Second-career nurses help nursing shortage in Northeast Ohio

CLEVELAND -

Right now, there is a critical healthcare need here in Northeast Ohio. By 2020, the area will be facing a need for 3,500 nurses.

The answer could be in second-career nurses - people who make a dramatic career shift later in life.

By day, James Smith works full-time in construction engineering. At night, you'll find him pursuing his bachelor's degree in nursing at Chamberlain College of Nursing.

“It's an interesting brain shift,” remarked Smith. “Halfway through the day, I have to kind of turn off the cellphone with constant calls and get in study mode.”  

Not to mention, Smith is also a husband and dad.  

“I mean, it's a tough road sometimes, but I really enjoy it,” he explained. “I love caring for other people and I love the job I have now, it's just, this is really a passion that I think I can do for the rest of my life.” 

Michelle Smith (no relation) decided to make the switch to nursing in her 40's, after working as a computer programmer and small business owner. 

“I hadn't been in college for over 20 years, so it was quite the experience when I first started,” she said. “A little bit of a daunting task. Just being in class with, really kids my kids’ age.” 

She is now a nurse at Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest. 

“God works in mysterious ways, but I think that I'm the best nurse that I could be at this point in my life, older,” noted Michelle Smith. “Although I'm a new nurse in years, I'm still seasoned as far as what I'm able to offer families just with life experiences.”  

Interim Chamberlain President Brenda Spear says it is that life experience that makes second-career nurses like James and Michelle so valuable. 

“Problem-solving skills, critical thinking skills, they are motivated, they have wisdom,” she explained.

“They understand that not everybody is an 18-year-old student, 18 to 20,” said James Smith about his experience going back to school. “They know we have lives outside of here, work, families, a myriad of obligations and it's just a very supportive learning environment, so I think that really helps me get through those long, long days."  

And while they're non-traditional, they are needed more than ever.

“If we don't fulfill those spots in nursing that are open and we don't meet the patient needs, we could have trouble with healthcare access in this community,” said Spear.

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