Nursing Career

Parent Q&A

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  • So, I lived in Berkeley about 15 years ago.  It is hard to believe it has been so long.  I left because I was a new graduate level social worker, wanted to adopt a child as a single parent, and couldn't afford to do it there.  Fast forward to now, I have lots of experience and am more marketable, have 2 children, live in Oregon, and really want to come back.  I know housing is extremely expensive to put it mildly.  However, I want to return so badly.  My kids are 10 and 13 and next school year would be heading to middle school and high school.

    Here are my questions.I am an LCSW in Oregon, and have an MSW.  Not sure if my licensure would transfer.  I am thinking for a decent paying job I should be looking at community colleges and hospitals.  Any other ideas?   How much do you think I would need to earn to pay for decent housing?  Where should I consider living so the kids would be able to attend decent schools.

    Sorry if I seem naive.  I know things are very expensive there, but I want to see if I can make something work out.

    Thank you so much!  Robyn

    Hi Robyn,

    consider working for UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital in Oakland -- LinkedIn can show some openings.  Your MSW qualifies you for a level II position. You will need to register with the board of behavioral science in Sacramento. 

    Housing is tight and expensive. Consider sharing. Albany has the sweetest school district. Berkeley is lottery based so your kids can end up at different schools. 

    Good luck 

    I just wanted to respond and say, yes, Berkeley is the lottery and that can it work out.  The fact that your children are in middle and high school means they will be at different schools for a few years, and then your youngest child will end up in high school with his/her sibling (there's a sibling preference) and also only one high school!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


How to get experience for nursing degree?

Nov 2014

 I've been taking pre-nursing coursework with the goal of doing either an ABSN (Accelerated Bachelors) or ELMSN (Entry Level Masters). Academically, I am stellar, but have no clinical/patient experience.

I want to find a way to volunteer (which is necessary for the ELMSN, and a good idea regardless), but am finding it near impossible to fit into my life. I am a mom of a young child, and work full time in a typical M-F 9-5 job. All the volunteer programs I have come across seem geared towards students, or require regular mid-week commitments.

Ideally, I would like to do the ELMSN, where my chances of getting hired in the Bay Area would be higher. With an ABSN, I would most likely have to move out of the area to get a job, and it's unlikely we would be able to afford coming back.

I am very committed to going into the medical field, but can't reduce my work hours in order to accommodate volunteering. Do I essentially halve my pay to try and work as an EMT or other in order to get experience? Is the ELMSN even worth it, given the HUGE financial investment? If I have to leave to get a job regardless, then I might prefer the ABSN now and get a Master's later on...

Any advice regarding any of this would be much appreciated. ANOTHER Nursing Hopeful

Dear future nurse- While I don't have much advice regarding volunteer experience, as a relatively new nurse I have a few thought to share: FIrst of all the difference between a masters level and a BSN may not effect your marketability as you may think. The question is what are your career aspirations as a nurse. If you want to be a bedside nurse it should not matter a whole lot, but again I graduated from nursing school about 3 years ago. Regarding getting a job in the bay. yes, it is super hard. As a new grad I had to move to LA for a few years. It was easier because my wife and I had no kids at the time, and my wife has a flexible job, so she was able to move with me. Coming back was not as easy as I hoped, but after about 4-6 months of looking I found a good fit. Currently I work in a Sutter campus, and it seems the majority of new grads they hire come from their transition to practice program. Yes, you have to pay, about 700, and yet it is not a 100% sure you will be hired, about 80% of people to go through that program get hired. I would recommend, if that Sutter program interests you try and get hired as a PCA which will give you the inside track into getting into one of these programs. Just a word of caution though: They may make you wait about 8 months after graduation before getting you into the program of transition to practice, for some reason they feel that if you graduated recently you are lower lower in the totem pole than someone who is looking for a job longer than you. good luck newly hired bay area rn

Here is a good site to find volunteer works.

Did you try Altabates Summit?


I would pursue getting your bachelors in nursing degree. Having a RN and bachelors in nursing makes you above average qualified as a nurse. You really don't need a Masters degree in nursing unless you are going into something like teaching.

Not having volunteer or work experience doesn't have to be a job killer. If you are wanting that experience, however, I would try to obtain some work experience vs volunteer experience. If you can, try working as CNA (Certified Nursing assistant). The work is not glamours, but invaluable as far as experience and looks great on a resume.

The Bay Area is tight for the nursing market, but I've found if you are an RN and have experience under your belt, you will be in a good position. Also, once you get your nursing license, you may have to work in a not so desirable position like a nursing home for a couple of years, then you will be primed to get work in a more desirable area of your choosing. My first job was night shift in a nursing home, not great by any means but after 2 years I was able to land a great job in a field I wanted. Good luck! Deborah L

Career as a pre-school teacher or a nurse?

April 2009

I'm a mom of two that currently works part-time for my family's business. The economy has been rough on that business, and I want to prepare myself in case it tanks. I'm deciding between becoming a Montessori preschool teacher or going to nursing school. My three year old goes to a Montessori school and I've felt inspired by the learning that goes on there, and I love children. Can anyone speak to life as a Montessori preschool teacher? Is the pay livable (I know it's not great)? Nursing would be hard-work, but flexible and well-paying. However, the first year of nursing school is intense, and I honestly don't know if I can pull five day a week and 10 hour days of school/rotations while my kids are still so young (3.5 and 15 months), even if it's only a year. Anyone have any advice on which path to choose? I should add that I like having some work to do part time, but very much value being home with my kids the rest of the time. Thanks! anon

I have been a nurse for 14 years and have loved every minute of it and have encouraged several friends to pursue a career in nursing. Like you say it's hard work but with several benefits in my opinion which outweigh the intense road to get there.

When I first entered nursing school I was single and spent every free moment I had either in school or studying for exams. For me, it was the first TWO years which were so difficult. I didn't have a social life either as my busy schedule didn't allow for it. But after having become a nurse and working in the field all of the sacrifices I had to make were so worth the effort and almost forgotten in the end.

That said, I know that these days there are many ways which support those trying to return to school to pursue a different career path, namely nursing(like online programs). After I got my RN license I went to University of Phoenix and completed my BSN attending classes only once weekly in the evenings so I could continue going to work during the day. It was terrific!

I'm not sure I could have managed the whole schooling thing with two small kids at home but if you have a good support system then I'm sure that would make it much more manageable. I don't want to deter you from entering nursing as it's been the most rewarding experience of my life. I now have two kids of my own and haven't worked for 6 years but am now ready to reenter the workforce but need to take a refresher course first since I've been *un-practicing* for so long but anything I have to do to get back to nursing I'm willing to do. Jennifer

As a nurse, I have not basis for comparison but I would highly recommend nursing as a career. Your right nursing school is a real struggle. I did not have children at the time but I had classmates who did. It can be done and the long-term benefits are really worth it. happy nurse

If you do opt to go to nursing school, seek out programs that offer a master's degree if possible. Some masters programs are mere months longer than the second bachelors programs. Some nursing jobs are flexible and some are not. With a master's degree, you will have more flexibility in your job search, an important factor to consider if you have children. Fellow nurse

As a new nurse (14mos in), I can't reccomend it more. It's the best thing I ever decided to do. I did nursing school with a child. He was 10 mos old when I started prereqs and was almost 3 when I finished. It was a lot of work and the schedule was tough but we made it through. My husband is a teacher and though he's enjoyed its many rewards, sometimes he wishes he had went to nursing school too. He has so much work to do after hours. anon

I would advise against going into teaching right now. I an a newly licensed elementary school teacher and am finding it nearly impossible to get an interview let alone a job offer. I have several years of experience in education, stellar references, a 4.0 GPA and am 9 credits away from a Masters degree. I also have been subbing for the past few months. Right now, perhaps because of the economy, when teaching positions open up they have literally hundreds of applications for one job. If you decide that despite the bad job outlook you still want to teach, spend some time volunteering in the classroom, because teaching is not for everyone. Unemployed Teacher

Considering Samuel Merritt in Oakland

Feb 2009

Hi there ~ about a month ago, a woman wrote in with advice about going into the nursing field. She had just graduated from Samuel Merritt in Oakland and has some good thoughts on juggling motherhood with nursing school challenges. My sister is starting her prerequisites and is planning on starting nursing school in a couple years. She would love to learn more about Samuel Merritt and is hopeful I can track down the woman who signed herself as ''New RN.'' Please contact me if you see this posting (or anyone would won't mind giving my sister more advice) Thanks! Shannon

Hi~ I don't know very much about Samuel Merrit, but I suspect they have a website. I can offer some advice on nursing school; I got my undergraduate from SFSU some time ago. I was fresh out of high school and things were a little different, but I didn't see where there was time to have a job and attend school. Nursing school is very demanding.

Your sister is starting her prerequisites, which will include chemistry, biology, microbiology and more. Once she gets into nursing school she will study all of the body systems like Integumentary, Respiratory, Cardiology, Urinary, etc, then she will have rotations for each. For example there is a rotation for labor & delivery, a rotation for musculo-skeletal and so on. These rotations were at different hospitals. I went to UC San Francisco for labor & delivery, SF General for my ER rotation and so on. It's very demanding.

I hope your sister has a ton of support if she has children and an understandig husband.

It's a GREAT profession and I wish her well! angie

Career as Nurse Practicioner or M.D.?!

Sept 2008

Fabulous BPN Community: I'm debating whether to go to medical school or nursing school (to become a nurse practicioner) & would love to communicate with some moms who are M.D's or nurse practicioners to get some insight to help me w/ my decision (I'm 23 by the way). I want to be able to contribute & make a difference but I also want to be a mother one day, have a family, & still have time and energy for them! Also, personally, I would like to have kids before I'm 34 & having kids in Medical school sounds teriibly difficult. Also, I plan to stay in the bay area (forever if possible) =)

My questions for the nurse practicioners are: 1) Do you feel that you're limited in the scope of work you're permitted/able to do as an NP? 2) Compared to M.D's & other NP's you know, do you feel that the schedule of an NP is more relaxed than that of a doctor? (e.g. are you ever on-call, can you work part-time and still make enough to support yourself &/or you family? 7) If you are a mother, do you feel like being an NP is more compatible(than an M.D.) w/ raising children? 8) Anyone go to the UCSF MEPN program?

My questions for the physicians are: 1) Do you feel that the time you spent in medical school was worth it? If you could go back in time would you be a nurse practicioner? 2) How (logistically) and when did you have kids? 3) Are you able to find part-time work and still support yourself and your family? 4) Anyone go to a post-bacc after undergrad & before medical school?

Many thanks in advanced for any & all responses!

A job as an NP is definitely more flexible, and there can be part time opportunities. I don't believe this is the case for an MD, which usually requires a substantial amount of on-call time as well. Also, if you don't find the job you're looking for right away, you can also work as an RN (which you have to have before you become an NP). Many people work part-time in both positions. There are many flexible job opportunities as an RN in California, and the salary is very good, as we have a strong union in this state. anon

Hi - Well I'm only a student - in a direct entry masters program to be an NP but I thought I would answer anyway.

I chose this route because I'm already 35 with three kids and it fits my lifestyle right now (I couldn't do the residence thing with kids).

Way back in undergrad, I chose *not* to purse medical school in part because I thought being a doctor would not fit well with being a hands-on involved parent.

The irony of it is that now, many of my mom friends who are already established MDs do very well as a mom. They chose specialties where they only work 2-3 days per week. Not every doctor has to be a constantly on call, over-worked freak case. These moms are fairly relaxed and have good work schedules.

Basically to answer your question, I think both NPs and MDs *can* have equally good schedules in terms of motherhood. If I were you, I would go for the MD. -Soon to be NP

I didn't see the original post, but I've been an NP for 10 years in the bay area. I also considered medical school originally, but opted for the shorter route to clinical practice. I'd offer that being an NP is very satisfying most days, and there are lots of job opportunities, especially if you are willing to work for a non-profit (making significantly less than you would as an RN in the hospital). Two things bother me about my profession: First, NP's are Nurses at most institutions - meaning the administration will expect you to provide nursing coverage in addition to being a provider. This can include phlebotomy, medication administration, wound care, telephone triage and advice, calling meds to pharmacy, management of other clinical staff, licensing compliance audits - many of these duties would be done by support staff for an MD and the institution would build that expectation into the budget and staffing, but not for the NP. In some cases, 50-75% of my time was devoted to responsibilites that an RN or Medical Ass't could do. I don't mind if it's a matter of pitching in to help during a busy time, but when it becomes an expectation it confuses my role of provider with that of support staff.

Which brings me to my second issue: Most people don't understand the role and training of the NP compared with the MD (understandably, as there is little standardization in the nursing profession). You may feel, as I did, that educating the patient and family about your chosen profession is part of the job, but I can tell you that after ten years of explaining, I feel like Sisyphus. You will be explaining your training as well as your decision to become an NP to patients, their family members, your family members, friends and aquaintences, MD's, RN's, pharmacy staff, and others ad nauseum. And most of those listed, even despite your thoughtful and articulate explanation, will assume you chose it because you couldn't get into med school. I'm not as bitter as I sound. In terms of work-life balance, being an NP is great. Most of my friends and collegues who've become MD's continue to struggle with balancing the equation even with a well established practice. Reconsidering Med School

I just wanted to add a couple of things to the advice you've already gotten about MD vs. NP. Yes, there are more part-time opportunities as an NP than as an MD; I think most honest female physicians would tell you that parenting is probably easier as an NP, though that doesn't mean they'd trade careers.

Another thing to think about is the time it will take for you to be a fully-functional NP vs. MD -- and by that, I mean, working independently and earning ''real'' money. It doesn't sound like you are an RN already, so let's assume you go through a direct-entry NP program. You are talking about an average of a 3 year program, maybe a bit more if you take time off to work between the RN and the NP. Once you are done with that, you are done. You go out into the world, work as an NP, care for your own patients, and earn a full NP salary, while working normal, sane hours.

If you go the med school route: you may need to do 1-2 years of a post-bac program, depending on your undergrad preparation, then 4 years of school. Then comes 3 - 7 years of residency (depending on your specialty) during which time you earn maybe $35,000 - $40,000 while working between 65 - 80+ hours per week and doing LOTS of overnight call in the hospital. After residency, you may need to do an additional 1 - 3 year fellowship, also low-paid and long hours. The upside of all this training is: 1) you know a LOT, you're a specialist in a way that an NP is not and 2) you MAY (depending on your specialty and healthcare reform) make a lot of money once you are done training. The downside is a lot more time spent in the trenches, training, being low on the totem pole, and working long hours for little pay. Not to mention the debt incurred with all that school. I'm an NP, married to an MD, so I speak from personal experience. One more thought in the next message -- this one is too long. Shannon

One more thought re: MD vs. NP (continued from the previous post). Nursing is really different than medicine. People tend to think ''why be a nurse, when you could be a doctor?'' or vice versa. But the truth is, nurses approach their patients differently from physicians (not better, just different) and NPs, though more steeped in the medical culture, take their early nursing education into practice.

Think about what you'd like to do in your career: do you want to work in primary care, doing lots of education, prevention, TALKING, working with patients to improve their health -- you can do this as an MD or an NP, but the path is easier as an NP and there are more and more NPs filling these roles. Do you want to perform surgery, be the ''buck stops here'' person, be the one that everyone turns to when they run out of ideas? You can be that as an NP or MD, too (well, not surgery, but work in an acute care setting), but you're more likely to find an MD in that role.

As an NP, you can work very independently -- admit your patients, round on them in the hospital, prescribe meds, manage complicated regimens. BUT there will always be things beyond your scope of practice, which you need to co-manage, or refer to an MD. You will always need to work collaboratively with a physician and you will often be lower-paid and have less general respect from the public than a fully-trained MD. For example, as an NP, I never get the ''wow, you're an NP, you must be really smart'' comments that my husband (the MD) gets. On the other hand, I get ''I love my nurse practitioner, she takes so much more time with me, etc. etc'' comments that he doesn't often get. So, it balances out. I've never had a huge need for outside approval or lots of glory on the job. If you ARE someone who needs that (and there's nothing wrong with being that person), you may chafe at the ''status'' issues which are still associated with nursing.

I wouldn't trade being an NP for being an MD. But they're not interchangeable, and I think some people are better suited for one or the other. So take a little time to get to know yourself before you embark on your journey -- both paths are long and involve a lot of work. I'd give you my email so you could ask more questions off-line, but yesterday was my due date so I don't think I'm going to have time. I would recommend finding a couple of people who work in both fields to talk to, though. S.

Nurses! I have education and career questions!

June 2007

Calling all nurses! I am considering going back to school to get my nursing degree. I have a bachelor's degree in biology and several years experience in the health care field doing qualitative research and health project management. I am mom to a toddler with baby #2 on the way. I would love input from any and all nurses about what type of nurse you are, what level of schooling you did, how you use your nursing degree now, and what you would suggest for someone looking into the field now. I have been thinking I would like to do a bridge program that allows me to ahcieve a masters in nursing and get my RN degree. I am not sure specifically how I want to use the degree, but I love helping people, want to be more hands on than my current job lets me be, and I love the schedule flexibility and portability nursing can allow. With 2 young kids, though, money and time are issues, so I don't want to do more schooling than I will actually need. I want the masters degree for my own satisfaction, but a couple of other health professionals I know (who hire nurses), said they wouldn't favor a masters over a bachelors degree unless the masters level nurse had also become a nurse practitioner. I would love to be an NP, but I don't think I can commit more time to an NP program after a masters program (unless I do the NP program some years later). Another non-nursing option would be a physician's assistant, but I suspect the demand for PAs is lower and the amount of schooling is equivalent. Any and all thoughts, suggestions, and advice welcome, along with your personal experiences. Thanks! shifting career gears

I'm a nurse in a MSN program to become a CNM (certified nurse midwife). I wonder if you are confused about graduate nursing education.

Most MSN programs ARE advanced practice nurse (APN) or nurse practitioner (NP) programs -- both of these designate the same thing. I think Clinical Nurse Specialist and perhaps educator programs are not NP programs. However, you could not become a CNS or teach nursing without extensive bedside experience prior to enrollment in a program. I think Samuel Merritt has a generic MSN program that does not lead to specialization in anything; that is, it has all the generic master's level nursing courses, such as theory and research, but if you want to become a NP you have to complete a certificate program elsewhere for that.

Are you referring to a ''direct entry'' MSN program which has BSN courses and clinicals crammed into one year at the beginning of the program, then you complete the specialty master's part in the last 2 years? These DE programs are 3 years full time. It might be possible to do such a program part time, but it would take a very long time to finish. It would also be difficult to do one of these programs full time with 2 small children without a lot of support. Nursing is not easy, no matter what the public image is, and advanced practice is even harder. You need to contact schools offering these programs to ask about part time and other options for doing a program with 2 small children. I do know the programs are VERY competitive for admissions -- it is harder to get into UCSF's program than most medical schools, for example.

I suggest you find APNs you know and ask them your questions. Call the schools you are interested in and talk to the admissions office and ask if they have alumni and current students you can speak with. has extensive bulletin boards for discussion on nursing education. If you search ''direct entry'' you will get lots of hits. Look under the graduate school sections. Good luck. Just A Nurse, for now

I have been a nurse with a Bachelors degree since 1999. I work in ICU and trauma, 12 hours shifts at night. My kids spend 3 days a week in day care while I sleep and I get to spend the rest of the week with my family. I earn over 100k without doing overtime and have good bennefits for all of us, plus good retirement plans.

I also have a masters (NP) which I got after I graduated but do not use - maybe someday... While I would highly recommend nursing as a career I have to tell you nursing school was a total pain! and that was before I was married with kids. It is stressful and time consuming. Things have changed in terms of demographics. There are many more applicants to nursing programs than there are spaces now especially in public schools like the Cal State Universities. So they have long waiting lists. It may be worth it to pay extra dollars to go private and then pay it off once you're earning more money. You are in a unique position in that you may go into a accelerated program since you already have a Bachelor's and that might make getting accepted easier. good luck

There are a few different ways to go about becoming a nurse with a bachelors degree in another field. I am in the MEPN program at UCSF. I completed the RN licensure year and have been working at Alta Bates on a stroke unit for the past year, during which we had our first baby. The RN licensure year is intense in terms of time and energy. If you choose to, you can do all the readings and give up all your free time to studying and preparing for clinicals. But it's not really necessary. I am in the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner specialty and have not started those classes yet. But I have heard the schedule is much easier. As far as cost goes, the RN licensure year is the most expensive, but still cheaper than Samuel Merritt. I decided against an ADN program because I wanted to be done faster and wanted the Master's degree. However, ADN programs are dirt cheap and the clinical rotations are more spread out--might be easier on your schedule. After one year of nursing, I am glad to be going back to school. I think more education is worthwhile. BB

I am a nurse-midwife who has a bachelor degree in psychology. I went back to school and got my RN in a RN-MSN program. I knew I wanted to be a midiwfe, which is why I chose that route. If you are unsure of your specialty field, what I would suggest is to get your RN, and wait to get your Masters until you know what field you want to speciallize in. I started my RN program when I had a 1 yr old, and had a second baby in the middle of it (but I took a full year off school to just stay home with them). The way to survive that is to get them on a good bedtime schedule and study nightly from 8-11pm. Nursing school isn't hard, it's just a lot of busy work. a mom and nurse-midwife

Hi, I am not yet a nurse, I also have a BA in Biology, I also have 2 kids, and I will be beginning a BSN-MSN-FNP program this fall. It is 3.5 years, but I have decided to just jump in and get it all done in one shot. I have been looking into this career path for many years now and have familiarized myself with the various options and programs.

What is boils down to is that there are many ways to get into nursing, and it depends on your immediate goals, long-term goals, and your finanical situation. As you probably know, there are many levels of nursing, and the education can be done at a JC, online, public university, or private university, and the length of program, and cost of each, varies considerably!

Have you ever looked into The membership is free and there are numerous threads/forums on every topic under the sun, so it is a great places to ask questions and read about your different options.

I also want to warn you that they are an opinionated bunch :-) There are many nurses that have been in the field for a long time, have worked their way up from ADN-BSN-MSN-PhD (or any fraction there of), and some of them are not supportive of the direct-entry MSN route because they feel that people need years in the field as an RN before aquiring an MSN. Then there are the direct-entry folks, myself included, that completly disagree.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like any info on the various local programs, or I would be glad to share with you why I chose the route that I did. Either way, best of luck on your new journey! Katie

Nursing is a great career, especially with kids. I am a Family Nurse Practitioner with a toddler and an infant, and it fits in well with my lifestyle. You can work almost anywhere, have a flexible schedule (I work part-time), and make a decent salary. I went through the Master's Entry Program at UCSF which is specifically for people with bachelor's degrees in areas other than nursing. The RN portion is a very intense 12 months, followed by a 2 year Master's program where you come out as an NP. There are also many tracks within the program at UCSF, including midwifery, adults/pediatrics, acute care, critical care, psychiatric, family, etc. I believe USF and Samuel Merritt have similar programs (and possibly SF State, too?). Good luck! -Happy NP

You would need to get a Bachelor of Science in nursing degree or an AAS. All of the programs have a serious wait list. Check out for info. on approved programs and etc. Then, check out the school websites. Best wishes! anon

Hi! I'm a second career nurse for about a year now. I have a BS in Health Education and I went back to school and got an associates degree in nursing. I wanted to get into nursing because I love helping and associating with people too. I thought about a MSN too but the thought having to go back to school for 3+ years was too daunting for me. I wanted to hurry and get my liscense so I went to a community college and got an ASN degree in 2 years. You are the same level of nurse no matter what degree you get. The higher the degree you have only gets you more of an administrative job. I want to be a hands on nurse for now and maybe years from now go back and get a masters. I love being a nurse, I work on a medical surgical floor at a hospital and it's the best job I've ever had. It's a rewarding job, you can work as much or as little you want, and you can work anywhere in the country. I was pregnant with my first child while I was in school, and just had my second child. The 2 year degree is more hands on schooling. You start from the get go and learn all the skills you need to be a floor nurse, you start in the hospitals within the first semester. The BSN/MSN program you spend more time with health administrative classes than skills classes. So if you are looking for a quick way to get you on your way to being a nurse, I advise the ASN route. You don't really need a BSN since you already have a BS degree, but for personal reasons/achievements then get your MSN, NP or PA. 2ndCareerNurse

Hi there! I am an RN with 2 kids. I work for Kaiser. I am soooo glad that I chose nursing! I work per-diem/on-call, which means I am very part time and I choose when I want to work, including what shift. Since the birth of my second child 5 months ago, I work only 1 weekend a month. Before that I was working once a week. I love this because I want to stay home as much as possible. I'm not sure if that's what you are desiring as well, but nursing is a good fit with parenting. I went to Merritt College, 2 year Associate Degree program. I too already had a degree in biology and I did not want a second bachelor's (time, money, etc.) My eventual goal is to become an NP and to attend UCSF. They do not require a BS in Nursing. My bachelor's in biology and associate's in nursing is just fine for entry. They will give me some sort of nursing exam upon entry into the program. Anyway, Merritt's program was sufficient to get me where I wanted to be (read: nothing to write home about!!)

Good luck! I feel good about what I do at work and I love that about nursing. Also, I get paid really well which helps when I'm dragging myself out of bed to go to work on a weekend!! Best to you. Please email me personally if you want to talk more about this. Nicole

Career as Private school nurse?

June 2007

Does anyone know whether private K-12 schools in the Bay Area employ school nurses? Just thinking about some alternative career paths . . .

I work in a private school, and we do not have a nurse. We have an admin whose job description includes doling out bandaids, Tylenol, and Tums and who has a couch in her office for students to rest on, but for anything more serious, parents get called. A number of parents think she has medical training, but nope, she just takes a first aid class every 2 years like every other school employee, and relies on her common sense as a mom. I don't know the situation at any other private school -- and I'm curious to hear responses -- but I can imagine it's a rare private school that would want to expose themselves to the additional liability that would come with providing medical care in today's lawsuit-happy world. And as a parent, would you want your child to be treated by a school nurse rather than your pediatrician? Sick and injured kids shouldn't be at school!

My daughter attends French American International School in San Francisco, which shares a campus with Chinese American International School and International High School. The schools share a full time, on-site school nurse. Sophie's Mom

I am a teacher at a private school, and we have a nurse (RN) on staff during school hours. I am also a parent at our school. As both teacher and parent, I find our nurse's services a huge bonus. She is there to check throats, dispense meds, and refer children who should be seen by their pediatrician. If a child is too sick to be at school she is a voice of authority when parents who may be reluctant to pick up their child who may be feeling sick to their stomach, or who has a fever or bad cough. When my child has been not feeling well, or was once hit on the head by a swing, I felt confident in her abilities to treat him - far more than I would have if he had been looked at by our very competent office person or other administrator. Another issue is allergies. I have had students with severe allergies that require an epi-pen if there is exposure. Knowing that I can administer the epi-pen but that our nurse is available right away as support and follow through is very reassuring. That being said, I think it can be a very rewarding and interesting career choice. Good Luck! private school teacher / mom

New nurse: work at Highland Hospital?

April 2005

I am graduating from Nursing School in May and am currently interviewing for employment. I am curious about Highland (Alameda County Medical Center) in Oakland. Any present or former nurses please advise! susan

I've worked at highland for about 6 years mostly in the ICU. its a very good place to learn becasue the MD's are learning and teaching so they can and will explain why the treat the patients this way or that way and most of them respect the nurses - well I can only really speak for the ICU on that one. but its also a difficult place to learn because sometimes it can be like the blind leading the blind and you have to question everything in case you get someone who doesn't know what they're doing and orders the wrong thing or an inappropriate dose, etc, that can be very stressful for a new grad. that stage passes after the first few months as you learn standard meds and doses by heart though. highland is a really interesting place with lots of challenges and lots of different kinds of people. you see things there that are really not seen in many other places. never bored at work

New grad RN - which hospital?

Feb 2005

I graduate from Nursing School in May and I'm in a bit of a quandry as to where to apply for work. I loved Contra Costa Regional Hospital in Martinez but the recruiter told me that it can be difficult to get permanent status. I have several friends who work for Kaiser and like it but I've felt like a cog in the wheel during my rotations there. Alta Bates is convienent but their recent merger with Sutter Health worries me. How about Mt. Diablo or UCSF? Any recommendations or advice will be GREATLY appreciated!

hi, I'm a nurse and I can tell you what I've experienced over the last 6 year my self and through my friends.

I think its really important that you consider where you want to go as a nurse - OB, ICU, OR, med-surg? and you consider your commute. right now most hospitals are desperate enough for RN's that you pretty much have your pick.

I'm an ICU nurse so that's where most of my perspective is from. I work as Highland in oakland and have found it to be a great place to learn. Many of the doctors are also learning and can explein to you why they make the decisions they do which I have found vry helpful. other times these inexperienced MD's make poor decisions and it is your job as a nurse to protect your patients from them. that was very stressful as a new grad but with help from my fellow RN's and experience, that aspect became less of a liability though still stressful at times. Highland is great at trauma, godd at other things, not so much for hearts.

though I have never worked at the Alta Bates ICU but I know 4 RN's who worked there and were more or less miserable. only one left because she relocated. all the others left because it was such a bad place to work - the culture, so I hear, is to encourage the nurses to back stab one another and is very unhelpful. don't go there especially not as a new grad.

on the other hand I know 2 RN's in the Alta Bates NICU who graduated with me 6 years ago and still work there very happily.

I hear lots of good things about Washington hospital in Fremont - they pay the best and seem to treat their nurses very well. I hear they do lots of heart surgeries if that's what you're interested in.

I also worked in John Muir for a few months they seem to have quite an extensive training program for new grads for the ICU - even more so than Highland which I thought was quite good. but after Highland quite frankly I was bored there. they do more with hearts which could be interesting but for trauma, there wasn't much going on.

I have found in just about every hospital that there are problems of one sort or another with unions, or lack thereof, administration and management and each place has its own unique set of challenges. when you go from one to the other you simply trade one set of problems for another. what really makes a nursing job good or not, like any job, is the people that you work with (including the doctors). are they friendly and supportive to you and to each other? do they communicate clearly and are they willing to offer and accept help or do they complain constantly but martyr themselves for some misguided sense ofmoral superiority?

once you find out the basics like pay, benefits, etc. go to the unit on they same shift that you may be hired for (same shift is important because cultures can vary from shift to shift) and talk with some of the nurses who don't seem too busy at the moment or hang around until break time. good luck anon

I have worked for Alta Bates for 10 years & I have been through many of the changes here including the Summit merger as well as the affiliation with Sutter (we didn't ''merege'' w/ them, but became part of their network). Like every hospital around, there are going to be great things about the organization & things that you'd like to see change. I have worked for a few hospitals in the Bay Area & really like Alta Bates. The benefits are good, the people are nice & the commute isn't too bad. More than anything you have to find a place that is a good fit for you. Have you thought of getting on per diem lists at a few of the hospitals that you are interested in? That way you can try it for yourself. Good Luck to you & Congratulations on finishing RN school. Alta Bates RN & Mom

First, consider your personal safety, driving home after being up all night. That means look at the closest hospitals to your house, or consider moving. It can be really hard to drive home after night shift.

Second, you are new, and you need to learn a lot. So, I would recommend hospitals with many different kinds of patients, cultures and conditions. For that, check out places like Highland, SF General, etc. You might (later on)want to go back to grad school, and the more varied experience you have, the better.

Then, ask a lot of questions about how they mentor their new grads. Will somebody really be there for you as you adjust to the new job, and for how long? Ask to talk to somebody who did the new grad program there, in the recent past, and ask them what it was really like, pros and cons. Good luck! RN mom

I have worked at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek for the past five years. I have been very happy there and would be happy to talk with you more about my experience and put you in touch with our nurse recruiter. I also have friends who work at Alta Bates, Kaiser, and Summitt. If you are interested, send me an email and let me know what type of nursing job you are interested in (I work in the postpartum unit), and we can talk. Emily

Thinking about becoming a nurse

Dec 2004

I am interested in becoming a nurse in the next couple years. I already have a Bachelors in an unrelated field. Is it recommended that one become an RN first before pursuing a Masters? If so what are some of the best schools in the area? I am particularly interested in ones that will provide some flexibility since I have a small child at home. New career

I am considering a career change. Long ago, when I was a pre-med college student, I volunteered on the surgical floor of a teaching hospital. I thought at the time that what the anesthesiologists were doing was interesting. Now I'm interested in becoming a nurse anesthetist, but as the path is a bit long and would take me away from my daughter quite a lot, I need to gather information around what nurse anesthetists actually do these days, how the work is, what the challenges are...if you happen to be in the know, or know someone who is, please contact me if you would be willing to chat. Thanks! Ann

Go for it. If you already have a bachelor's degree, you can get an RN and a masters in many specialized programs for people like us! I had a bachelors and masters degree when I moved to California and pursued my RN/Master's in nursing in a three year program at San Francisco State University 10 years ago. I love being a nurse, it pays well, I do what I love (working in labor and delivery) and my hours are great.

Check out UCSF, San Francisco State, Samuel Merritt for openings in their programs. I would choose the program that is going to give you what you want in the time frame you are looking for and that costs the least. No matter how much you pay for the education, you still will take the same boards and have the same license as someone who paid 2-4 times as much! Good luck. Tora

There's one place to begin your training as a nurse that may not yet appear on some lists of nursing programs because its program is so new: Mills College in Oakland. Mills is a private, 152- year-old, liberal arts college for women, which has just acceded to a request by Samuel Merritt College, a nursing school, to offer the first two years of the nursing curriculum to a small number of students. The first entering class will begin their studies in Fall 2005. Mills is a uniquely beautiful and supportive place, and the faculty connected with this program are of the highest caliber. The website contains a fuller description, which begins like this: ''Mills College is introducing an innovative two-year program leading to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) at Samuel Merritt College. Students who complete the two-year pre-nursing program at Mills with a 3.0 grade point average will be guaranteed admission into a two-year nursing theory and clinical program at Samuel Merritt College.''
Mills Prof

I am in the middle of a nursing program offered by UCSF for people who already have a bachelors in another field. It is a 3- year program in total: 1 year to complete the requirements for an RN, and another 2 for the masters degree (to be a nurse practitioner, nurse-midwife, or clinical nurse specialist.) If you go to their website you will find a description at this address: It is not an especially family-friendly program, but it is a good way to get your RN fairly quickly and then move into advance practice if that is your goal. Some East Bay schools also offer more flexible programs if you want to work as an RN. For me the absolute key to making it work as a parent has been to have an extremely supportive partner who is able to arrange his schedule to be home with our daughter part time. I would be happy to fill you in on details if you'd like to email me directly.

Nursing School with 6 month old?

Feb. 2004

I need to hear from some parents who have been to nursing school on this. Am I crazy to think I can deal with nursing school and my 6 month old infant? Of course I'll have full-time care for her. My question is how demanding is the program in terms of time outside of class and is it doable with a young child. I need a reality check. uncertain

I'd be happy to talk to you about balancing nursing school and parenting. I started an accelerated RN program (all requirements finished in one year) at UCSF when I had a one year-old and am now a few months away from finishing. In my case it has been all about having a supportive partner. It has been exhausting at times (and hilarious when I hear my non-parent classmates complain about how ''sleep deprived'' they are) but mostly it has felt manageable. You have to make some decisions and commitments to yourself on how you're going to get through it. For instance, I decided I would only study when my daughter was sleeping. For the most part I've been able to stick to that, knowing that in a previous time in life I would have been more of a perfectionist grade-wise. You also HAVE to feel good about your childcare situation. I am fortunate in that my husband was able to reduce his work schedule to half time and we have immediate family in the area who could also help, so we've been able to do it with just a few hours of non-family babysitting each week. Another mom in my program was trying to do it as a single parent and it just became too difficult. There's a lot to say about this, drop me a line if you'd like and I'd be happy to go into more detail. Kathleen

Congratulations for thinking about becoming a nurse! I have been an RN for 15 years, and can't imagine doing anything else. I love my job. Nursing is finally getting recognized as a flexible, well-paid, challenging career for men and women. It is a career where you truly can make a difference every day, and the job opportunities are endless. Nursing school is A LOT of work, though, and it does require extensive time outside of class and clinical time for reading, studying and assignments. I can't imagine going to nursing school with a young baby. If possible, you would probably have an easier time if you wait until your child is a bit older. But, now is a great time to start gathering information about the entrance requirements for the various local nursing schools (CCC, Merritt Community College, CSUH, SF City College, Samuel Merrit School of Nursing, etc). The word is finally getting out about the opportunities for nurses, so many people are trying to get into school. Most if not all the local programs are impacted, and require prerequisites to be finished and applications submitted around the winter before you wish to start. Feel free to contact me if you have more specific questions about nursing school. Gayle RN