Man explains why he became a nurse at 45 years old

A 45-year-old man explains why he decided to become a nurse. (Source: WIFR)
Published: May. 17, 2023 at 6:59 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR/Gray News) - Changing a career path while in middle age could seem like a daunting task, but a 45-year-old man who started a new career as a nurse is making it work.

Bob Hopkins happily spent his work week handling public relations for a company 20 years ago. When the company abruptly closed its doors, that all came crashing down.

“Failure was not really an option for me,” Hopkins said.

According to Hopkins, his wife planted the seed in his mind to become a nurse.

After he saw his father-in-law become terminally ill and two other family members die from addiction, he said his path became clear.

At 40 years old, Hopkins took the idea and went to nursing school, officially becoming a nurse at 45 years old.

“My wife and daughter were the ultimate support system because … a lot of times during it - it was very challenging - they were like ‘Hey, you can do this,’” Hopkins said.

To become a nurse, Hopkins said he had to overcome some big hurdles, including juggling family life, covering the bills, paying for tuition, and attending school full-time.

Hopkins said the challenges are all worth it knowing how many lives he could impact.

“I had a young guy come in, he was honest with me. He said ‘I just used heroin, I’m an addict. However, I just went to the hospital with my daughter. They saw the track marks on my arm, they took my daughter away. I wanna beat this, I wanna get through this,’” Hopkins said.

Nursing is a female-dominated industry, and male caregivers can face a number of stereotypes. Hopkins said those things won’t affect the way he cares for his patients or co-workers. He said he loves being a mentor to future nurses.

“I was raised by a very smart and driven single mom. My wife is also a smart and driven lady. My daughter is too. So, it’s really just something I’m used to,” he said.

Mykeela Wiggins, a registered nurse and Hopkins’ co-worker, said he is very comfortable to work with as a mentor.

“You just feel comfortable going to him,” she said.

Hopkins said he’s known in his workplace as a “work dad.”

When asked where he sees himself in 10 years, Hopkins said he hopes to be teaching the next generation of nurses.

Until then, his roots are planted at OSF Healthcare where he wants to keep his focus towards his patients and supporting his daughter through college and her own career.