5 Things I Didn’t Expect About Starting Nursing School at 44 Years Old

by | Sep 21, 2018 | Nursing, Night Shifts & School

The past few weeks have blown through like a tornado. While the life of a college student – who’s also a middle-aged wife and mom with a mortgage – is not necessarily any busier than my previous life as a Realtor, Mom and Would-Be Writer, having this new role of college student added to the many hats I already wear has been exciting, daunting, fun, and quite frankly, a little weird.

The first week of school was also my 44th birthday, and my husband had shoulder surgery that Friday, so I suddenly became his nurse and chauffeur. And the kids still had to be taken to swim practice and voice lessons, doctor appointments and physical therapy sessions while I frantically tried to wake up my mommy brain to Anatomy and Physiology, critical thinking and medical terminology.

I have so many reflections and thoughts on my first few weeks, and really don’t have time to even write about them as I have to study for my Anatomy and Physiology midterm. But I know I will regret it if I don’t, so here is a quick rundown of the five things that have surprised me most about nursing school so far.

1 – I am not the oldest student – I will admit I am a bit preoccupied, possibly even obsessed with doing the math about starting school at my age: How old will I be when I actually start working as a nurse? (46.) How many years could I realistically keep working before retirement? (At least 20, but I think maybe 30?) How will I stay youthful and healthy to keep up with the physical demands of the job? Can you believe that I will earn this second bachelor’s degree 25 years after earning my first in 1996? That is mind-boggling. So many times over the past few weeks I have wished I had done this sooner. But it is what it is and I have as much time as I have. Everything I have done up until now has brought me to where I am now. And although the vast majority of my fellow students are young women about half my age (or less), I have met several girls in their 30s, a few men in their 30s and 40s, and even one woman in her late 50s who is finally following her childhood dream to become a nurse. So it’s truly never too late!

2 – I have to learn how to write (and there is a ton of writing!) – Since my previous degree was in Journalism, I didn’t expect this one. But college writing, especially in the health and science fields, follows a different format (APA) than I am used to, and there is a huge focus on citations and avoiding plagiarism that just wasn’t such a big deal 25 years ago. The Internet has made it that much easier to copy someone else’s ideas and present them as your own, so you have to properly cite any and all sources, even when they are not direct quotes.

3- A Lot of Classwork Happens Online – In 1992 when I packed my bags to head to U of A, I didn’t even have a personal computer. I had been using an electric typewriter to type up papers in high school, but my parents sent me off with this new thing, a word processor! It was like a hybrid between a typewriter and a full fledged computer. It got me through. We did have computers at school. We used them in my journalism classes. But email and the Internet was really just starting. Today, all of my coursework is contained in online portals. We do still meet in a physical classroom, but we also have a virtual one. Papers are uploaded, quizzes are taken online, even lab work is done partially online.

4 – I Have Never Been Poked Prodded and Assessed in So Many Ways in Such a Short Time  – Between academic assessments and physicals, drug tests and immunizations, I have spent half my time over the last few weeks giving blood, getting poked with needles, peeing in a cup or sitting at a computer taking an assessment of one kind or another. So far I have passed all the tests!

5 – I know more than I think I know, and I know I can do this – Although it will be hard and will challenge me in new ways, although we still have a mortgage and bills to pay and three beautiful girls to raise, although I will have to fight self-doubt, fear and insecurities, I am determined to succeed in this endeavor. And just as my mom taught me, I can do ANYTHING I set my mind upon. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can….






  1. Dawn

    Great writing Danielle. Things I had never thought of about going back to school at 44.

    Keep up the blog and writing, that was fun to read. I feel like I was having a lunch conversation with you reading it

    • admin

      Thank you, my friend! It has been far too long since we have sat down together for lunch. But I guess we take what we can get, right!

  2. Maggie

    Yes you can! You are inspiring my dear friend… keep going!

    • admin

      Hi Mags! I am so sorry that I just saw this comment and didn’t respond. I had put the blog aside for a bit and just logged in for the first time in a few months. Time has just flown by, but I do want to keep writing. Thank you for the encouraging words!

  3. Kathy Walker

    Congratulations! Your husband has taken us to the airport, so I am a Facebook friend of his. I started nursing school at 42 and just semi-retired this year at 62. Loved every minute (almost) and so glad I did it. There are so many different opportunities. Your passion will direct your specialists. I love the OR, so that’s where I have been. If someone hasn’t put you on to it, there is a program (or was last I knew) to put things in APA format. It is called PERRLA (not sure about how many R’s or L’s). It really helped when doing papers. Nursing school was the most challenging (i..e. Though I would never get through it) and most rewarding thing I have done in my life. Good luck!

    • admin

      Hi Kathy,

      I’m so sorry I didn’t see and respond to your comment sooner. I was just getting this blog started just as I was beginning nursing school, so I have sort of put it aside the past few months. However, I am working on a plan to fit the writing and managing of the blog in to my weekly life. Hopefully I can encourage, inspire or at least entertain people! That is such a cool story that you started nursing school later in life like me! I will check out PERRLA. The APA format is a bit of a challenge and different from the AP Format I learned in journalism school. So far I am thinking I want to work with women and/or babies. But that may change. I am open! So far I would agree that nursing school is challenging and rewarding, but I’m really just at the beginning of my journey. Thank you for taking the time to comment on my blog. Please subscribe if you’d like to receive future updates!

  4. Erica

    Love this! You are a phenomenal writer and will make a phenomenal nurse.

    • admin

      I’m so sorry, Erica that I just saw this. I have been a little busy getting going on nursing school and working on another project the past few months and sort of put the blog aside, but I’m working on a plan to fit the writing into my weekly schedule and your comment encourages me to do so. I’ve been trying to figure out where I want to go with this blog. I think I’ll just keep writing about what is on my mind, and perhaps it will encourage, inspire or at least entertain someone!



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