Returning to nursing after an absence is a common occurrence. Whether you’ve taken an extended leave for medical reasons, to raise a family, in order to be a caregiver for an aging parent, or to experience an entirely new career, the time away probably has you feeling out of touch. And why wouldn’t it? In the world of nursing protocols and procedures change on a dime. What was standard procedure across healthcare facilities one day is old news the next.
Is it possible to your nursing career after an absence with confidence in your ability to perform your duties? Is it possible to master the new skills you need to know to work alongside recent nursing school grads and keep pace? Yes and yes! Returning to nursing with confidence in your skill and ability to provide patients with the utmost in quality care is possible, even after an extended absence. But first, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with any changes that have occurred while you were on hiatus.
Many of the changes which occur in healthcare facilities are largely related to protocols and documentation. Computer software seems to be updated quite often and you’ll need to learn the most recent way of utilizing the computer to chart, communicate with physicians and staff, distribute medication, and perform general administrative duties. In short, many hospitals and medical facilities use the computer for everything. But don’t worry. By following a few tips you’ll find returning to nursing is easier than you think.
Restarting Your Nursing Career
Licensure: If you are currently not licensed in your state you will need to take steps to earn your license. Find out exactly what you need from the state in which you plan to work as requirements vary from state to state. Contact the state nursing board to inquire about the licensure process when you decide you will be returning to nursing.
Refresh Your Knowledge: No matter how long you’ve been away, when you return to nursing it’s a good idea to refresh your basic knowledge. Most all nursing schools, and even some community colleges, offer an RN Re-Entry Program. This program provides you with clinical hours in which to hone your skills and familiarize yourself with common nursing duties. By refreshing your knowledge returning to nursing with confidence that you know what needs to be done and just how to do it comes much more easily.
Continue Your Education: Along with refreshing your knowledge it’s a great idea to continue your nursing education through certification programs. Many of these programs are offered online and are geared specifically for those returning to nursing. The certification programs also provide hours which can be counted for your licensure.
CPR and ACLS Certification: Your next employer is likely to require a current CPR and ACLS certification. You should go ahead and take care of this as soon as you decide you will be returning to nursing. Even if it has only been a short term leave from nursing there are some updates and changes regarding ACLS especially, which you will need to know. And simply participating in the certification classes and testing will help you to build confidence in your nursing skills.
Once You’re Hired
When you’re hired to work as a nurse in a medical facility there will be a period of orientation. For your own benefit and the benefit of your patients it is wise to request an extended orientation, similar to that of a newly graduated nurse. This is especially helpful for those who are returning to nursing after a break of 10 years or longer.
Education courses are often offered by employers to their nursing staff. If your hospital or medical facility offers classes make sure you sign up. These courses provide instruction on new equipment, certain protocols, and the ever-updating computer programs. Taking classes is an excellent way to get to know your coworkers as well.
Try to relax. Every change in life is an opportunity for growth and returning to nursing is no exception. Remember this is likely a big adjustment for you and for those in your orbit. Your spouse, children, friends and family are all going through this change alongside you. Ask for help when you need it.
Returning to Nursing With Confidence
Whether you’re returning to nursing after an absence of 15 years or 15 weeks there’s bound to be some adjusting. Be easy on yourself and don’t expect too much, especially if it’s been awhile. If you’re returning to nursing after taking a break to raise your family the adjustment will be that much more difficult. Cut yourself the same slack you would a brand new nurse and allow yourself time.
Once you’ve decided you’ll be returning to nursing never doubt your core skills. Being a nurse is your calling, part of your identity. You know how to provide your patients with the finest care, and that’s a skill that never changes.