How to Start a Second Career in Nursing

Starting a second career can be daunting, but if you find yourself at the end of your tether in your current career and all the ways that you can currently take your career, then changing tracks is the right move. Perhaps you got into an industry because you were pressured by your parents, or perhaps your personal situation or needs changed.

When the second career that you are considering is demanding, like nursing is, you may feel like you should avoid the impulse and stick with what you know, but nursing can be incredibly freeing. There are so many ways you can customize your nursing career and even more opportunities when it comes to using a nursing education.

If you always dreamed of working within healthcare, have recently found a passion for caring, or were inspired by a nurse in your life, this guide will help you navigate your second career aspirations.

How to Speed Up Your Retraining

If your goal is to work in healthcare, then chances are you can find an auxiliary role that requires either very little training or uses your existing skillset. When you specifically want to be a nurse, however, retraining is a must. You need to hold a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) in order to kickstart your career, but you don’t need to jump into retraining from scratch.

There are several ways that you can get into nursing that make it faster and easier.

If You Need Work Fast

If you recently lost your job, and that is what inspired the career change, then you may be interested in another healthcare role first. You can work as an assistant within medical settings with just a few weeks’ worth of training and then immediately start earning money again to support yourself and your family. These assistant or aide roles are the perfect position to then get started with your education. To manage the balance, you will want to find an online degree or one of the LPN Programs available designed for working professionals.

With an Accelerated Degree

One of the most popular options for those getting into nursing as a second career is with an accelerated degree. To accelerate your nursing degree, you will need to have prerequisite courses already under your belt. If you already have a bachelor of science, chances are you can transfer some of the credits you already have to fast-track through the BSN. Click here to learn more about how to accelerate your degree and what a BSN entails.

The Importance of Caring for Yourself First

Throughout the entire process, there is one consistent piece of advice that you must take with you: care for yourself. If you put your health and your needs first, you can and will find the perfect job role for you that allows you to work better and provide a higher quality of care, regardless of where that is.

Never get blinded by what sounds good. You may like the idea of earning the high wages that a nurse anesthetist makes, but not like the field or the hours. Similarly, you may feel compelled to do your utmost and work in a hospital when a clinic is more your speed. You may find that working directly with patients isn’t a good fit for you at all, despite your interest in medicine and passion for helping others, and find a role (as a nurse) in research or elsewhere.

Caring for yourself means looking at your needs and working to fulfill them. At the start, this will mean your health and wellbeing, and later on, it will mean working to find the perfect role that allows you to enjoy a work/life balance that helps you reach your greatest potential.

Take Your Time; It’s Not a Race

Another thing to remember is that your career is not a race. Though it would be much preferable to reach your goal sooner, as it allows you to earn more and start to enjoy your workdays more, the journey also matters. If you are not enjoying the journey, and if you suffer during it, then you may turn yourself away from the experience entirely.

It’s important to go at a pace that you can manage. Slow and steady is the goal, and unlike the tortoise and the hare, it’s not because it will help you reach the finish line sooner, but rather it will help you live better during it.

Burning out as a student is a serious risk. Working while tackling a degree is a very big juggle, and trying to go too fast through the process can lead to chronic stress, anxiety, and poor results.

Taking your time, even after you graduate and take your first step into nursing, can also help you make better decisions for your future.

Exploring Your Options and Interests

There are many different specializations that you can and will want to eventually work your way up into. These specializations allow you to focus either on a demographic you want to care for or an area of medicine that you find most interesting. There are many, many different options – and there are also new roles opening up in nursing every year.

Not only are there new roles, there are new opportunities. Telehealth and telemedicine really took off during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, and a lot of investment into telehealth and its infrastructure is currently being made.

To help you better plan and get the most out of your second career, you’ll want to explore your options and interests, so you can find the perfect nursing role and workplace for you.

Read Medical Journals

Medical journals cover every topic under the sun, and should these not be your cup of tea, there are nursing magazines and news journals that will allow you to comfortably stay up to date and learn more about the latest advancements and what is going on in the world of medicine. If something doesn’t interest you, don’t worry about it. The only thing you need to do right now is go through and see what sparks your interest and what area of medicine or new field is of interest to you.

Sticking with this routine can help you in so many ways, one of which is actually with your job hunt. New units, new treatments, and new fields arise every year. The most prominent new field currently upheaving the medical sector is telehealth. Working as a nurse within the telehealth sector means the ability to help more people from the comfort of your home. Though, of course, doctors and physicians will be a key element to the success of telehealth, it is once again nurses that will provide the backbone of the entire operation – and you could be one of them.

Work in Different Units

Shadowing, working in different units and finding new positions are excellent ways to help you better understand what you want out of your career and day-to-day schedule. It is also a good way to negotiate better salaries for yourself, particularly if you have a lot of unique experience that makes you adaptive and responsive to a variety of situations.

Working in different units can also help you fulfill certain prerequisites for MSN or doctorate programs. Many midwife programs, for example, request that you work as an RN within a mother-baby unit or under a certified midwife for at least a year or two before you enroll.

Reflect on Yourself

It can be easy to get caught up on what you are supposed to do and not what is best for you. It may seem like working in a fast-paced unit is how you can help others better and earn a higher salary, but if you end up burning yourself out trying to do it, then you aren’t helping yourself, just hurting yourself.

The same applies in the flipped scenario. If you aren’t in a position that challenges you enough and you find yourself bored and burnt out from the monotony of your situation, then that isn’t sustainable either.

Reflect on what you need and how you can get it with the right role. Being honest about how you work best and what you need out of your career is the best way to get the most out of your second career. There are so many excellent nursing positions out there, and every one of them is important, so you cannot go wrong so long as you understand what you need and ensure that your next job helps you fill it.

Know What Is Available Outside of Nursing as Well

You can do a lot with a nursing education and certification, and what you can do with that nursing experience goes far beyond the health sector. Wherever there are people, you have a job to do. The only hiccup is in finding the projects, companies, and personal clients that want to hire you to do your job.

You can use your nursing experience and not even work as a nurse as well. You can change your career into education and train the next generation, or you can work in policy or health and safety and use what you know about health and preventative care to improve the quality of life for people on a grand scale.

There are many, many excellent options outside of the healthcare sector, allowing you to combine your passions and interests and find the right pace for your needs.

Don’t Forget to Find the Right Place for You

The final thing to consider is where you are located. Nursing is, in many ways, both incredibly freeing and restrictive. If you have a multi-state license from an eNLC state, then you can move freely between the majority of the country with just a bit of paperwork between state moves. If your state is not within the eNLC, however, you will be confined to the state unless your state has a specific agreement with another.

Regardless of whether you can move freely around most of the country or just your own state, know that finding the right town and the right vibe can be just as important when it comes to choosing a second career.

Most careers force people to move into the big cities. This is where investment is, where jobs are, and where companies put all their focus. With healthcare, however, you can work absolutely anywhere. If you are a small-town kind of person and prefer to know all of your neighbors, you can. If you love nature, you can find a town or city that offers that to you. There is so much freedom, and as your role is a very people-centric one, you are sure to meet people and make friends.

Don’t forget about the life part of the work/life balance. Healthcare is needed, and health services can be found everywhere, and because of that fact, you too could move where you have always dreamed. Add in the potential futures available through telehealth, and where you can live and work will grow even greater. Just as you can and should continue to evaluate your career, continue to evaluate how happy you are with where you live and make the changes as necessary.

Get Started on Your Second Career Journey

If you have been burnt out in your current career path and are not excited about any of the ways forward, then it’s time to reconsider and figure out what the best path forward is for you. Wanting to be a nurse can be the perfect fit for those who feel best when they are caring for others and who want to make a positive difference in the world while also being paid well. Keep your options open and explore more about your new career path and yourself, and you will be able to find the perfect job at the perfect workplace in the perfect new home for you.

Nursing can be the ideal way forward, especially if you put your health and wellness needs first. Done right, you can make a big difference, save lives, and lead a more fulfilling life.