? Nursing school requires prerequisite classes which can take 1-2 years. Nursing school takes one year for a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) certificate, two years for the Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN). A Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a four year degree, but many nurses I know first got the LPN or ADN and then bridged to BSN with another year of school. Nursing schools are competitive. Many nursing students work as Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) or Nurse Technicians before or during nursing school.
What fears/barriers did you experience to gain entry into nursing? Nursing schools are very competitive. Some require prerequisite classes, volunteer hours, community service hours, essays, and high GPAs. Personally, I had to overcome my fear of failing, and my fear that I was too old to embark on a new career.
How did you overcome those fears/barriers? I prepared. I started over again with elementary math and algebra. Too many “older students” think that because they took algebra or calculus in high school, they can just jump right back in where they left off 20 years earlier. It was worth the time to refresh my memory and retake those classes. I started with a beginning Algebra book that I got at Goodwill and did problems with my 6th grade daughter. One year later, I was doing the same math as my daughter who was a high school Senior. It made the chemistry, anatomy and physiology, and microbiology classes that much easier.
If you could go back and change anything on your job path what would it be? I think I did a pretty good job. I planned ahead of time. I saved money so I could quit working and go to school full time. Nursing school is a full time job.
What tips do you recommend for work/family balance with your job? How do you make it work? First, I work night shifts on a surgical ward. Many nurses have more flexible part-time or full-time schedules working for clinics or private doctors. Second, I work three 12 hour shifts per week. It looks good on paper, but the reality is that I spend extra days sleeping and recovering from the busy, physically exhausting night shifts. I’ve trained my family to let me sleep during the day and I tell everyone to call me before 9am or after 4pm. I just know that failure is not an option so you just keep plugging along.
“The difference between those that became nurses and those who didn’t…the nurses didn’t give up! They found a different way to their goal instead of dropping out and choosing a different career.”
Any advice/encouragement to a woman who may want to try nursing? Don’t give up! There is a nursing program for everyone. You might not go straight to a BSN from a major university, but with a plan, you can take it step by step and work during the process and maybe go from a CNA, to an LPN, to a Registered Nurse! I watched a lot of people working hard to get into a nursing program or an ultra sound tech program, etc. The difference between those that became nurses and those who didn’t…the nurses didn’t give up! They found a different way to their goal instead of dropping out and choosing a different career.
Resources for you to research being a Nurse – Begin by clicking around Nurse.org, then check out your local community college or universities. This quiz from Nurse.org will help you figure out which kind of nurse you want to be. You can search for job openings exclusively for nurses here, or just to see in general what’s available in your area go to Monster, Indeed, or Zip Recruiter. Remember, yes you can do this!
Woman to Woman Questions:
At the end of each interview we do a rapid fire, fun questions, are you game? YEA!
What’s your favorite movie? Anything Jason Bourne
Trait you like about yourself? Ability to let it go- Brush it off and keep going- Don’t worry about what people think, you only have to live with yourself!
Hat or ponytail on a bad hair day? I don’t care about that anymore. It’s only one day.
What would you tell your 20 year old self if you could go back? Dump him! Dump him now!
What is your favorite food indulgence? French toast and BACON
What quality of a woman do you most admire? Brains. Smarts.
What one thing would you change about women if you could? Nothing. I like us the way we are.
What is a book you would recommend to any woman to read once in her life? I loved the The Mists of Avalon. I cried at the end.