Find Your Passion: Everything You Need to Know to Start a Second Career in Nursing

Changing careers is always going to be a daunting prospect. You might not like the situation that you are currently in, but you know it. It is familiar and you know the work, and also the energy, that you will need to put forward in order to do your job. Changing careers means letting go of that comfort and that familiarity. 

Not everyone will need to change careers, of course. What may be a better fit may just be a job change, or it may be putting more emphasis on your hobbies, even if you wouldn’t ever take those hobbies on full time. 

Starting a second career is huge. It means retraining and switching mental tracks. While not all career changes will require further education, a second career into nursing will. 

It doesn’t matter why you have decided that nursing is right for you. When you know, you know. Those who feel a draw to nursing are interested in caring. Nurses as a whole do focus on the care side of health, but nursing is also far more accessible of a role to get started in. 

It can be very hard to start a second career as a medical doctor, but it is more than doable to become a Registered Nurse. All you need is a quick guide to help you know what you need, and a rough guideline on how to get there. 

Decisions to Make in Advance 

There are a few decisions to make in advance when it comes to changing career tracks into nursing. The first is whether to look into online degrees, or traditional degrees. The second is whether you would benefit from a part-time, or a full-time approach to your education. 

Online or On-Campus? 

For most who are looking to start a second career, online education is almost always going to be the preferred route. An online degree means you can choose the best schools for your goals, without worrying where they are located. 

There are going to be some exceptions. As nursing licenses are not the same in every state, and nurse education requirements are not the same, you will be limited by what schools you can apply to based on where you are located. Applying online, of course, means that you can pick from a larger pool without having to move, which is great for those who love where they live, or those who have family that does not make it easy to move. 

Of course, if you are actively looking to move to a new state and make a fresh start (or you just want to), you will do better with in-person education, there are also on-campus degrees you can choose from, though the costs will be higher due to the additional maintenance costs (rent and living). 

Part-Time or Full-Time? 

If you want to make the fastest transition into nursing then you will want to not just find a full-time degree, but an intensive one. These degrees take a lot of effort. You can typically expect to work on an intensive degree between eight or even twelve hours each workday. The payoff, however, is being able to graduate not just with an RN qualification but also with an MSN in certified nurse leadership. 

Part-time education, however, is not just available, it is one of the more common approaches for online nursing programs. This is because healthcare workers are often in shortage. To encourage more who are currently working in healthcare to pursue their aspirations of becoming a nurse there are part-time, online degrees designed for working professionals. 

The good news is that these degrees are also a good fit for those who are starting a second career in nursing, and currently work in a non-nursing role, and not within healthcare at all. These degrees do of course take much longer, which can make it difficult to manage your time and energy, but if you need or desperately want to continue to work, part-time is an option.  

Taking Advantage of Your Background 

You already have skills and qualifications and although you will need a whole new degree at minimum to get started with your second degree in nursing, that doesn’t mean you have to throw away all your other accomplishments. If you have a degree, then you can transfer credits over from that degree to speed up your degree and enroll in an accelerated BSN. 

Accelerated BSNs do require you to have completed several prerequisite courses, mostly in biology, chemistry, and anatomy. If you have a BSc, chances are you completed many of the courses already, and can easily transfer and fast-track your BSN from there. If not, then you can find online programs to complete those credit hours on your own time, and still take advantage of the shorter time it takes to complete your degree. 

There are even intensive programs that allow you to not only fast-track a BSN but will also allow you to earn your MSN in just 20 months. Though these types of direct-entry MSNs do not qualify you to work as an APRN, they do have their uses. An MENP degree prepares you for leadership roles in nursing, allowing you to become a qualified RN and get started working in essential leadership positions that allow you to focus on the nurses, rather than just the patients. 

Nurses need greater leadership, better working conditions and improved resources. As a nurse leader you can work towards offering them that and in turn can work to improve nursing as a whole. 

These direct-entry MSNs are, however, very new and very limited in terms of your options. More often than not you will need to earn a BSN, and then choose the MSN in question, or go for another integrated program that allows you to go from a BSN to a doctorate. 

Regardless of which route is best for you, taking advantage of your background to fast-track through that first round of your education can help you speed up the experience and get more bang for your buck. 

Have a General Idea of Where to Take Your Degree 

There are so many ways to customize your career in nursing. What those who don’t work in nursing understand is that nurses encompass more than just RNs. RNs are the backbone, but they are certainly not the be-all-or-end-all of nursing. You can advance your career with an MSN or a doctorate and work as a highly specialized nurse practitioner. In some states you can even open your own clinic, and in many instances you can operate autonomously to great success. 

There are so many key changes coming to healthcare as well. One of the most prominent changes is due to telehealth. Telehealth is not only going to provide everyone – and in particular those in rural communities – better access to healthcare, but it is also going to help nurses operate with a better work/life balance even while they take on more patients. 

Look up job boards. Explore forums. See just what you can do with your nursing career after you become and work as an RN. Take your time to pick the right path but be curious and explore from today. The more options you know about, the better of an idea you can build about your nursing future. 

How to Negotiate Higher Salaries 

Nursing can be a very well-paid position, but you need to know how to negotiate a higher salary and push for what you deserve. A great strategy after you become an RN can actually be to start as a travel nurse. Travel nurses earn more because they help offset a serious problem. Earning more is the exchange for job security, but with the nursing shortage and the threat of COVID benching a nurse for ten days, minimum, there has never been a better time to be a travel nurse. 

The best part is that you can also explore different areas of healthcare. You’ll learn more about what you really want to do with your second career, earn more, and be able to put together a better future for yourself as a result. 

Stay on Top of Policy Change 

In order to do the best by yourself you need to stay on top of pending legislation and changes to nursing in your state. You never know when they may start looking into expanding Family Nurse Practitioner autonomy, or when you would be able to start your own practice. Staying on top of what changes there are will allow you to make even better decisions for your career. Many states are still currently working towards joining the enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact, and more states are looking at APRNs to help solve their physician shortage. 

Nursing as a whole is in flux, so by staying up to date on the news, you can stay up to date with your career. Start this from the day you begin applying for programs, and you will be able to do the best by you.