A career change to nursing may be a wise idea for people seeking greater assurance of ongoing employment, if the experiences in a University of Arizona accelerated nursing program is any sign.

The program, in which people with degrees in other fields enroll in a special master's degree program at the UA College of Nursing, is designed to help fill the rising demand for nurses.

National figures show nursing jobs will grow by 26 percent in the next eight years.

"We're very lucky in nursing because we're seen as a growth industry," says Joan Shaver, dean of the University of Arizona College of Nursing.

Shaver says the aging population and greater need for health care are driving the demand. Add to it the fact that many nurses also are nearing retirement, and the need for more is ongoing, she says.

Among students seeking an accelerated degree at the UA in nursing are Tucsonans Mary Wach and Patrick Fitzsimmons, both changing careers.

"I was in banking prior to getting accepted into the university. So I did 13 years in the financial industry," says Wach. " ... With the financial crisis, I thought this might be a good time to pursue something I really want to do."

Fitzsimmons, a retired police officer, says his inspiration came from prior contact with medical professionals and his wife, who is a nurse.

"I've been wanting to get into the medical field for awhile," Fitzsimmons says. " ... I've been around it, I've worked with nurses and EMTs (emergency medical technicians). So I was attracted to it."

Wach, Fitzsimmons and their classmates will grade in about one year's time, ready to go to work for doctors, hospitals and clinics.