“You’ve got to get off the ward or your body will fall apart.” – A New Grad RN at 55


Tess was not your typical New Grad RN when she started at age 55. But her energy and drive is to be admired and here she highlights all the positives and great experiences she’s had so far…

“You must be mad.”
“You’ve got to get off the ward or your body will fall apart.”
“At your age? Crikey, I’m retiring as soon as I can!”
“Why would you want to do that?”

And with these words of encouragement ringing in my ears I started my first week.

I’m three years in now but vividly remember my NewGrad year and, after the inevitable period of sheer terror, it was fantastic!

A chance to try three totally different areas of nursing and see where I fitted. The opportunity to learn, learn, learn. The ability to show myself just why I wasn’t mad, just why I can’t think of anything worse than preparing for retirement and just why I slogged away for those three years of the degree.

Nothing can really prepare you for that terrifying transition from responsibility-free student to responsibility-laden primary nurse caring for 6 patients. But equally nothing can prepare you for the fabulous high of knowing that you are delivering your top quality care, the high of mastering something really tricky, the high of receiving thanks from a grateful patient or their family. I love the autonomy and accompanying responsibility and thrive on becoming a better nurse every day.

As a mature aged New Grad, and now RN, I feel even more fortunate. Far from being a drawback my age is a positive bonus. Sure I get more tired, my back aches and it’s hard to leave work and then get home and have to look after a demanding family. But whilst at work, the benefits of life experience, of knowing how to get along with people, of understanding how the world works are invaluable. Patients trust me. My age enables me to inspire confidence in them. And my age ensures that I never become overconfident or complacent.

So am I mad? No!
Is my body falling apart? Maybe!
Am I looking forward to retirement? No way!
In fact, I’ve just been accepted on a Masters in Cancer and Haematology.

My only regret is that there isn’t enough time left to do all that I would have if I’d only started on this journey a little earlier.

If you have an experience you’d like to share, please get in touch here: nurseuncut@nswnma.asn.au. Whether it was something that occurred in a single shift or about you’re entire career so far, we want to know.


  1. Hats off to Tess, and all the other mature-age nursing students I meet now that I’m a CNE and working with many different Universities as a clinical supervisor. Tess, I heard nearly all those comments (and a few more) when I returned to nursing at age 55 – a Reconnect Nurse through the NSW Health return to nursing program. And yes, I had the equivalent of a new-grad year (part-time) so I feel you echoed a lot of the emotions and experiences I went through.
    But It’s all worth it in the end, and I encourage you to go on with the Masters with the same energy (albeit diminished by age) and enthusiasm. I am about to embark on my second Masters, this time in linguistic research; I’m certainly interested in how nurses talk to one another, the things they say and how they say them. I’ll also ask them why they say some things!
    I’m past retirement years now, and just a quick visit to Centrelink last year was enough for me to want to continue working! I still do a few nightshifts in aged care, which I love. Keeps your feet on the ground and in touch with nursing reality after 3 years in education. I wear a back brace now when I do rounds!
    Go Tess… and tell us more as you get ahead. And as Bob Dylan said, “don’t look back”.

  2. I love this too. I am 57 and finished Enrolled nursing in July last year. I am so lucky to be working at the Cairns Hospital on a permanent basis. I am also studying online to become a RN. Its never too late to be happy

  3. There’s plenty of us out there I’m an RN graduated at 52 completed 75% of new grad year the last rotation was to be in rural remote but during the process of preparing for the move a full time position was advertised at the same location. I jumped at the chance and never looked back I stayed there for 3 years while my wife completed her nursing studies then we both applied and got positions here. That was 11 years ago now at 63 retirement is the last thing on my mind.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here