How old is too old to become a nurse?

Chris O'Brien received her BSN from Auburn University and her Master's in Public Health degree from Emory University. With a background in cardiac care, home health, nursing research & education, and medical writing, she now enjoys the dual paths of being a freelance medical writer and yoga teacher in Decatur, GA.

If you're wondering about this there's a good chance you're what nursing schools call a "mature" student - someone with life experience. There are some major advantages to having life experience under your belt when it comes to going back to school to become a nurse, no matter what path you choose.

Knowing Yourself

More mature students tend to have a clear sense of themselves and how they relate to others. I remember one nursing school classmate named JoAnn who was about twenty years older than the rest of us. She had raised two children, was married, and had done several different types of work before deciding that what she really wanted to do was to become a nurse. She gave us twenty-somethings a good sounding board for issues that we had to deal with regarding class work and professors. She studied harder than anyone else because she wasn't partying, and didn't have anything to prove, so she did very well and had a positive effect on the rest of us who were more "traditional" students.My mother is another example of a mature student. She decided to go to nursing school after raising 8 kids! She had done various types of work ranging from fabric sales to being a postal carrier. Mom started in an LPN program and worked for a year to get some experience and then decided to get into an ADN program at a nearby junior college. I asked her about the experience the other day and she said it was one of the best things she ever did for herself. She already knew a great deal about health, having raised a big family, but her horizons broadened because of that experience, and she was able to earn more than she would have otherwise. Putting 8 kids through college is expensive, so the extra income came in handy!

Physical Limits

Nursing in most settings is quite physical work, but if you're healthy it doesn't matter what your age is, you can do the physical work of walking (sometimes running depending on where you work), lifting, and otherwise assisting patients who may not be able to do things for themselves. You also learn a great deal about how to take care of yourself by working with people who are sick and that can help to improve your physical health. For me being a nurse has been a motivation to develop healthy habits of exercise and eating right, and it's never too late to get that kind of inspiration and improve your own habits!

Graying of America

As baby boomers age the number of health care professionals needed to care for them will rise dramatically. Becoming a nurse later in life will give you an opportunity to provide mature insight into clinical situations. This is something that a younger nurse may not be able to offer.

Old Smold

If you're interested in going to nursing school, then take the first steps and find out what courses you'll need to take to qualify, what tests you need to take, etc. Go for it, you've got nothing to lose except a great opportunity to help yourself and others!