Lorraine is 56 and just finished her new grad rotations as a registered nurse. Being an ‘old new’ nurse sometimes has its downside but she absolutely loves nursing.
I started my nursing degree in 2010 at the ripe old age of 50. I studied part time (and worked fulltime), so it took me six years.
My medical background revolved around first aid/pre-hospital care. I was a volunteer for St John Ambulance Australia for over 20 years and taught first aid as a staff member for 25 years. Then I worked for four years at a private ambulance company as a paramedic. I was about to start my Paramedical degree when I looked harder at the employment opportunities. Even though I loved paramedical work, I was 50 years old and there was only one direction this degree could take me. But if I did a nursing degree the various employment opportunities were endless.
Having a Certificate IV (in training and assessment) gave me the opportunity to apply for uni.
As I still had a family to support, I worked as a clerk at a major hospital in Sydney from midnight to 0800. I would take my kids to school, then go to uni, attend classes, lectures or just spend time in the library studying. Then I would pick the kids up, prepare meals, then sleep from about 1700 to 2300, then do it all over again. I was blessed to have a very supportive family (especially during my many tantrums, self-doubt and crying episodes).
I found the study interesting though sometimes it took a while to sink into my brain. I am a very slow reader so it took me longer to do tasks and I had to work really hard. Although saying that, my average marks were credits and distinctions and one high distinction, which surprised me considering I left school in 4th form (equivalent to year 10) with an average mark for maths and below average for English.
During my new grad year, I had a mixture of experiences. Some staff expected me to be much more experienced and knowledgeable due to my age, some blatantly said I was nuts to change career at my age, but once I explained that I was an ‘old new’ student, the majority were very supportive. No matter what profession you are in or what company you work for, you are always going to find this mixture of personalities.
I had no previous nursing experience, prehospital care is entirely different, and I was a bit slower on the uptake than the younger newbies, but I was determined to hold my head up high and work hard to get through this as I really love nursing.
I have had great feedback from patients and their families as, due to my own personal experiences, I can relate and be empathetic to them. I know what it’s like to be on the other side – the uncertainty, lack of understanding and the feeling you are being kept in the dark – so I take the time (not too long) to quickly explain and keep them up to date.
If I could do it all again, the main thing I would change would be to work as a casual AIN while studying. This would have helped so much by not only giving me nursing experience, but would have helped with studies, adapting more quickly to the hospital environment and be accustomed to the workloads and prioritising.
Previously on Nurse Uncut: