Thriving as an Older Student

Whether to fulfill a lifelong dream or to secure a dream job, you have decided to return to nursing school as a middle-age student. Congratulations! Many other nurses in their 40s, 50s and even 60s are enrolled or planning to head back to classrooms, too.

Your real-world experience will be an asset in class and the clinical setting. On the other hand, you can’t help but worry about rusty study skills, fitting classes into an already packed schedule revolving around home and work, and remaining sane until graduation. 

Long before you begin your first class, start working on ways to reduce the stress that will accompany this new chapter in your life. The best strategies come from older students who successfully juggled school, family and jobs while working on a first, second or third degree.

To thrive as an older student, seasoned nurses say you need to: 

Have a supportive family. As a parent and spouse, your school responsibilities will impact everyone in the home. A strong network is key, especially if you have children.

Work in a supportive environment, ideally one that offers flexible scheduling.

Manage your time. Develop a master calendar to help you deal with a tight schedule. You must possess excellent organizational skills. “Multitask” is your new mantra. 

Communicate clearly. Know your limitations and when to seek help. Talk to colleagues and supervisors when the school schedule or assignments interfere with your job responsibilities. Talk to your professors on a regular basis. Let your family know when to pitch in if you feel overwhelmed.

Stay motivated. Life happens. Obstacles arise and waylay the best plans. Your goal  to get a degree requires persistence, problem-solving, and sometimes, flexibility. 

Make financial adjustments.  Start now to seek financial aid. If your employer does not offer tuition reimbursement, you may want to find one who does. Plan a new budget.

Set aside time to study. Get in the habit of studying most days of the week. Meet coursework deadlines. 

Take time with your prerequisites. These classes are your starting point and provide your base, especially if you’ve been out of school for a long time.

Embrace technology. Unlike younger nurses, you may not have grown up with technology and it may take longer to learn how to work equipment. Set aside time to become technologically fluent.

Schedule time to relax. Unwind on a regular basis with activities that feed your soul.

Focus, preparation, flexibility, communication and a strong support network will keep you on course when life throws up unexpected hurdles.

As an older student you have much to offer! Don’t let anyone or anything sabotage your success.