*Original post released on 8/09/2022
It is becoming increasingly common to see non-traditional college students, especially within nursing programs. What is a non-traditional college student? It’s a student who isn’t coming straight from high school directly into college and typically has special circumstances in their life. These circumstances could be that they have young children to take care of, have an adult or parent to take care of, are from a different country, are from a different age range, have an illness, are married, don’t have English as their primary language, etc. The list goes on and on… That being said, I want to take the time to discuss age and how it may affect success while enrolled in a nursing program. Moreover, I’ll disclose whether or not I believe age truly matters when attending nursing school.
In this article, we’ll mainly be discussing this topic as it pertains to students of older age (late 20s through 50s) because it is more common to see this scenario than to have a student less than 17 years of age in a nursing program. Let’s take a moment to address some of the barriers or potential downsides of enrolling as an older student. Technology plays a key role in the healthcare industry right now, so that means nursing programs have to keep up as well. There are multiple types of software you’ll be expected to use (Ex: Blackboard, ATI, Webex, Zoom) whether it’s to obtain class information, take an exam, attend class, etc. You either need to be familiar and comfortable with using a computer and these types of software or be able to adjust quickly.
Another downside can be the physical aspect involved with nursing. You’ll be turning, lifting, mobilizing, and transporting patients frequently regardless of the unit you’re working in. You need to be able to keep up and do so in a safe manner so that you do not injure yourself. In addition to this, nursing school is often set up to be quite integrative…meaning that you’ll have lecture, lab, and clinical sections for one or more classes running concurrently. You’ll need to be quick on your feet and quick of the mind to juggle each class’ demands. The older you are, typically the more set in your learning ways you become. This may mean you could struggle at adapting to multiple courses and changing your study habits should they prove to be less than helpful.
Now that we’ve discussed a few of the potential downsides of being enrolled in a nursing program as an older student, let’s touch on the advantages that accompany your age. Firstly, being older equates to having had more life and work experiences. This can be a plus because you’ll likely know how to work more efficiently, waste less time and resources on unnecessary pursuits, have better customer service knowledge, and likely be able to adapt better to multiple scenarios. Furthermore, having a family can help you know how to better plan and manage your time, prioritize, and juggle the demands that nursing school will most certainly place on you.
Age can also play a major role in the amount of drive and motivation a student has. An older student may not “just” want to be a nurse…they may have to advance their career for the sake of their family. And to be perfectly honest, pursuing a career in nursing is one of the best decisions someone can make, because the opportunities and specialties are truly endless. The older student may need the versatility and job security that a career in nursing has to offer.
Lastly, the life experiences an older student brings with them into nursing school can help them in multiple ways. For instance, they may be able to better grasp concepts because of that experience. And if they are struggling to grasp a concept, they are likely more knowledgeable in how to access the appropriate resources to help them comprehend it better. Additionally, a person who has lived longer likely has improved social and communication skills. While this is obviously not always the case, it can play a huge role in how they are perceived by other students, faculty, and healthcare providers within the program.
So, again, does age matter in nursing school? In my humble, unsolicited opinion, no. An older student has just as much potential to succeed, if not more, than a younger student in any given nursing program. The older student has been accruing experiences over time that have hopefully helped them develop top notch levels of resiliency. The best thing any nursing student can work to improve is their resiliency. Don’t let age keep you from pursuing a career in nursing, especially if you already have experience within the healthcare field and want to advance your knowledge, skills, and profession! I hope this helped any of you who have been on the fence about applying to nursing school.
Until next time, happy studying!