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Nursing as a second career

Making a career change is a major life decision, especially if it means returning to school to study in a new field. Here are some things to consider when thinking about choosing nursing as a second career.

Why do I want to choose nursing as a second career?

If you enjoy working with people and value a dynamic work setting, bright co-workers, good pay, benefits and job security, nursing is an excellent choice for a second career.

Nursing brings the kind of job satisfaction that comes from making a real difference in the lives of individuals as well as communities. Working as a member of an interdisciplinary team is cited by nurses as a highly rewarding experience. Registered nurses have access to a huge variety of jobs that appeal to many different types of people. The choices of subspecialties are endless and new specialties are being created all the time in inpatient, outpatient, community, academic, government, corporate and industrial environments.

The need for more registered nurses

Is there a need for registered nurses? The answer to this question is a resounding yes – nationally and in Texas. In 2008, the Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies reported the state’s demand for full-time registered nurses exceeded the supply by 22,000. This gap is predicted to increase to 70,000 by 2020, creating high job security for nurses.

The increased need for registered nurses is generated by several factors:

  • Healthcare reform, enacted in March 2010, has increased by millions the number of people who are now covered by health insurance. More adults and children than ever are now eligible for acute, chronic and preventive care. This calls for increased nursing staff at both inpatient and outpatient facilities.
  • The national nurse workforce is getting older. According to the National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses, 45 percent of RNs are 50 years or older. Many nurses are on the brink of retirement, which will open many job positions.
  • While the number of inpatient beds has decreased, the number of outpatient and long-term care beds has exploded. Many procedures once considered as inpatient-only are now done in outpatient settings, and the trend is to send patients to long-term care facilities for rehabilitation rather than keeping them in acute-care hospitals. Both of these trends translate into a need for more nurses.
  • The number of aging baby boomers grows daily (10,000 turn 65 years old each day), and they will need increasing care for both acute and chronic health problems.
  • Health care has gotten increasingly complex and technical, and patients need nurses who can understand and provide the proper care.

The need for registered nurses
with BSN degrees has increased

Many hospitals and health systems are seeking Magnet status, which calls for a high percentage of bachelor's degree-prepared nurses. These facilities often require that new hire nurses have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or obtain one within a certain period after beginning work. The current trend is to create a more highly educated nursing workforce to tackle the increasingly complex issues in healthcare and improve patient outcomes.

Advantages of being a second-degree
nursing student

Because you have already earned a degree, you understand the commitment and work that is necessary to complete a second-degree nursing program. You may possess the discipline and focus that some younger students may not. It is also possible that some of the coursework from your previous degree will transfer to a second-degree nursing program.

Choosing a path to your second-degree
nursing program

Many second-degree nursing students are seeking to enroll in online programs. There are several important points to consider when choosing how and where to complete an online second-degree nursing program.

  • A good program should have a balanced blend of online learning and faculty-supervised clinical experience. Done properly, this method should enhance the student's clinical and critical thinking skills, producing a graduate that is comfortable working in patient settings and is adequately prepared to enter practice.
  • Many students need to continue working and meeting other obligations while participating in a second-degree nursing program, so a good program should provide a flexible course schedule. Courses that are not linked to a traditional semester-based schedule allow students to enter the program and progress in an efficient manner that suits their schedules. In addition, students can adjust their study time around other obligations. Keep in mind that the schedules for clinicals are generally not flexible and nursing curriculum is intense, so it is generally not advised that students work full time while in nursing school. It is important to check with the university before applying to determine individual program requirements and recommendations.
  • A good second-degree nursing program also should have a high first-time pass rate for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), which all nurses are required to take in order to become licensed.

Nursing schools are actively seeking to recruit non-traditional nursing students like those who are choosing nursing as a second career. Nursing school administrators report that second-career nursing students are often top performers academically and typically bring energy and concentration to their studies. Perhaps most importantly, potential employers value the maturity, professionalism, real-world experience and advanced decision-making skills that older workers bring to nursing. For these reasons, this is an excellent time to choose nursing as a second career.

Sources: "Nursing as a second career."

Nursing Link, "20 reasons why you should be a nurse."

Nursing Link, "10 perks of a nursing career."

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