“I just want to give something back,” says one new nurse from a recent graduating class. Unlike your typical newcomer to a nursing career, Steve is not in his twenties and female. Rather, he’s one of the growing number of ‘non-traditional’ nurses who have adopted a nursing career after a lifetime of work in another field. Nursing is growing in popularity as a second career for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it’s a job that makes you feel good about yourself.
Known as second-degree or second-career nurses, this growing segment of the nursing world brings a unique slant to patient care. According to instructors and supervisors, second career nurses have a strong work ethic and a commitment to helping others that makes them a credit to the profession. Second career nurses come from all walks of life. Many have advanced degrees in other fields, but have traded in their Wall Street portfolios for a pair of rubber-soled shoes and a stethoscope. For some, the impetus was the loss of a job due to downsizing, but for many, the decision was a conscious commitment to giving something back to the world. They want to work in a job that directly benefits people, where they can make a visible difference in someone’s life. The hands-on medical care in a nursing career gives them a satisfaction that’s hard to find in any other line of work.
If you’re considering re-entering the work world as a nurse, there are opportunities open in hospitals, nursing homes, medical facilities, outpatient programs and public health areas. You can build a nursing career working in research and technology, or doing direct patient care, or both. An occupational nursing career can give you a chance to work in sports medicine, industrial medicine or the rehabilitation field. As a home health care worker, you can make a major difference in the quality of life for new parents and their babies, adults who are facing major medical decisions, children and families coping with diabetes and asthma and seniors who require a few hours of skilled nursing care a week in order to remain at home among their families and memories.
There are also opportunities for a nursing career in more unusual areas, especially if you choose to go on to more specialized training and acquire an advanced degree. It’s difficult to imagine a more fulfilling career than one as a nurse-midwife, helping to usher new lives into the world, for instance, or as a nurse practitioner helping parents cope with their children’s illnesses. Many second career nurses combine their former experience with their new nursing careers to open new doors. A paralegal with many years experience might work in the field of medical law as a consultant, helping hospitals and medical facilities create policies that are fair to both patients and staff. A teacher may draw on years of classroom experience to work as a nurse in the community, educating children on medical awareness and teaching them how to take charge of chronic illnesses like asthma and diabetes.
There’s almost no limit to the kinds of jobs and challenges open to someone who chooses to pursue a nursing career. If you’ve chosen to pursue nursing as a second career, take the time to study all your options and find the one that’s most satisfying for you. It may be a second career, but it’s one that can last you for the rest of your life.