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Is 51 too old to become a nurse?

Dear Donna,

I am 51 years old and wonder if this age is too old to consider a nursing career? I started about 20 years ago, but with family, etc., I never finished the course. I have condidered returning, but always talk myself out of it by thinking I am too old. Can I really keep up with the young students and others who are much younger than me? I have always worked, and work as a 911 dispatcher at the fire department. With at least 15 years until retirement, is nursing something that I can start now and continue until that time? Still Wants to be a Nurse

Dear Still Wants to be a Nurse,

At the very young age of 51 you are not even close to being too old to get into nursing. Many people are coming into the profession at every stage of life. In fact the oldest student I have met to date was 70 years old. You’ll also find that many students today are older and have had previous careers. If you’ve already been a 911 dispatcher, you can definitely hold your own in a nursing program.

It is said that on our death bed, we don’t regret the tings we did but the things we didn’t do. So end the cycle of regret that you currently carry. Stop thinking about it and just do it.

Will it carry you another 15 years until retirement? Absolutely. There are nurses in their 80s still working by choice because they love what they do. Everyone is living and working longer these days. And nursing is so diverse, there is literally something for every nurse at every stage of life.

Best wishes,


By | 2015-05-27T21:09:17+00:00 May 4th, 2015|Categories: Blogs, National, Nursing careers and jobs|27 Comments

About the Author:

Donna Cardillo
Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP, is president of Known as The Inspiration Nurse, she is a keynote speaker, retreat and seminar leader, 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." She brings more than 25 years of clinical, management and business experience to her role as career guru.


  1. Lenora Ingle December 26, 2017 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    I’m a 51 year old female and want go to college to become a nurse. What scares me is am I going to be smart enough to complete getting the degree??? Students today have received so much more education I did when I graduated.

  2. Kellie July 17, 2018 at 5:50 pm - Reply

    Hi Donna…I am 51and still want to be a nurse. I was in the program years ago but moved to Flag..and family etcm. I have worked myself up to 15 year coding career in the medical field and it has paid me well. But my heart still wants to be a nurse. Should I just get LPN first?

    • Darcie July 24, 2018 at 6:35 pm - Reply

      I would advise not going the LPN route. You wont get paid as much and will have fewer opportunities to grow as a nurse. If time allows go the RN route.

    • J.Brown January 23, 2019 at 2:18 am - Reply

      Yes!! Once you’ve completed the LPN program, you can work and gain experience. Most employers will offer scholarships and/or tuition reimbursement while working on your RN. Also, you’ll have less competition while applying for LPN to RN programs. LPNs make wonderful RNs too!! Go for it! I absolutely loved being a LPN. I loved my patients & the CNAs (our eyes and ears)!!!

  3. Munchkin July 20, 2018 at 5:05 pm - Reply

    I graduated from RN school at 56. I started my first job in a large hospital on a very busy Med/Surg/Tele floor. Now, at 59, I’m going back for my Bachelor’s.

    • Anthony January 6, 2019 at 4:48 pm - Reply

      I’m 43 and looking for advice from people who have entered nursing at a later age. Can I ask you for your opinion on your own recommendations? Thank you

  4. dawn weitzel July 22, 2018 at 4:01 pm - Reply

    Yes go for your dream. I am a registered nurse and I am 73 years old and still working. There are may different areas that nurses can work
    so you will have many choices. I don’t know what state you live in some places like Miami or California where there is a nursing surplus
    it might be difficult to get a job.

  5. rebecca July 22, 2018 at 10:18 pm - Reply

    Hi! I just want you to know I became a nurse at 57. It was a second career as I have a university degree in another field. I had been thinking of nursing for 20 years. I started all the prerequisites slowly as I worked full time, and entered a 2 year AD program just before I turned 55. Am so very glad I did. You will be too! Check out the 2 year RN programs in your area, you can always get the BSN later as there are many online programs. Good luck to you!! P.S. The valedictorian of our nursing class was 57!!!

  6. Susan July 23, 2018 at 6:00 pm - Reply

    you both can achieve anything, regardless of age. Donna, go for your RN, your heart will help you succeed!! I graduated with my RN at 50, after dropping out of H.S. at 15. Love being a nurse!!

  7. Brian Barrett July 24, 2018 at 6:51 pm - Reply

    51 is not too old. Is 20 too young for someone to be a nurse? I hope you see my point.
    Take care of yourself, eat well, get lots of exercise, and study diligently. You can do it and be a good nurse of some kind for many many years to come..

  8. Cheryl July 25, 2018 at 3:29 pm - Reply

    I am 69 and continue to work. The military allows nurses to stay in until age 70. You may run into a roadblock due to the limited number of students allowed in most nursing programs and the competition for those slots is great. I became an LPN first and then applied and had no problem getting in. Also as an LPN, you can work gaining experience in the hospital or other facilities giving you an advantage over others in some programs.

    Whichever route you take do not let your age stop you from seeking to do what you really want to do.

  9. Olga July 26, 2018 at 7:34 pm - Reply

    You are never too old to learn! Follow your dream. At 51 I assume it is not for financial reasons but a passion. If you are passionate about caring for patients and helping them when they are most vulnerable you will make a great nurse. Just stay focused on your goal. Best of luck to you!

  10. S.L.M. November 20, 2018 at 5:16 pm - Reply

    I’m 49 and started the RN program (currently a CMA). While keeping up with the academic part of the program has been manageable at this point, I’m finding that the age discrepancy with the others in my class leaves me feeling marginalized in terms of study groups or even socialization. It feels very isolating….makes me miss my work family and question if I did the right thing sometimes.

    • melan jones-sherman March 19, 2019 at 1:27 am - Reply

      I feel your frustration and hurt. There are going to be times where you feel you don’t fit in with your classmates. Think back to when you ever attended a new school, or tried to make new friends. Kids aren’t always welcoming. So I suggest you take the first initiative…..approach one person & see how that goes. Knowing that you miss your comfort zone (work & family), is natural. Right now you think your out of your element, but your not. It will get better, so hang in there. The test your going through is one of those life tests that no one can avoid and that’s wanting to fit in. it has nothing to do with your age.

      Talk with God. He has you there for His purpose, to help heal, show mercy, and the human touch. Once your done and graduate your patients won’t make you feel marginalized or isolated. Hope this helps…..Gods speed!

  11. Alice Fellers RN November 23, 2018 at 2:20 pm - Reply

    Nurses can offer varied life experiences. I knew a nurse who received her advanced nurse practitioners licience at age 55. She offered maturity in judgement.
    Just as many of us trust a doctor with a little grey hair as one who has more life experiences often offering a broader prospective to patient care, older nurses can bring valuable skills to caring for patients.
    The door is wide open in nursing with options of job opportunities. From neonatal to elder care. A nurse can find a good fit somewhere on the spectrum of skills used. From admistration to nursing education.
    I say go for it.
    We need people who are motivated to help people. If you have the desire, you can find a position that will be a win, win for you and for the people you care for and work for.

  12. Lionel M November 25, 2018 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    I was in my 50’s when I went to nursing school but did it in two phases. Phase 1 was the evening/weekend program at my local community college. Working full time, with occasional business travel on top put a premium on time-management but it was doable. Once I completed my ADN and passed the NCLEX, I enrolled in an on-line BSN program, Phase 2. I specifically looked for a program through a well-known and respected academic institution so that the degree was indistinguishable from a traditional BSN. The obvious choice was a state-school and the added benefit was that tuition was reasonable, a fraction of that at those heavily self-promoted virtual nursing schools.

    There were a number of older students in the evening/weekend nursing program, but even if that were not the case, I do not believe I would have felt isolated. As far as being “smart enough”, I suspect that depends on your confidence level. Nursing school is academically challenging but not impossible. Most of my classmates worked in study groups, something that many find helpful but does not work for me.

    As far as negatives related to age there is only one, and that is the rampant age discrimination that is pervasive throughout the US workplace. My nursing job story is not pretty. I know my academic qualifications are strong (ADN, BA, MBA and suma cum laude BSN), I’m an Army veteran (active duty as well as Army Reserve and NG), have a solid work history (never used more than a day or two of sick leave, terrific performance assessments) and have impeccable references. Yet when I was looking for a job as an RN, more than a dozen years ago at this point, I probably sent out 150 – 200 resumes to little effect: precisely three responses and one interview. I had no idea why I was not having any success until one day when a friendly recruiter told me the reason: The dates on my resume marked me as being over 55, and no one was going to hire an inexperienced nurse that old.

    The job environment then was a bit different than it is now – there was a glut of nurses back then while at the moment, demand for RN’s seems high – and hopefully your experience will be more positive.

  13. Kat January 3, 2019 at 5:17 pm - Reply

    Kudos to you all for striving to achieve your dreams.
    I, too, am an older RN without much real experience in Ca, and wondering what fields are best for RNs (BSN) who are older to begin nursing?
    Also what states?

  14. Sophy January 21, 2019 at 11:16 pm - Reply

    I am 49 years old like to study nursing Now working as dialysis technician is that any possibility for me to go school? Please help I don’t have any body to help Thank you

  15. B Mc January 23, 2019 at 10:54 pm - Reply

    I started nursing school just before my 50th birthday. If you think you can do it, you are right. It may take a little while to get readjusted to taking notes and studying for exams, but it will be over before you know it and then you will be 51 and practicing nursing instead of studying nursing!

  16. RS January 25, 2019 at 8:39 pm - Reply

    I just turned 50 and I am considering going back to school to get my BSN. I thought that I might be too old to try it, but after reading all of these comments about it, I feel inspired to do it. I actually want to go for an APRN license too.

  17. Renee February 22, 2019 at 4:06 am - Reply

    I was 44 when I started LPN school. If you think you can’t do it as far as keeping up with your courses compared to the younger guys don’t sweat it..I graduate top of my class of 30 (I was the oldest in my class) my opinion us older ones got advantage not disadvantage. I’m also going back to get my RN. You’re never to old if you have the passion to do it!!!!

  18. Karen February 22, 2019 at 6:25 pm - Reply

    No Lenora, 51 is not too old to become an nurse. I was 49 when I finished nursing school (I had no medical experience at all). I was 56 when I received my BSN. At 63 I am currently working at a job that I love. My sister (who was 55 when she graduated with me) had a very rewarding career before she retired. The only down side to going to school this late in life is the student debt I still have. But I wouldn’t change anything that I did.

  19. Mary February 27, 2019 at 5:51 pm - Reply

    Hello Donna,

    I am 52 and always have put my children and my husband first. I always put myself last. Now is my time. I would love to be a nurse. I am afraid of making mistakes though. I have OCD with perfection. I know everyone makes mistakes but how do nurses handle this? All these comments are very inspiring to me and I know I could handle the school.

  20. magnora March 1, 2019 at 12:49 pm - Reply

    I have spent my entire life in nursing school, from 30 yrs old. Thinking I would finish at a reasonable age.I have often questioned if I should even be doing this.You make plans and God laughs.Two RN programs later and 3 graduations missed. I just recently graduated from LPN program. Applied for LPN to RN, only to have them nit pick at my nursing school application and reject it because of one humanities class that would be completed by start of the program, (which adds more time of course). I’m disgusted with how long it took. I have worked in a hospital laboratory for 16 years, fighting to obtain my degree. I have to fight a number of feelings daily. Bitterness, depression, defeat and suicide.Its horrible, I hate that I’m 41 years old and often feel like I’m racing with a clock because of the horror stories I’ve heard of older people being discriminated against when trying to get hired in this field. I work full time, and my poor children did nothing but watch their mother fail repeatedly. I’m only continuing at this point to save face, so my children don’t see that their mom ran for years with nothing to show for it. I didn’t even attend my LPN ceremony, don’t get me wrong, I was happy to have something. It appears people have different paths and experiences. It doesn’t hurt for you to at least try, not everyone is going to turn out regretful and rejected by the nursing field due to age. I do think however it is a factor.

  21. Josi Wallace March 3, 2019 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    Magnora, one thing to remember is you’re never too old to learn! I went about my nursing career from the very bottom as a feeder/helper in a nursing home at 16, then a CNA at 18 prior to graduating high school. A Army recruiter saw me in my nursing uniform and talked to me about their nursing program and I enlisted at 17 in the Delayed Entry Program with my mom signing for me. I wanted to become an LPN and a mistake in the version of my course was made and I became a medic and Patient Care Specialist instead. I was not happy with it and planned to become an LPN. Three kids later and a 4 yr break from the Army my dream became a reality at the age of 30. I was 18 and went through a lot before I actually became an LPN. Married young and had 3 babies, divorced and remarried went to war, re-enlisted in the Army, went to college for my first degree, Associate degree in General Education with Psychology major. I didn’t stop there but worked on retiring from the Army after 20 years and 18 years experience as an LPN with my kids growing up and moving on to start their new beginning, I continued on with schooling and received my ADN in nursing at the age of 49. My goal was to get my RN before 50 and I did. Was it easy? By no means, I took time off from school when my mom passed as she was my biggest fan and it floored me. Here I am at 57 and I have been blessed with such awesome bosses who knew me and gave me a chance.
    Never quit or give in to negativity cause you can do it, I believe in you!!!

  22. Allison March 3, 2019 at 5:51 pm - Reply

    Thank you my inspirational nurses, you have really inspired me and now I will apply for my BSN .Thanks

  23. Lisa DeNeau March 10, 2019 at 6:03 am - Reply

    I am considering pursuing my dream of becoming a nurse. I have always wanted to do this but never got serious enough to pursue. All pre reqs done. Now I have to take the Hesi A2 exam in two weeks. I am so nervous that I wont pass let alone get through nursing school. Things just dont come as easily as they did 30 or 20 years ago.
    I love all the encouraging comments. They are very uplifting.

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