Lots of Fish in the Sea: Continuing Ed and Nurses

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Lily LOVES School!
Lily LOVES School!

Ah, the endless debate: how much education do nurses need?

More is better. Research increasingly suggests that more educated nurses mean better outcomes. Education also offers nurses more opportunities. Some nice opportunities have dropped in my lap over the years, because I have an MSN. It helps.


Economists offer us a useful idea (It happens): opportunity cost, basically what you have to give up when you make a choice. If you pick chocolate ice cream, you miss all the other flavors. Every choice costs you this way: one can’t have everything!

With education, the potential opportunity costs can be particularly severe. Let’s look at three:

1) Money. Tuition and other costs can amount to staggering sums that you might have put to other uses. Interest on any loans costs even more.

2) Time. Education can chew up LOTS of it – time you might have used working (more lost money!) or just plain living. Time, keep in mind, is the only commodity that we can’t buy. We have only so much: precious!

3) Details. You can’t buy “education.” What exactly will you study, where, and how? Any later regrets can sting, deeply, given the time, energy, and money involved.

As a somewhat cautionary example, I offer my own mixed experience. I have lots of it, on all three counts.

I attended Cornell for engineering, for no other reason than the recruiter and campus seemed really nice, everyone seemed to think engineering was my destiny (math grades and an engineer dad can do that), and it’s Ivy League. I could have attended UNH where I grew up for free, but I also badly wanted to Get Out of Dodge ASAP.

That choice cost some $50,000 total – tuitions were MUCH lower then. Also, I got bored and stopped engineering studies after a year, not so surprising in that I’d had no idea why I picked it in the first place. I took up Pre-Med and Philosophy instead.

Then I attended Harvard Medical School. Why? Folks with good grades go to medical school, I got in, then got caught up in everyone’s excitement at the Harvard thing. Fine, except I found all the pressure and sleep deprivation a reliable trigger for severe depression. When I finally dropped out, I’d invested a few more years, a serious suicide attempt, two psych admissions, and perhaps $100,000 more. I was quite certain I’d ever be able to pay it off. Meanwhile, my friends had worked, earned, saved, bought houses, enjoyed life. Good times!

After some years of exploration, I took up more school – see a trend? This time a Master’s in Nursing, my best choice to date, although I managed to pick a very expensive program, let’s say another $100,000, AND three more years, AND in the wrong specialty. I became an Adult/Geriatric NP, when as it turns out Psych would have been a far better choice. Live and learn! I’d finally found a way to earn a living, and start paying off debts, all by the age of 30.

I got lucky, found ways out of debt. I think of pursuing a DNP or PhD sometimes. I love teaching and the credentials would certainly be useful, yet… More time, more money, more worries, all to perhaps make as much money as I already do now? Opportunity costs come to mean an awful lot, when you’ve learned the hard way. My suggestion? If at all possible, don’t learn the hard way!

How to succeed? Clearly no expert, my unusaul career path has taught me a few things:

1) Focus. Figure out what you want. Make sure you want it, NEED it, that you’re willing to pay the costs. Take your time, look around, seek lots of advice from lots of people, people who know. Look before you leap, yes? There are countless professional puddles, cliffs, and wrong turns out there, easily avoided IF you look first. IF!

2) Details MATTER. Now you know what you want: knowledge, credentials, a promotion, whatever it is. Look carefully at ALL your options. Ask around: there are probably options you don’t know about. There are often many ways to reach the same goal, some cheaper, some more expensive: money and/or time. To invest well in yourself, such research is essential. More obvious, more expensive options are NOT always the best choices. The same applies to odder or cheaper ones. There are so, so many options: degrees, certificates, CNE/CEU classes. More!

3) No Limits. Look within nursing and formal education, AND everywhere else. You can learn an awful lot simply by finding a relevant job: they train and pay you! I read lots of books, myself: I could buy them all retail and read all I can stand for the rest of my life at much less cost than most degrees. That’s what Thomas Edison did, actually: he didn’t even finish High School. He did read heavily, and did quite well for himself. I’ve spent years absorbing and applying useful material for nurses and other providers, drawn largely from outside of health care. My point? There are lots of options. Many paths to success. Forget thinking outside the box: forget the box! Remember the old saying:

So Many! Via Fatima Martins on uwphotographers.net
There are so many fish in the Sea. SO Many!
Via Fatima Martins on uwphotographers.net Click for more!

Nurses, more than anything else, find a way. For our patients, for each other.

Why not for ourselves too?

I wrote this post as a contribution to the Nurse Blog Carnival, a growing and ongoing project bringing nurses bloggers together to write on a different theme each month. Find out how to participate

Nurse Blog Carnival   The Nerdy Nurse

More posts on this topic can be found at The Days When I’m Not A Nurse


  1. Great post! Thank you for sharing your personal story. Personal journeys always make it more relatable. I also love your idea of forgetting about the box! No limits! There are no set paths. You give us excellent points to think about as a nurses negotiate their way. Thank you for your excellent post, I really enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I usually use the box metaphor differently. I think of problems in my box, say psych nursing, and I rummage through other specialty boxes, often completely outside of health care. I find solutions, ready to go, proven. Bring them back home. Nice!

      Thanks for your kindness – Greg


  2. Hi Greg! Thanks for your candid approach in speaking about your experiences. And, it’s from your experiences that you can offer great advice. I really agree that Focus is #1. You must know what it is you want and need before making big decisions that can lead to major costs and investments in time. Sometimes, however, we just figure it out along the way and have to toss our hands up: lesson learned!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Greg! Thanks for your candid approach in speaking about your experiences. And, it’s from your experiences that you can offer great advice. I really agree that Focus is #1. You must know what it is you want and need before making big decisions that can lead to major costs and investments in time. Sometimes, however, we just figure it out along the way and have to toss our hands up: lesson learned!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marsha, you got that right! Experience is the best teacher, and mistakes offer all the lessons. No reason to seek them – seek success of course – but most people find mistakes so threatening they avoid learning from them. That’s real failure, because it’s voluntary and useless. Humility offers the opportunity to build on mistakes: the bigger, the better! Not bad, right? Not bad at all. The lessons show us where to focus. Then… payoffs!


  4. Great to read about your educational path, Greg! Where are you from? I went UNH for a BS in biochem and later got my ADN and even later MS in Org and mgt! Lots of fish for sure!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Erica! My ego wants creds, but in practical terms, I want to reach and study material academic nursing disdains: too practical, and too enthusiastic about teaching nurses about information from outside nursing. Edison is my model: read a lot, hone your product, learn from experience.


    1. I do. There is no reason for nurses to be the least educated folks with a license in a hospital. Other groups are pushing for Masters. There are practical challenges, of course, but the answer shouldn’t be to give up on proper education.


      1. I appreciate the opportunity to receive my Associate of Science in Nursing. This enabled me to be a registered nurse at 18 years of age. However, likewise, I do believe the BSN should be the minimum to practice as a registered nurse. Just reading your statement Greg, even makes it more profound!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. There are practical considerations, and we need to make any requirements workable and fair. Still, it KILLS our professional status and power that we maintain such low standards. Thanks, Rachel, for your kind words! – Greg


  5. Thanks for sharing your story. I like your point about, “think outside the box -forget the box..” With so many fish in the sea, some of us may need lots of career guidance from those who have been there. I’m curious to know how you got rid of all those college loans. You definitely make a good nurse mentor from your experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love this post, Greg. Great illustration of why it is so important for us to take pause and get quiet so that we can clearly go after our goals. There are lots of ‘bright shiny objects’ out there and being in nursing can create pressure to go back to school for an unnecessary degree. I love your three tips for focus. Thanks for an excellent article.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hey Greg, came across this article this morning.


    Pretty much she is saying nothing but using two,isolated examples to draw global conclusions.

    A nurse actually pens this nationally.

    Does she speak for nurses? Just wondering.

    Hard to fix healthcare when we are cheerleading failures.

    Why do some nurses go,political like this. Obama are is not fully installed. It is so unpopular elections have postponed many of the painful parts of the law.

    Pharmaceutical has. A special behind the scenes special deal.

    Healthcare fuels 80% of bankruptcies. And nurses are touting obamcare as a solution



    1. She does good work. Health costs were a leading cause of bankruptcy far before ACA. Nurses are all over the map in politics and on this issue. ACA doesn’t fix the system; one person’s waste is another’s profit, and what passed was the best they could do in that reality. Quite imperfect! Much left to do. But to spend ten years building then reversing massive change would be an awful lot of expense and effort to end up merely where we started, which seems the only alternative the GOP offers. I favor more of a single payer system, but the fact is, we can’t improve things without trying out some options, learning, adapting. No and status quo is a plan to fail: preACA was on a sure path to economic collapse.
      Thanks for putting in so much effort! If only more people did – Greg


      1. Good work okay

        Now the model is 100,000 federal employees countered by 100,000 state employees

        3 billion in computers thus far.

        Not one new doctor, not one clinic all high priced government workers who will be unionized and a burden for Americas healthcare.

        How can healthcare costs stabilize when you are trying to add 200,000 admin costs.

        The bill is only have implemented, a pick and choose type government now days

        Deductibles have doubled or tripled

        Not one doctor not one clinic not one free drug has been created here

        The middle class avoids the doctor and especially the hospital at all costs.


        Looks a lot different when your on this side of healthcare


    2. Theresa Brown is a practicing nurse and she speaks for herself as far as I can tell. Health care was a disastrous mess long before ACA and remains one today. Nurses would largely agree with that point. It’s quite obvious from the inside just how wasteful and abusive it was, is, and will continue to be unless we keep working on improvements. That after so many years all I hear from critics is complaints is really sad. It solves no problems, adds nothing useful. Winning an argument is not my point re ACA, and I am hardly a fan of the status quo, but please, add alternatives, ideas. The GOP has had years to come up with something, anything. I think we can do better than that.


      1. Ok alternatives.

        Instead of three billion in computers and all the people to run it, let us rent some spaces. Actually open free clinics. Hire doctors, nurses, receptionists and have medicine.

        Actual solid help for those who need it.

        One of the areas you do not see Greg, is the aggressive, almost unethical tactics used by radiology associates, emergency room doc, anesthesiologist a and the hospital.

        People would be shocked and these so called healers would be shamed.

        For profit healthcare does not work.

        Your single payer has a long track record, it is called Veterans Administration.

        People die waiting for an appointment, graft and incompetence rule that arena.

        Government is abusing, cumbersome and cruel. The employees get entitlement and arrogance.

        I do not believe you could imagine how so called healers act collecting their money, or how they drive families into homelessness.

        Homelessness Greg. You nurses think this is a sanitary, admin, political thing. Healers are passing out great quantities of suffering now.

        That backlash is headed toward you guys

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I have often written that a profit system has largely taken over contrrol of health care, with excellent results – it’s a profit system that porduces almost magical, certainly vast profits. As a health care system, it wastes more wealth than any other system in history has spent, TOTAL. The question is how to bring about helpful change. A tremendous amount of power and influence will never compromise about the profit priority unless it has no better alternative. How to achieve that situation? We must gather our forces and make it so. There is no alternative, other athan accepting the status quo, however grudgingly. Thanks for adding your voice – we need more! – Greg

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Her pre-K graduation: it was a good day. Asked on dstage by a teacher what she wanted to be as an adult, she sadi “You.” 🙂
      Thanks for your feedback. It used to be education was cheap, though no one realized it at the time. Now it can be akin to a mortgage!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My brilliant six-year-old grandie who is as smart as a whip wants to be a mail carrier! I told her by the time she grows up, that job will be obsolete! I told her she’d make a brilliant architect with the promise she’s manifesting 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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