Should I start nursing studies at age 59?

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Last year Patricia asked Nurse Uncut readers whether she should start nursing studies at age 49. Now Paul, who is 10 years older, has the same question. Do those 10 years make a difference? Does he have enough time to study and then start a nursing career?

In fact, many nurses work into their 80s and even 90s – for example, this incredible woman is still working part-time at age 97!

Here’s Paul’s question [photo of Paul on right]: I have been a house-dad for the last 15 years. My kids are now quite independent and I am currently doing a Cert IV in Disability, which I am enjoying very much. I am seriously considering a Bachelor of Nursing next year. I know the study will be very challenging but I am confident I can do it.

My only worry is that I am 59 years old and so will complete the degree when I am 62. I am concerned about reports of ageism and worry that I may not get a job. I also live in regional Victoria where they have not quite caught up with big city thinking.

This is something I really want. I need as much feedback as possible, good or bad.

What do you think? Should I just go for it and hope for the best?

Please give Paul your feedback in comments below.

Previously on Nurse Uncut:

14 COMMENTS

  1. Hey Paul, I honestly believe that a person can become a nurse at any age. I only just graduated with my degree last July at the age of 33. I was disappointed that I hadn’t discovered nursing earlier and felt that I had wasted so much time! In regards to getting a job, with the ageing population in Australia, more and more nurses are going to be needed. There are a lot of mature age student support groups in universities (particularly on Facebook) who help each other out, give advice and get together for a drink. Ageism is only an issue in some workplaces. Different managers have different ideas. If you are not averse to working in aged care (sorry, I know I’m always banging on about aged care nursing- it’s just that I’m passionate about it!) there are plenty of older nurses. Our patients are getting older and older therefore having more mature nurses can only be a bonus.

    • Thanks Vanessa, I have begun to realise that age care nursing is the most logical way for me to go. We also have a number of age care facilities in my town so I don’t think a job would be an issue. I am moving closer to making the decision, only biggie now is EN or RN. Thanks again for your encouragement.

      • I’m an EN, I’m 39 and just completed my diploma and thinking of going on to do my RN. Maybe do the EN, see how you feel, then RN is another 2 years after that.

        Good luck!

  2. I did my EEN at 53. I first did cert 3 and 4 in phlebotomy to see if I could cope with the basics of studying, assignments etc. I was obviously the oldest in the class. I coped with the workload. Did extremely well grade wise. Finding a niche in the workplace just didn’t happen for me. Too old to be considered for grad year. Any place I did work (through agency) I found the staff just expected me to be so much more experienced and knowledgeable due to my age. They had little or no patience that I was a newbie and was very careful with calcs and a bit slower than those who had been doing it for decades. Some were so rude that they’d sigh and take over. This was all age groups. I could see that their attitude was not like this with the younger grads. I decided I was too old to put up with this type of bullying and their need for power struggles and only ended up doing it for less than 6 months. Shame, as I loved it. Blitzed the study. Blitzed the placements. Loved the patients but ultimately you’ve got to be happy and I wasn’t.

  3. Started EEN training 14 years ago @ 45 years old in Mental Health, moved to new city 18 months later & picked up EEN position as a perioperative nurse (12 month inhouse training) & soon after strongly encouraged to enter Uni. Completed Bachelor of Nursing @ 51 & had 12 years continuous nursing in perioperative (Instrument Circulating Nurse). No regrets & really appreciate the support & encouragement from my wife & colleagues along the way.

  4. Just finished my new grad rotations and I’m 56.
    I found the study interesting, though sometimes it took a while to sink into my brain and I really had to work hard. Upon saying that, my average marks were credits & distinctions. I finished school with an equivalent to year 10 school certificate and my marks were 3 out of 5 in maths and 4 out of 5 in English.
    I was working fulltime and did my degree part time so it took me 6 years.
    I have had mixed experiences similar to Vicki, some (not all) staff expected me to be much more experienced and knowledgeable due to my age but that didn’t bother me and once I explained that I was an “old, new student” the majority were OK with it.
    I too am a bit slower than the younger newbies and have had quite a few problems with that, I had no nursing experience before, BUT I’m determined to hold my head up high and work hard to get through this as I really love nursing.
    I’m getting great feedback from the patients as I take the time (not too long) to quickly explain things to them, I am empathetic due to so many of my personal life and death experiences so I can relate to the patients and their families too.
    If I could do it all again, the main thing I would change would be to work as a casual AIN while studying. This will not only give you nursing experience but will help with your studies and you will adapt more quickly to the hospital environment and be accustomed to the workloads and priorities.
    Go for it Paul, what can happen if you don’t try?

  5. I will be 60 in May and I graduate as an EN in August! It’s NEVER too late! Go for it and enjoy the study. I’m loving it!

  6. I wish I could say yes, but unless you are an extremely physically fit 59 yr old, you will struggle. Despite no lift initiatives and ratios, the work is getting harder. I am 55yrs old and I struggle frequently. If you are short staffed be prepared not to get a break or get off on time. Nurse management is becoming very selfish, you have to virtually beg to get paid for those missed breaks. You will struggle against ageism. Virtually all human resources manager or personnel managers have this bias, unconscious or deliberate. I have mostly enjoyed my 40 year nursing career, but managerialism and management thought bubbles being imported from USA (STUDER) are making it a misery for ward nurses. I have 2 post grad Diplomas and years of experience and fairly good health for a 55 year old.
    If I left my present employment I would be extremely lucky to get another permanent position. I would probably have to rely on casual or agency nursing. I live in a large rural hub in NE Victoria. It will cost you at least $11000 to become an EN Div2 at TAFE. It would cost considerably more to become an RN from scratch. Good luck in whatever you do.

  7. I started at at 58 and finished my Bachelor of Nursing degree last year. I worked part time as a carer and studied 3 years full time. I must admit I did not think I would make the first semester but I did. I was lucky as I applied for a graduate position for 12 months full time and got it. I have now finished my first rotation at a very busy hospital. I do not battle with tiredness as I make sure I get 8 hrs sleep. I love the job and would highly recommend it. I studied hard and got what I wanted and it was so worth it. Good luck with your decision and studies.

  8. I was 44 when I enrolled in a cert 3 in aged care in 2003. Whilst working as am AIN I went to Tafe and studied the Diploma of Nursing (endorsed enrolled) aged 57. I completed my EENs June 2008 and went straight to Uni mode year intake in the July to do my RNs at age 58. I studied part time (EENs start uni in year 2) completing my degree in 2011. I began my Grad year in 2012 in mental health as I was turning 54. I enrolled in Masters in Mental Health in 2013 at 55, completing it in 2015. I’m now 59 and love my job…

  9. Love hearing these stories. I too have decided to do my Bachelor. I’m currently an EEN and was wondering about the age factor. These comments have restored my faith to move on and nail it … good luck to you Paul and everyone else.

  10. Goodness me, you older nurses must be working in some very enlightened places. Let me know, so I can apply. I have a nursing friend who developed a non Workcover illness, disabling but her brain is fine, she is a great teacher and has BSc Nursing, Grad Dip. Intensive care, Grad.Dip. Human Resources, Grad.Dip Diabetes Education. The hospital she loyally worked for for over 15 years could not find this woman a less physically demanding role. She has been turned down for every job applied for, she had never been stood down from her original position. She interviewed well, she was offered jobs on unpaid steering committees, she volunteered for them on projects. If not for income protection, she would be running on empty. A casual TAFE teaching position, at last. Employer loyalty – do not ever count on it, ever.

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