Second acts

When he said “There are no second acts in American lives,” F. Scott Fitzgerald may have been right – at the time. No more, though, as these RNs prove in the Winter 2010 issue of Scrubs. Each made a major career switch and finally landed the role of a lifetime.

Chris Tower: Then, Buddhist Monk. Now, Psycho-Social Nursing

What advice do you give a 50-year-old man who has spent the last 26 years as a Buddhist monk and feels it’s time to make a career change?

The switch from monk to nurse came naturally to Chris Tower. He had spent every waking moment immersed in monastic life: He studied Buddhism, practiced meditation and learned how to bring both into his daily life at the monastery. Finally, what made a lasting impression was the time in Shasta Abbey in Northern California, when he cared for his teacher, who was ill with diabetes.

“The monastery provided great personal and spiritual growth,” says Tower. Nevertheless, he slowly began to question his commitment. “I wanted to live in the world, to take what I could from monastic life and see how it could be used outside.”

Tower left the monastery but remained a monk, helping to start a temple on the East Coast and working in Oregon, too. When he learned his father’s stomach cancer had returned, he went home to take care of him. “I drew on my experiences with my teacher, and my dad was able to pass away at home,” says Tower, who began thinking about getting a clinical social worker’s license or pursuing a career as a nurse. “I liked the fact that there were so many opportunities for people in their mid-fifties in nursing. I didn’t want to spend time and money on education and then be unable to find a job.”

Tower did his prerequisites and was welcomed with open arms by the nursing school at the College of New Rochelle in New York, despite his poor academic record at Williams College so many years ago. “Youthful exuberance,” Tower laughs.

Graduating in August 2008 at 57, Tower began work on a surgical stepdown floor at Stony Brook University Medical Center in Long Island, N.Y. “I was happy to get all that medical experience, but I realized I was more interested in the slower-paced, psycho-social aspects of nursing than the high-intensity technical side.”

That’s when Tower found the Seafield Center for drug and alcohol abuse treatment in West Hampton, N.Y. He also soon found his wife, a fifth-grade teacher who was introduced to him by mutual friends. “It all turned out perfectly,” says Tower. “What I like most about my job is talking to patients. Now I’m going to get a nurse practitioner’s license so I can do that all day, and that really excites me.”

Next up: A former Wall Street banker who is now a Med-Surg Unit nurse. “Nothing has ever humble me like taking care of my dad…”

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