How Old is Too Old to Continue Nursing?


older nurseAre you too old to continue on your path as a nurse? Being a nurse is unlike any other career choice. You work many long hours, on your feet, with few, if any, breaks. You miss meals, bear the brunt of frustrated patients, their families, and sometimes, your coworkers. After a seemingly endless shift, you come home, completely drained and mentally exhausted. And, if you’re a nurse, you probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

While nursing is a demanding job on many levels-physically, emotionally, and mentally-is there really a cut off point when you become too old to continue in your nursing career? The answer isn’t quite as cut and dried as one may think. Especially in today’s world, where many individuals are working in demanding careers beyond the standard retirement age of 65.

The Demands of The Career

The question of age, in the nursing field, is less about numbers and more about ability. As a nurse, you will need to call on physical strength, especially while working in a hospital, or care facility, such as a nursing home. You’ll also need to have an infinite store of patience. Dealing with physicians, patients’ families, coworkers, and these charges, entrusted to you, who can’t seem to stop hitting that call button, can frustrate even the the saintliest of caregivers.

The ability to multi-task is another skill set a good nurse must possess. You’ll wear many different hats as a nurse, frequently, all at the same time. The ability to juggle med schedules, physician’s orders, patient requests, and charting, with a smile, is called upon continually. If you aren’t able to work under this type of pressure, mistakes can be made, which can have dire consequences. A sharp mind is essential for a nurse.

The demands of nursing vary a bit, depending on your working environment, but honing these abilities is essential to every good nurse. For older nurses, especially those for whom the desire to care remains strong, these basic job skills are ingrained. As long as you’re able to provide excellent care, and perform your duties, age shouldn’t be a factor in determining your status.
Nurses make up the majority of healthcare workers in the industry today. Many of the nurses still working are near-or past-retirement age. As the country faces a shortage of good nurses, it seems many hospitals and care facilities will do as much as they can to hold onto their nursing staff, encouraging them in many ways, to remain on the job.
Ask any group of nurses why they chose the career and nine times out of ten they will tell you they believe the career chose them. Whether from a desire to serve, a need to help others, a fascination in hands-on medicine, or any number of life experiences, many men and women can’t imagine any other vocation. And no matter the circumstances which brought you to the nursing profession, every good nurse understands the passion he or she feels as the defining characteristic of the job. As long as that passion continues to burn, the thought of hanging up your stethoscope probably doesn’t enter your mind.

Plenty of Options

Of course, just because you want to stay in nursing, doesn’t mean you need to stay in the high stress environment of a hospital or multi-bed facility. In fact, in healthcare today, nurses can pretty much write their own ticket. From clinics, to doctors offices, to hospitals or care facilities PRN, and even staffing services, you can decide on the amount of time you wish to continue working, as much or as little as you want.

Whether you’re a long-time nurse, just starting out in nursing, are still in school, or thinking about advancing your CNA to RN, age is just a number. If you have the passion, the drive and the ability for the career to which you feel called, there’s no reason why you can’t complete your degree, move forward and work, in any capacity, in your chosen field. Don’t let anything stand in the way of you answering the call to this noble profession.

Photo credit: World Bank Photo Collection via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

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