Do hospitals offer specialty training programs for experienced nurses who are changing specialties?

By | 2022-02-07T18:10:55-05:00 September 2nd, 2008|0 Comments


Dear Donna,

I am a 50-year-old nurse who has been a school nurse since 1999. My hospital experience has been minimal at best. While working through nursing school, I did basic med/surg nursing for a year as an LPN (when LPNs did everything an RN did), and then I worked for a year as an RN. Before having my second child, I worked in an MD’s office. After having my third, I worked as a coordinator in a home care agency before finally deciding to take time off to stay home with my small children.

My nursing career took a back seat to my career as a mom, but after my10-year hiatus, I got a job in a school health program.

Time-wise school nursing has its perks. However, I find it boring and redundant, and I feel that I have reached a plateau as far as learning is concerned.

I have spoken to many nurses from many areas of nursing who envy my summers off and the less vigorous pace of the hospital, yet I would love to have their nursing experience under my belt. I realize that it was my choice not to return to hospital nursing, and I will admit that you can’t beat having off all the school holidays and getting home by 4 p.m., but I find myself feeling unfulfilled and less competent then other nurses.

I have pondered the idea of going back to the hospital as a stepping-stone to getting into a more critical area of nursing.

Would I have to go back to the floors for two years, or are there areas of nursing that would train nurses for specialties the way they would when they take on a new grad? I realize that I am not coming fresh out of a nursing program, but I have been doing a different type of nursing for the past nine years.

My situation is unique in that most nurses at my age are looking to wind down their careers, whereas I am considering a new start. Can a 50-year-old nurse start over again?


Dear Donna replies:

Dear Theresa,

Every nurse is different and has different needs and interests at different times of his or her life and career. Fortunately, nursing offers so many different avenues that there is literally something for everyone. And contrary to what you might think, many, many nurses 50 years old and beyond are not looking to wind down but are also looking for something different. In fact, many people are just entering the profession at the age of 50 and beyond! Age 50 is still relatively young. You’ve got a whole lot of living and working yet to do.

I suggest that you start by getting out into broader nursing circles (beyond school nursing) and meeting new people. For example, start getting out to local chapter meetings of your state nurses association (you don’t have to be a member to attend some meetings as a guest). This is a great way to see what’s happening out there and make valuable connections while you’re doing it.

You should also attend Nursing Spectrum/NurseWeek Career Fairs in your area. At these events, you will meet many prospective employers in one place and find out who has specialty training programs that you might be able to get into (yes, some hospitals do offer this). You’ll also learn about other opportunities that might be of interest to you. Be sure to talk to the agencies, too. This is also a good way and place to hone your networking and self-marketing skills. Read “How to Get the Most Out of Attending a Career Fair” before you go.

I recommend that you read my newest book: The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses — Strategies for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career . It will assist you in your journey.

If you want to explore other options away from the bedside, consider attending my Career Alternatives for Nurses® seminar. See where I’ll be at Not only will you learn about what’s out there and how to break into these specialties, you’ll also learn which companies/specialties provide training and where most of the jobs will be.

My best wishes,

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nursing Spectrum/NurseWeek’s “Dear Donna” and author of Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional and The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career. Information about the books is available at and, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call (800) 866-0919 or visit


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