Going Back to School for Nursing: It’s Never Too Late

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Marian University ABSN student in scrubs

Are you at a place in your life where you’re thinking about changing your career? You’re not alone. In fact, it’s likely that the average person will change careers multiple times throughout the course of their working life. When considering making a change, going back to school for nursing could be the perfect next step for you.

You may not have the answers to how to change careers to nursing, but with the Marian University Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program, you could gain your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree in as few as 16 months and enter a lucrative, in-demand career field.

Learn which skills you’ve already developed that can be applied to a new career in nursing, hear from adult learners who achieved their nursing degree from Marian University to enter into a second career, and determine what you’ll need to do in order to succeed in the Marian ABSN program.

Why Is Nursing a Good Second Career?

From the firsthand difference you can make in the lives of your patients to the professional flexibility you can enjoy working in this dynamic field, nursing is a great profession to enter at any age. Now we’ll discuss a few of the reasons nursing is such a great option for a second career.

1. Your Previous Career Experiences Equip You to Thrive

No matter the industry of your previous career, you’ve almost certainly cultivated the experiences and skills you’ll need to be a successful nurse. While clinical knowledge is essential, any number of “soft” skills will see you through a career in nursing and allow you to reach new heights in your new career. So, even if you’re going back to nursing school as a 30-year-old, 40-year-old, or older, see how your previous professional expertise is bound to help you settle into this new career.

2. You Have People Skills

People skills are one of the first skillsets we develop, from the time we first enter school as children and throughout our careers. As someone who’s gathered experience and made connections in your first career, you understand that people skills are essential to getting ahead and advancing as an employee.

three Marian ABSN students sitting at round table

As a nurse, you’ll quickly learn that there’s more to the profession than administering care and carrying out nursing techniques. You’ll always be working as a team in a unit, and it’s your goal to make patients (as well as their loved ones) as comfortable as possible while under your care. Some of the people skills you’ve developed can be put to good use by:

  • Communicating effectively with doctors and fellow nurses.
  • Fostering and encouraging a team spirit as you take on each day.
  • Communicating clearly and effectively with patients and loved ones to:
    • Keep them in the know on their medical situation.
    • Properly prepare them for medical procedures.
    • Form a personal bond and make a frightening situation more approachable.

3. You Can Perform Under Pressure

Because you’ve spent your career meeting deadlines and working well even in a pressure-filled environment, you won’t be surprised to learn that nursing will require that same commitment to handling stress and not cracking under the strain. The self-care techniques you’ve developed during your career are important, as you’ll be dealing with life and death situations during every shift; keeping a cool head while accomplishing what needs to be done is vital.

Nursing demands a lot from those who take it on as a career, and forming a support network among your fellow nurses, as well as friends and family, is important. With the right outlook, you can prevent burnout and be able to overcome the challenges and reap the rich rewards that come with helping others as a nurse.

4. You’re Focused and Disciplined

Discipline in the way you take on your work, both in meeting deadlines and pushing through difficult situations, will help you excel as both a nurse and a nursing student. You’ve had years (or even decades) of practice in putting in the work a project needs to be successful, and nursing is no different in this regard.

To participate in our 16-month ABSN program, you’ll need to be prepared to work long, and sometimes hard, hours. However, if you push through, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of your degree. Once you enter a clinical setting, you’ll have to stay organized and committed to achieve success in your new career.

5. You’ll Have Diverse Career Options

With a BSN, you also open yourself up to lots of interesting career paths, not all of which necessarily have to be in a hospital. Once you earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing and pass the NCLEX, you’re qualified for myriad specialty positions including public health nurse, critical care nurse, legal nurse consultant and forensic nurse consultant, to name a few.

That’s precisely why earning a BSN from Marian University was so appealing to Ritu Jayant, ABSN graduate, a former pre-med student who decided to change paths to nursing.

“Having a nursing career will set me up for success because it’s a secure job. You can be a nurse in any field, in any part of the country, even outside of the country,” Ritu says.

6. You Can Transition into the Field Quickly

While most traditional BSN programs take at least three years, the Marian ABSN program can be completed in as few as 16 months.

And you won’t have to sacrifice quality for program speed, either. The Marian ABSN program follows the same curriculum as a traditional BSN program; the only difference is the amount of time it takes to complete. It’s a rigorous program, but as we mentioned above, you likely already have the dedication and drive necessary to excel in accelerated nursing school.

How to Make a Second Career in Nursing Happen

If you’ve spent a significant amount of time in a certain career path, making a career change that requires going back to school at 30, 40 or beyond could feel intimidating. Don’t doubt yourself, though. Nursing can be an ideal second career path, and going back to school for nursing is an accessible path to enter this exciting and rewarding career field.

Marian ABSN student checking patient's pulse

With Marian’s ABSN program, a bachelor’s degree in nursing is in your reach in as few as 16 months, meaning you’ll be able to access this new path sooner. No matter your prior occupation, from a teacher to a recruiter and everything in between, see what’s in store and some of the reasons why nursing just might be perfect for you.

For more information, contact a Marian University admissions advisor and learn what you’ll need to do in order to apply, complete any potential prerequisites, and get you on the path to this new career field.

Accelerated Nursing School Requirements

The thought of pursuing a second career can feel intimidating. After all, your previous education and professional experience has allowed you to specialize your skills in your first career. Luckily, nursing allows you to learn and enter a new career path on an accelerated timeline. With the Marian University ABSN program, eligible non-nursing bachelor’s degree holders can earn their BSN degree and enter the workforce as a nurse in as few as 16 months.

Before you enter an accelerated nursing program, though, you’ll need to meet admission requirements. For the Marian University ABSN program, in order to be eligible, candidates must:

  • Hold a non-nursing bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution.
  • Have a minimum overall cumulative 2.8 GPA or a 3.0 GPA for the last 60 credit hours completed. (Note: Students seeking contingent admission must have a cumulative 2.8 GPA in their prior degree.)
  • Complete all the ABSN prerequisite courses within the grade and GPA requirements.

If you haven’t completed the prerequisite courses, it doesn’t mean that your dreams have to be put on hold for years. All prerequisites can be completed through Marian’s Adult Programs (MAP), which provides:

  • Accredited online classes in an accelerated format.
  • Five-week course options offered nine times a year.
  • Eight-week course options offered six times a year.
  • Seamless credit transfers with our Leighton School of Nursing, and
  • Reserved seating opportunities for the ABSN program.

“It was so great to just have the continuity of taking the prerequisite courses through Marian and then transitioning into the actual nursing classes that use the same student portal that the MAP program did,” Ritu says.

You’ll need to lay the groundwork in order to be accepted into an accelerated nursing program, but if you approach your application, prerequisites and (eventually) coursework with the dedication and discipline you’ve applied in your first career, you’re likely to succeed.

Am I Too Old to Become a Nurse?

Even if you have the disposition and drive to enter a new career in the nursing field, you might be asking yourself, “Am I too old to become a nurse?” The answer to this question is no. Nurses come from all walks of life and all age groups. In fact, according to a 2020 survey from the National League for Nursing, 24 percent of students enrolled in BSN programs are over the age of 25.

You may wonder if you have what it takes to get through nursing school when it’s been years since you earned your first degree. “I was nervous that it was going to be harder for me to focus and to absorb and retain information during accelerated nursing school, because it was a good chunk of time that had passed,” Ritu says. “Multiple areas were uncertain, but I’m happy with all the support from my family as well as the school. Without that support, I probably wouldn’t have made it through the program.”

If changing careers to nursing at 30 or 40 or beyond is still intimidating to you, once you enter the workforce you’ll find that the median age of working registered nurses is 52 years old, according to the NCSBN. In fact, as someone coming into nursing as a second career, you’ll have the experience and empathy necessary to serve as a patient caretaker and advocate.

Marian University - ABSN students studying with books and laptops

You’ve developed a wide-ranging skillset in your previous career, so even though you’ll need to go back to school to gain the clinical knowledge necessary to become a nurse, the work experience you already have will also serve to be invaluable in your future career.

Transitioning from Teacher to Nurse

It’s by no means uncommon for an adult who’s already built up a career to look to make a change. We rarely stay the same as we age, and our priorities shift along with our career goals. For many, nursing is a welcome career shift that involves directly caring and making an impact on individuals in need. Hear from Heather Hay, a Marian ABSN student who made the change to nursing after years in her career.

Nursing Inspiration from Cancer Treatment

As a former teacher and mother of five, Heather had a different path toward the nursing profession than most. “About seven years ago I got cancer,” she shares. “When I was going through treatment, I had the most amazing nurse. She was truly an angel to me, and I would watch how she would take care of me and others. I was taken aback with her kindness and gentleness, and I truly feel that it was her and other nurses that saved my life.”

At first, Heather was hesitant about nursing school, saying, “since then I’d wanted to go back, but I was unsure if I had the abilities or the intelligence to. My background was in liberal arts and music and education. I was one of the students who didn’t have any higher-level science or math experience.”

However, for students with a previous non-nursing bachelor’s degree — like a degree in education — Marian’s Adult Programs (MAP) make prerequisites accessible and forms a solid foundation. “My personal nurse said, ‘Heather, just try it,’ so I started going back and taking my prerequisite courses.”

Heather’s Journey to BSN

By meeting Marian’s ABSN program admission requirements, Heather was able to participate in MAP and enroll as an ABSN student. Going from teacher to nurse was certainly a transition, but Heather’s self-belief coupled with nursing and education’s mutual focus on proper study skills made it achievable for her to succeed.

Thinking back on her time as a teacher, Heather was also impressed by the quality of instruction offered through the Marian ABSN program.

Now that she’s reached her goal of a nursing career, Heather understands the difficulty and rewards that come with the profession. To others who might be considering transitioning from teacher to nurse, she says, “To become a nurse you have to have that in your heart. It has to be something that’s a calling. It’s not an easy job, but it’s such a rewarding job, and I’m getting shivers thinking about it. They see the passion there, that my heart is all about taking care of people.”

Transitioning from Sales to Nursing

Marlita Clark put her nursing career aspirations on hold while she worked in optical sales in Houston. When she decided she wanted to relocate to Nashville and finally make her dream of becoming a nurse a reality, her community succumbed to major flooding due to Hurricane Harvey, leaving her stuck in her apartment with few people to talk to.

Marlita’s Journey to ABSN

At the time, Marlita was in contact with a few nursing programs in the Nashville area, but it was her interactions with an admissions advisor that made the Marian ABSN program stand out from the rest.

“I expected a long process, such as filling out lots of paperwork. Instead, she focused more on understanding why I wanted to go to nursing school, understanding that which mattered most to me when it came to finding a nursing school and what I was looking to do in the future with my career,” says Marlita.

Because it had been nine years since Marlita graduated with a biology degree, she also appreciated how MAP helped ease her back into “school mode” before she began the ABSN program. “It made me accustomed to what I would experience when going through the ABSN program,” she says.

Succeeding as a Nursing Student

Once she started the ABSN program, Marlita says scheduling time to complete online coursework and staying organized as a Marian ABSN student helped her learn how to manage her time more wisely.

“It not only helped me when it came to nursing school, but also with life in general. I had to set a schedule, stick to my schedule and make sure I met my various goals in order to stay ahead,” she says.

During skills and simulation labs, it also helped Marlita to keep in mind that her instructors were there to help her learn — and that it was always okay to make mistakes.

“They encouraged us to ask questions so that we would better understand the skill at hand, and that made it easier to transition to being a nurse and understanding that it’s OK to ask questions,” she says.

Transitioning from Recruiter to Nurse

Hannah McNabb achieved her undergraduate and master’s degrees in Health Services Administration and settled into a career as a nursing recruiter, but after several productive years in her field, she decided it was time to make a change. “I was a clinical recruiter for a long time and then I became the nursing recruiter,” she recalls. “I served as a nursing recruiter for about four years, so I got to go to different colleges and talk to [students] about being a nurse.”

With Hannah’s grandfather being an orthopedic surgeon, she fondly recalls spending time with him and being exposed to the duties and responsibilities of nursing at an early age.

After years of promoting nursing as a career, Hannah finally decided that it was the right choice for her. “I wanted to become a nurse so that I can take care of all types of people and show them the love they deserve,” she says.

The Marian University ABSN program stood apart to Hannah, with its flexible online coursework and a curriculum based on holistic care that aligned with the Franciscan values of dignity of the individual, peace and justice, reconciliation and responsible stewardship. “I’m Catholic, so that really means something to me,” she says.

From her position as a nursing recruiter, Hannah graduated from our 16-month ABSN program and is now happy in her career as a practicing nurse. Her advice to future students changing their careers? “If you really want to be a successful nurse, pass your boards and be successful in the classes, you have to be committed.”

How to Succeed When Going Back to School for Nursing

If you meet our admissions requirements and are ready to make the plunge into an accelerated nursing program, you’ll want to do everything possible to ensure you’re successful as a Marian University ABSN student. If all goes well, you’ll be ready to earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in as few as 16 months.

However, going back to school for nursing after a lengthy period of time in the professional world can be challenging and will require some adjustment. The Marian University ABSN program relies on a hybrid model, blending online coursework with in-person learning at skills and simulation labs as well as clinical rotations. Each of these are different, and will require different strategies to succeed, but there are some common tips that can help you transition back into student life and earn your BSN degree.

1. Practice Good Study Skills with Your Cohort

You’ll be covering new ground every week as an ABSN student, and the deadlines come just as fast as the material you’ll be going over. Try to follow a set study schedule when reviewing concepts from labs and completing assignments to stay on track, and don’t be afraid to reach out to other members of your cohort. Everyone comes from different backgrounds, but you’ll all be going through this common experience together and each cohort member is there to see everyone else succeed as well. With a routine and support from your fellow students, you’ll be better equipped to meet deadlines and succeed in this vital aspect of your nursing education.

three nursing students studying

2. Make Time Management Work for You

As an ABSN student, you’re likely very busy juggling family or other life responsibilities with coursework and studying. Luckily, our dynamic e-Learning management system allows for you to work on your time. So long as you meet assignment deadlines, you’re free to complete online coursework when and where works best for you. Quizzes, tests, labs and clinical rotations all require in-person attendance and are much less flexible, so make sure that your online coursework is shaped around your responsibilities and give yourself more time to get things done.

3. Never be Afraid to Ask Questions

As you build on your online coursework, in-person skills and simulation labs as well as clinical rotations will allow you the opportunity to apply nursing skills and techniques. You’ll start in mock clinical settings but move onto working with real patients under expert instructor supervision and guidance. Pay attention while observing new techniques, and don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions if you don’t understand something. Our instructors are here to ensure that you have the knowledge you need; you can’t succeed if you don’t have a thorough understanding of the techniques you’ll be applying each day as an RN.

Make Nursing a Reality for You

Now that we’ve explored how nursing school is an attainable goal and described the ways in which your previous career experiences can prepare you to be successful as a nurse, we hope you’ve seen how going back to school for nursing can fit into your life and prove to be an exciting next step in your professional and personal life.

nursing student working with simulation manikin

If you have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree and a willingness to learn, you have the skills and experience you’ll need to succeed as a nurse. Reach out to a Marian ABSN admissions advisor today and start a conversation that can change your career as well as your life.