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I need help finding a career that allows me to use all of my experience and still be able to repay a huge student loan. What should I do?



Dear Donna,

After years as a healthcare consultant and a CPA, I became a surgical ICU trauma RN with a BSN at age 50. I just finished my first year of a nurse anesthetist program and, sadly, have realized it is not for me. If I drop out now, I would have a huge student loan bill and need help finding a career that allows me to use all of my experience and still be able to pay down this huge debt. What should I do?

Saddled with Debt

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Saddled with Debt,

When you say you need help finding a career, I hope you don’t mean outside of nursing altogether. Just because being a nurse anesthetist is not for you, doesn’t mean you can’t find something amazing in nursing that also will help you get out of debt. In fact, nursing probably is the most diverse profession on the planet.

With the background you have in nursing and the business world, your opportunities are virtually limitless. I don’t know how much patient contact you crave or if you can travel, but to fully explore your options, start attending nursing and healthcare career fairs. Talk to both travel and regular nursing agencies (many have nonhospital options available) and any non-traditional employers there. See what’s scheduled in your area at

You’d benefit from attending my “Career Alternatives for Nurses” seminar. It would give you a very broad overview of nontraditional options in nursing, specific details and contact information. See where I’ll be at There are diverse opportunities for nurses in the pharmaceutical and insurance sector, healthcare sales and marketing and nursing informatics just to name a few that pay particularly well.

You also should be attending nursing and healthcare professional association meetings, even as a guest for now. You never know from where the spark, idea, inspiration, contact, connec-tion or opportunity will come. You have to get yourself out there.

Before you take another plunge, whether a different specialty in nursing or an alternative edu-cational track, be sure to do some informational Interviewing ( with those already successfully working in that specialty. For current and future educational endeavors, there is plenty of scholarship money available for those who go after it — much of it not based on financial need or academic standing. Read “Master the scholarship game” (

Be sure to have a business card made so you can exchange contact information with other professionals. Networking is known to be the best and most effective way to explore options and find a great job.

Best wishes,


About Author

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is’s “Dear Donna” 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.” Information about the books is available at and, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit

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