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Is an oncology nurse who is 60 too old to go for an APN degree? What should the same RN do if she’s mistreated at her job?


Dear Donna,

I am over 55 and am having a major problem. I got my nursing degree later in life and finally, four years ago, found my calling in oncology. I certified and have been working in it for three years. My problem? The practice I worked for was bought by a hospital. Everything has changed. The patients were taken away and given to the hospital infusion center. It seems that no one cares about the nurses who were left behind. I have tried transferring to another oncology position, but the answer is always the same. I am great, but they have a lot of great candidates and are using hospital seniority.

I am in school for my bachelor’s and plan on going for my master’s, but I am not sure what path to take. I cannot leave my job as there are no other oncology jobs out there. I will lose my pay if I try to get a job outside of my specialty because they don’t consider me an experienced nurse in any other field. What is the sense of certifying? I’m stuck and this job probably will not be here in a year. What track should I take for my master’s? I would love to be a nurse practitioner, but I will be over 60 when I would graduate. I feel so deflated.


Dear Donna replies:

Dear Deflated,

There’s no question that things are changing in healthcare as well as every other aspect of our lives and work. Change is hard and can be disorienting. But learning how to navigate the choppy waters can lead you to a brave new world. There is an expression: You can’t change the wind but you can adjust your sails.

Be careful not to buy into negative generalizations such as “there are no jobs.” Repeat something often enough and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The jobs may not be where you are looking but believe me they are out there, especially for a certified oncology nurse. What you need to do is get active in your state chapter of the Oncology Nurses Society (

Hopefully you are already a member. If not, join. Regularly attend meetings and events and join a committee. This type of networking is well known to be one of the most effective ways to find jobs and get hired. Plus, when there’s something you want to do, such as find a good job in your specialty, you have to rub elbows with those successfully doing it.

Read “Getting the most from professional associations” (

Networking is a concept very misunderstood and underutilized by nurses. To better understand the hows and whys of it, listen to a free webinar I did for on the subject ( The fee listed on the page only applies if you want a CE certificate for the course. But it costs nothing to just listen to it. Learning and practicing effective professional networking in part of adjusting your sails.

Your statement that you’re not considered experienced in another specialty and that you’ll lose your pay isn’t generally true. And even if it were, is it worth it to stay in a position where you are miserable and not treated well for a higher salary? We all assume we can’t live on any less than we currently make but it’s amazing how we can make adjustments when required. How much is your happiness, peace of mind, and health worth?

Besides, you may very well be able to find something comparable salary-wise. I’m just trying to give you a balanced perspective on this issue. It’s not unusual to panic when change is afoot and lose perspective. You’re only stuck if you choose to be.
Regarding your master’s degree, go after whatever you are most interested in and excited about. Many nurses in their 50s and 60s and beyond are becoming APNs. Everyone is living and working longer so you potentially have several more decades to contribute. There’s no need to compromise your career plans, goals and dreams at the relatively young age of 60. Age is a state of mind and when you cease to learn, you cease to live.

Adjust your sails and see where the winds of change lead you. There are still many exciting lands to explore in nursing and healthcare.

Best wishes,

By | 2014-12-12T00:00:00-05:00 December 12th, 2014|Categories: Blogs, Nursing careers and jobs|0 Comments

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