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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|13 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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

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