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Nursing in Your Later Years: Are You Ready for a Change?


Published: 22 September 2019

Cover image for article: Nursing in Your Later Years: Are You Ready for a Change?

When we first become nurses – especially when we’re relatively young – floor nursing and other physically demanding positions can be quite fulfilling on many levels.

As we age, our physical stamina can lessen, and we can also develop new personal and professional goals that steer us away from direct care and towards other healthcare-related career paths.

Over time, our interests can also change considerably, and the job that used to feel good can start to grate on our nerves. So, what should an older nurse do when they feel ready for change?

Reassessment is Key

With each passing year, our lives change along with us. We get married, have children, change jobs or careers, develop health challenges, experience loss, get divorced, move house, and undergo all manner of alterations to our personal and professional identities and lives.

Ongoing reassessment of our wants, desires, and goals is crucial throughout our journey, and becomes no less important when we reach our later years. What we wanted at 20 will likely be significantly different from what we want at 40, 50, or beyond, and that’s very normal. However, sometimes the people around us don’t fully understand why we’ve changed, and we can feel pressure to still fit our square peg into a round hole that can’t accommodate us anymore.

When we’ve fully reassessed where we stand in our lives, we may perceive a stark need for change, and that process can be painful or fun, depending on how we look at it.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What ignited my interest in nursing when I first entered the profession?
  • Which aspects of my career are as inspiring and satisfying to me now as they were 10, 20, or even 30 years ago?
  • Which aspects of my career no longer inspire me in any appreciable way?
  • How has my physical health changed since I first became a nurse? What am I no longer able to comfortably do that I was once fully capable of?
  • How does my current career path support or hinder my chosen lifestyle?
  • What clinical or nursing-related interests have I developed that aren’t reflected in my current position and career choices?
  • As I age, what is it that I truly want out of my work life?
  • Can I see myself doing my current job or working in my current specialty for the next 10 or 20 years? Why or why not?
  • In the current configuration of my career, am I able to fulfill myself outside of work in the ways I’d like to?
  • Is there something I’ve always wanted to do professionally that I’ve never allowed myself to explore?
  • How has my definition of what being a nurse means changed over the years? Am I living the life I truly want to live?

Be Realistic and Honest

If your dream job at 25-years-old was adult oncology and you still work in that specialty at 45, consider if it’s still truly your dream job or if you’re doing it because it’s simply what you know. And if your health has changed over the years, are you in denial about what you’re truly capable of?

Your realistic assessment of your current career path may be that you’re completely satisfied and there’s nothing that needs to change. Or you may find that you’ve been miserably marching in place for years and are only now being honest about your unhappiness.

If you’ve deferred your life’s dreams until now, perhaps your 50s or 60s need to be more focused on your needs rather than those of your family. You may also realise that nursing no longer holds your interest and you want to get a degree in an entirely new profession.

If nursing has been the focus of your entire professional life, the realisation that it no longer suits you may truly challenge your sense of self.

An honest self-assessment could lead to a revitalisation of your professional journey and even a new lease on life. Growing older can be inspiring and fun as long as you honour your needs, remain true to yourself, and make allowances for how you’ve changed.

Go forward into your latter years with the confidence that you can be who want to be and do what will bring you the most happiness, and the rest will be icing on the cake.


Portrait of Keith Carlson
Keith Carlson

Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, speaker, author, and popular career columnist. With two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses. Keith’s two podcasts, RNFM Radio and The Nurse Keith Show, offer inspiration and practical support to nurses seeking to create meaningful, satisfying lives and careers. Keith’s message of savvy career management and professional satisfaction reaches tens of thousands of nurses worldwide. Keith can be found on many social media platforms---including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Instagram - as well as at and Digital Doorway. See Educator Profile

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8 Total Rating(s)

Portrait of Barbara Hastie
Barbara Hastie
02 Dec 2019

This is written by an academic with little appreciation of current barriers to older employees within the Australian health workforce. The author has made health assumption statements influenced by those he has cared for or researched about. Perhaps the older, mature person that is fit and healthy are not seen in acute settings. This is reflected in the author generalisation and inaccurate statements. Ageism is very real. Interview panels with HR managers who do not value experience but listens for key 'in' words. These words do not indicate passion, experience and flexibility assisting those new to the health business.

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Deborah Strapp
25 Oct 2019

Helps to plan for future

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Jack Wesson
07 Oct 2019

This article has given me confidence to pursue changes in my career and to evaluate where I'm at in my nursing career at the moment. I woudl recommend this article to my colleagues.

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Lynley Macleod
06 Oct 2019


Portrait of Colin Gardiner
Colin Gardiner
05 Oct 2019

Good information

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Veronie Hollands
04 Oct 2019

This resource gave a good generalised idea about looking at and evaluating an individuals current work pathway choices and whether that satisfies their objectives in both career and lifestyle. It also questions if a change of focus in their pathway may benefit them or even a complete change in career. Allows the individual to obtain greater insights into their desires for the future with consideration not only of current skills and knowledge but also the physical changes of their body and if this places any limitations on the work life.

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Geraldine Savage
26 Sep 2019

It is a great resource which reinforced my decision to make changes.

Portrait of Harry Rauker
Harry Rauker
26 Sep 2019

a good and inspiring article