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Everything You Need to Know about Pursuing Nursing as a Second Career

Summary: This article explains why nursing as a second career is great idea, including the fact that you can make it happen sooner through Marian University’s 16-month ABSN program. From getting into and succeeding in accelerated nursing school to making a smooth transition into the profession, we explain how to pursue a new nursing career.

How to Transition into Nursing - 2 Marian University ABSN nursing students

Are you on the fence about pursuing nursing as a second career? As the events of this year have shown us, there’s never been a better time to do so. Not only can you put your prior life and educational experience to good use in a field that needs you now more than ever, you can feel good knowing that you’re making a direct difference in the lives of patients and their families.

What’s more, leveraging your existing education toward making a difference in your community can happen sooner than you might realize — and you don’t even need any healthcare experience to make it happen. If you have a bachelor’s degree, the Marian ABSN program makes it possible for you to earn a BSN in as few as 16 months.

We also understand that deciding to pursue a new professional path isn’t a choice you make on a whim. To help you have a clearer picture of what’s involved, we compiled all the information you need to know about pursuing nursing as a second career, such as:

  • Why nursing is a good second career
  • How to change careers to nursing
  • How to prepare for accelerated nursing school
  • How to excel in the Marian ABSN program
  • How the Marian ABSN program helps nursing students transition into the field

Why Is Nursing a Good Second Career?

From the firsthand difference you can make in the lives of your patients and their families to the professional flexibility you can enjoy working in this dynamic field, nursing is a great profession to enter into.

If you’re on the fence about whether a career switch to nursing is a good move for you, it may help to know there are plenty of other reasons to consider becoming a registered nurse — and that it’s never too late in life to do so.

You can apply your previous work (and life) experience.

Even if your prior degree or career path had nothing to do with healthcare, you already likely possess some of the character traits and soft skills that great nurses are made of. It’s true; you needn’t have been a nurse to have the skillset of an experienced professional. No matter your previous work experience, you’ve likely developed a deep arsenal of intrapersonal and communication skills, confidence, and stress management techniques that will only serve to make you that much more of a well-rounded nurse.

From a personal perspective, as a second-degree student you have that many more years of wisdom, self-awareness and compassion under your belt than students pursuing their first degrees. That means you likely have a better understanding of what patients are going through and may have an easier time relating to them than your younger peers.

Besides, as Karla Rausch, manager of patient care for medical ICU at St. Vincent, puts it, your choice to pursue a second degree in nursing says a lot about your commitment for caring for others. That dedication directly correlates with your likelihood for success in nursing school and later, in the working world, she says.

“[Second-degree students] aren’t necessarily drawn to nursing because of the financials or because they didn’t know what else to do. They’ve had a change in their life or felt for some reason in their heart that what they were doing wasn’t working for them and they were drawn to caring for people.”

You already know how to handle stress.

There’s no way of getting around the fact that nursing school is challenging, but for good reason —nursing is a high-stakes profession, after all. That’s why it requires a different method of studying than you’re probably used to.

Going beyond memorization and regurgitating facts, nursing school requires a high level of critical thinking and applying what you know to all kinds of patient care scenarios across a variety of specialty areas. No two nursing shifts you work will be the same, so you’ll need to be prepared for any and all sorts of patient care scenarios; nursing school will help you get ready for that.

That said, as a second-degree nursing student, nursing school isn’t anything you can’t hack. Since you’ve already completed a prior degree and/or have held a career in a prior field, you’ve likely dealt with stressful work situations in the past. Bottom line: if you have the desire and the drive, you can do quite well in nursing school.

You can help fill the nursing gap.

If the events from the first half of 2020 have shown, there will always be a demand for nurses, which means there will likely always be a job for you if you decide to become a second-career nurse. More so than ever before, across every specialty and in every part of the United States, the profession needs dedicated, compassionate professionals who will work tirelessly to care for their communities and make a difference in their lives.

Even before the COVID pandemic, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated the nursing profession to grow 12 percent between 2018 and 2028. That’s in large part due to rapidly evolving medical and technological advancements, the growing need for care of the aging baby boomer population, and an increased emphasis on preventive care.

You have plenty of diverse career options and advancement opportunities.

Because of the constant need for nurses mentioned earlier, as a second-career nurse, you can also expect to have no problem finding a job once you earn your nursing degree. And while it’s true multiple higher educational paths can steer you in the direction of a new nursing job, pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) unlocks the most diverse opportunities for career advancement, if you’re willing to put the work in.

That’s precisely why earning a BSN from Marian University was so appealing to Ritu Jayant, ABSN Class of May 2020, a former pre-med student who decided to change paths to nursing.

Ritu Jayant - ABSN class of May 2020

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 Jayant

Ritu is right. 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.

You can make a good living as a nurse.

Money isn’t the only thing to consider when weighing whether to pursue a second degree in nursing, but knowing that you can have financial security while doing work that makes a difference is a nice job perk, especially if you hold a BSN. While the pay gap isn’t all that different at first between nurses who hold associate degrees in nursing (ADNs) and those who have a BSN, the average salaries of BSN holders tend to increase over time due to increased responsibilities and capabilities and more and more hospitals moving to require them.

Higher up the career ladder, nurse leaders, nurse anesthetists and nurse practitioners are among some of the top-paying specialties in the profession. Nearly all of those roles require a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) to apply, which all starts with earning a BSN.

You can transition into the field quickly.

If you’re considering changing paths to nursing, you may assume that earning a second bachelor’s degree in nursing is out of reach or that the time investment wouldn’t fit in with your current routine or professional timeline. With an accelerated nursing program, neither have to be the case. In fact, ABSN programs such as the one Marian University offers are quite accessible.

How long does it take to complete an accelerated nursing program, exactly? While most traditional BSN programs take at least three years, the Marian ABSN program can be completed in as few as 16 months.

Infographic of the second-degree nursing student lifecycle

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 Do I Change Careers to Nursing?

Making the decision to change career paths at any point in your life can seem like a major undertaking. But if you’re thinking about becoming a nurse, it’s actually an easier transition than you might assume. While nursing is a gratifying, rewarding line of work, one of its most attractive qualities to career changers is its accessibility.

For example, if you have a bachelor’s degree, you can earn a BSN in as few as 16 months from an accelerated nursing program, such as the one Marian University offers.

Below, we outline the process of changing careers to nursing, from preparing for accelerated nursing school all the way through transitioning into the field after graduation.

How to Prepare for Accelerated Nursing School

Preparing for accelerated nursing school involves many steps — from mapping out your professional goals to completing prerequisites to submitting your application, preparing for accelerated nursing school can easily seem overwhelming — but you don’t have to go through any of them alone.

As we’ll explain below, Marian University’s ABSN program admissions advisors will work with you to help alleviate the stress that normally comes with applying to nursing school so you can focus on your future goal of becoming a nurse.

The Marian ABSN Admissions Process

Marlita Clark

By many accounts, Marlita Clark’s journey to pursuing nursing as a second career should have been much more challenging — but not for the reasons you’d expect. Marlita 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.

At the time, she 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, ABSN Class of May 2019. “She made it extremely easy, just having a normal conversation with a friend essentially, and I appreciated that.”

Marian ABSN Admissions Support
As part of the Marian ABSN admissions process, you can expect your dedicated admissions advisor to:

  • Assess your academic qualifications to confirm your enrollment eligibility.
  • Help you determine whether our program aligns with your educational and professional goals.
  • Make a prerequisite completion plan targeting your preferred program start date.
  • Help you stay on track throughout the admissions and application processes.

Completing Accelerated Nursing School Prerequisites

The supportive, cohesive admissions process wasn’t the only reason Marlita chose to pursue her BSN through our program. The fact that she could complete her nursing school prerequisites completely online through Marian’s Adult Programs (MAP) also factored heavily into her decision.

To qualify for eligibility for the ABSN program, Marlita’s admissions advisor helped her identify that she needed to complete a few prerequisites before she could apply. Marlita chose to take them through MAP because she could complete them on an accelerated timeline — MAP offers five-week course options nine times an year and eight-week course options six times a year — and because she knew the credits would transfer with Marian’s Leighton School of Nursing.

Since 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.

ABSN alumna Ritu says she also benefited from completing her nursing school prerequisites through MAP.

“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,” she says. “I felt better prepared for starting my first semester because I was already familiar with the Canvas online portal and how to submit assignments and access the modules.”

Transitioning Back to Nursing School

No doubt about it — accelerated nursing school requires rigorous, concentrated effort. You’ll be expected to retain the same amount of information as you would if you were in a traditional nursing program. Not to mention, as a second-degree student, you’ll likely have to re-acclimate yourself to a new daily routine that involves several hours of studying for online coursework as well as attending and preparing for labs and clinical rotations.

Marlita admits sacrificing time spent with family and friends to focus on accelerated nursing school was a rough adjustment at first. But she says it helped to keep focused on her end goal — becoming a nurse — and remembering the magic of the word “no.”

Marlita Clark - ABSN class of May 2019

You can’t do all the things you’d normally be able to do, but I think explaining to friends and family that I appreciated them, that I understood the sacrifice made things a little easier.
– Marlita Clark

Ritu also felt apprehension with going back to school after being out of a classroom setting for almost eight years, but echoes Marlita’s sentiment of the importance of support from family, classmates and nursing instructors in her ability to succeed in accelerated nursing school.

“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.”

How to Excel in Accelerated Nursing School

Once you meet our admissions requirements, complete the ABSN prerequisites and develop a game plan for transitioning your routine and lifestyle to accommodate the rigors of nursing school, next comes making it through accelerated nursing school.

Because our 16-month ABSN program condenses the same curriculum as what you’d learn in a traditional nursing program, it requires an ample amount of commitment and preparation for you to be successful.

Our accelerated nursing curriculum comprises coursework, hands-on labs and clinical rotations. Because it’s a compressed learning model, no “light” semesters exist — all courses are equally intense.

Marian ABSN alumnae — both second-degree nursing students — share their experiences in each component of our program and how they not only survived them, but thrived.

Online Coursework

One of the great things about the online learning component of our ABSN program is that our dynamic e-Learning management system allows you some leeway over when and where you study and complete your coursework.

While it’s true, in the Marian ABSN program you can learn from anywhere at any point during the day or night, you’re still required to meet specified coursework deadlines. That means it’s primarily up to you to follow a regular study routine so the convenience of online doesn’t set you off-course.

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.

Skills and Simulation Labs

nursing student working with simulation manikin

Building on your online coursework, skills and simulation labs offer plenty of hands-on learning opportunities to prepare you for applying them in real-world clinical settings. In the Marian ABSN program, you complete them at our ABSN program site in settings that mimic a real hospital, featuring real medical equipment and lifelike medical manikins.

While it may seem silly at first to talk to manikins as you’re practicing nursing skills on them, it’s important to take simulation lab very seriously. Instructors will observe you as you practice specific nursing skills in different clinical scenarios and sign off on them once they feel you’ve mastered them well enough to practice them in real-world clinical settings.

It took Marlita some getting used to early on, but she says she appreciated having the risk-free environment and instructor support to help her hone her skills.

“There’s a difference between practicing things on a manikin versus on actual people,” Marlita says. “We were required to talk to the manikins, so I knew what to do and what to say prior to actually helping my patients in the real world.”

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 100% OK 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.

Clinical Rotations

As a Marian ABSN student, you’ll complete more than 700 hours of clinical practice, learning how to care for patients holistically and working with respected professionals in top healthcare facilities nearest the ABSN program site where you enroll. Especially if you’ve never had any experience working in a healthcare setting, the idea of interacting with and being responsible for the care of patients, as well as communicating with other members of a patient’s healthcare team, can seem intimidating.

nurse testing a patient's pulse

Don’t worry too much about this aspect of clinicals, though. During your first semester of clinical rotations as a Marian ABSN student, you’ll mostly be acclimating yourself to your new professional surroundings and observing how things work during your first semester — working more independently on patient cases will come later (more on that in a moment).

In the Marian ABSN program, it’s our goal to help you understand the spirit of caring, especially when it comes to interacting with patients from all sorts of diverse backgrounds. As part of the clinical experience in the Marian ABSN program, you’ll learn how to:

  • Exhibit genuine caring behavior.
  • Engage in appropriate communication.
  • Perform safe therapeutic interventions.
  • Employ ethical perspectives.

“As a nurse, you’re going to experience a huge variety of patient reactions. Learning that as a nursing student is setting me up for success in the future because I’m going to have to deal with these patients professionally regardless of how they react to you,” Ritu says.

How Marian ABSN Helps You Transition into a Nursing Career

Of course, the expectation of graduating from the Marian ABSN program is to use your degree to launch your nursing career. We’re proud to report that many of our accelerated nursing alumni achieve that goal and go on to work at top healthcare facilities in rewarding professional roles.

In fact, many have told us that their experiences in our program helped them gain the confidence they needed to thrive in their careers. Below, we illustrate just a few examples of how the Marian ABSN program helps students complete the transition from their first degree into the nursing field.

Preparing for the NCLEX

Once you graduate from nursing school, you still have one more step to complete before you can work as a registered nurse: pass the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX). The NCLEX is a professional licensure exam designed to determine whether it’s safe for you to begin practice as an entry-level nurse.

The Marian ABSN program aims to provide students a solid foundation for successful nursing careers — before, during and after their time in our program. Starting the first semester in our accelerated nursing program and continuing as they transition into the field, we have students complete the Kaplan® NCLEX Test Prep to help give them an extra boost of confidence on exam day.

Marlita Clark - ABSN class of May 2019

That’s important because it makes taking the NCLEX a little less intimidating. No matter what, you’ll be intimidated by the NCLEX because it’s a difficult test. However, I feel it was a little less intimidating because I was accustomed to taking the test throughout my entire nursing school experience.
– Marlita Clark

Clinical Immersion Course

Perhaps during no other clinical course as a Marian ABSN student will you get to experience what it’s truly like to work as a nurse more than the clinical immersion, or preceptorship, course.

Taken during your fourth semester, it’s a fully immersive course meant to help you transition into the nursing field. During this experience, you’ll work alongside a registered nurse, who will guide you in making prudent patient care decisions, giving you a better perspective on what it will be like once you’re the one calling the shots as a working nurse.

“Throughout that time, you do all of the same things that a nurse would do. You administer medication. You do your assessments on your patient. You are the one who speaks with the doctor or speaks with the nurses or respiratory therapists if you feel there’s something that you’re concerned about with your patient,” Marlita says.

Leadership Course

The Marian ABSN program also strives to align with the university’s goal of developing transformational leaders. One of the ways we do that is through the leadership and management course all students take during their fourth semester in the program.

It’s unique because it gives you the chance to job shadow and network with a leader or leaders within a healthcare facility local to your ABSN program site.

Some of our former students have even likened their clinical experience to a 16-month interview.

“My clinicals experience allowed me to gain exposure to the management team there on each unit. They saw how worthwhile it was to have me there,” Marlita says. “I also learned that I really enjoyed the people with whom I worked, and it made it a lot easier to get a job in that unit.”

It’s important to take this course seriously. While we can’t guarantee job placement, for some ABSN students, like Marlita, who now works as a registered nurse in the medical ICU at Saint Thomas West, the leadership clinical ends with an employment offer.

I appreciated my experience with Marian in that they helped build my confidence in being the nurse I am today. I feel prepared to take care of my patients.

Nursing as a Second Career Is Possible Sooner Than You Think!

Now that you know what all is involved in pursuing nursing as a second career (and why it’s such a good idea to do so), what are you waiting for?

The best time to reach out to our admissions team to learn more about how the Marian ABSN program can help you launch your new nursing career is today!

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