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Iím 59 years old. Am I too old to go back to school to become a nurse practitioner?

Friday February 12, 2010
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Dear Nancy,

I'm 59 years old and have an ADN. I am interested in getting an advanced degree to work as a nurse practitioner. My wife says I'm too close to retirement to make a difference and not to waste my time with three years of schooling and four or five years as an NP.


Nancy Brent replies:

Dear Al,

Your interest in becoming an NP is laudable. It also is an achievable goal, albeit with some sacrifices, not the least of which is a commitment to additional education (including certification for licensure purposes in your state). However, there is no better time to dedicate oneself to this goal, especially if your state nurse practice act and rules are supportive of the NP role.

First, there are nursing education programs that provide a student with accelerated programs so the student is able to finish his or her education in a shortened period of time. Second, more scholarships and other forms of financial aid are available today for those who enroll in nursing education programs. Third, and certainly not to be underestimated, is the need for and employability of NPs, not only in inpatient settings but also in the community, in school nursing and in private practice, to name a few.

It would be a good idea for you to check with several colleges or universities in your area that offer the type of program in which you are interested. Obtain information about the program, how quickly one can complete it, what financial aid is available and what the employment rate is for graduates of the specific program you are considering. Much of this information can be obtained online on a school's Web site, but an in-person meeting with a representative from the nursing education program cannot be underestimated.

You also should visit the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners' Web site at www.AAPN.org for additional information. The Web site has a great deal of helpful information, including a link, ďAbout APNs,Ē that includes FAQs about NPs, NP education information, and career resources.

Another professional organization, the American College of Nurse Practitioners' Web site, www.ACNPWeb.org, also should be reviewed. Be sure to click on a featured article on its home page from The New York Times (2/12/10), "With Doctors In Short Supply, Responsibilities for Nurses May Expand".

Keep in mind that the NP degree and credentialing may help with your retirement plans by allowing you to increase your salary level and, at the same time, work more independently than you have in the past and on either a full-time or part-time basis. Carefully evaluating the NP role may turn out to also be quite helpful in many ways to you and your wife at this point in your nursing career and your life plans.


Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.