As she approached retirement age, Jacqueline Khan realized she should have left her job sooner.
Three decades investigating student absences for Detroit public schools had drained her. More and more, she thought, “I’ve got to get out. This is really killing me.”
Khan had always been interested in health and nutrition. She got it from her mother, a licensed practical nurse. Khan hoped to carry on the tradition while challenging herself.
“I wanted something that was going to keep me on my toes,” says Khan, now in her late 60s. “I really feel that you start to die when you start to step back from life, when you stop going full speed.”
Years earlier, Khan had earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in counseling, but she needed new expertise. While still working for the Detroit schools, she took prerequisite courses for a nursing program at her local community college. She started the program a week before retiring from the school system in 1999.
Nurses were so in demand (and still are) that Khan was recruited for a job even before she graduated from nursing school. “I had a job the day I walked across the stage,” she recalls.
Since earning her associate’s degree, Khan has been a critical care nurse at a Detroit hospital, earned her bachelor’s degree and worked as a home health nurse. She now picks up hospital shifts through a nursing agency, typically working two 12-hour days a week. The flexibility allows her to spend winters in Florida.
Khan admits that chronic understaffing can make nursing unpleasant sometimes. But she still loves her work, because it keeps her moving, learning and interacting. “You have to be extremely flexible,” she says, “but it is rewarding. Every day you do a nursing job, you can make a real contribution.”