Career Pathways & Education

10 Steps for Nurses Wanting to Return to Practice

Jessica Dzubak, MSN, RN
December 16, 2020
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All nurses have heard the phrase, “once a nurse, always a nurse.” But for various reasons, many nurses step away from practicing at some point during their careers. So how can nurses prepare themselves to return to the workforce? Nurses ready to begin the next chapter of their nursing careers can follow these steps to make a confident return to the most ethical profession (18 years running). 

Back to the Nursing Basics

1. Activate Your Nursing License

A priority for nurses wishing to return to practice is to ensure their nursing license is active and in good standing. If their nursing license is inactive, nurses should consult their state Board of Nursing’s website to determine what is needed to become active again.

Some states require additional continuing education. If so, be sure to find an accredited provider of continuing education for quality activities. Nurses should consider their area of expertise and current knowledge gaps when searching for continuing education and find courses relevant to the area in which the nurse hopes to practice. 

2. Take a Registered Nurse (RN) Refresher Course

RN refresher courses are excellent resources that assist nurses wanting to brush up on their knowledge and skills. Whether nurses have been away from the bedside for one year or ten, an RN refresher course will provide helpful updates for nurses looking to return. Many of these courses are available online with flexible formats, a key benefit for nurses wishing to return to practice.

3. Make a List

Before searching for job postings and updating your nursing resume, start by making a list.

Nurses have many options, especially with the growth of telehealth and other remote positions recently. Nurses should identify what elements they seek in a position and consider potential deal-breakers to make the job-search process smoother.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Do I want a bedside or clinical nursing position?
  • Am I willing to work weekends or night shifts?
  • What excites me about nursing the most?
  • What do I anticipate will be my biggest challenge, and what steps will I take to overcome it?
  • Do I want to work for a large organization, or would I prefer a smaller setting, such as a doctor’s office or clinic?
  • Do I have the skills and certifications for the specialty I am interested in? 
hands typing on mac laptop with stethoscope laying next to it returning to the bedside

Organize and Prepare

4. Give Your Resume a Makeover

Refreshing resumes and CVs should be a first step in seeking a new position. Nurses should be sure to highlight essential experiences, pertinent accolades, and education. Experts suggest keeping resumes clear and succinct while providing an overall summary of your strengths and accomplishments.

5. Update (or Create) a LinkedIn Profile

Social media networking sites such as LinkedIn are excellent resources for professionals wishing to re-enter the workforce. Nurses can connect with former colleagues, upload a resume or CV, browse job listings, and apply for jobs all in one place.

6. Review Common Interview Questions and Perfect an “Elevator Speech”

Nurses who take a long break from practicing can expect interviewers to question the gap. Being prepared to adequately answer the question and address the employment gap(s) will demonstrate professionalism during an interview. For nurses applying at an organization they used to work at, experts say to be prepared to “re-introduce yourself.” 

Those seeking re-employment should never assume what the organization already knows about them and should use interviews as an opportunity to highlight their growth during the unemployment period.

Nurses preparing to re-enter the workforce should have a concise “elevator speech,” highlighting what they bring to the table. This will allow nurses to display confidence when making a first impression on potential job leads and hiring managers.

Making Connections

7. Network

Networking with former colleagues and trusted mentors can assist nurses in discovering opportunities to return to nursing. While every connection may not lead to a job opportunity, connecting with colleagues currently working in the field can be a valuable experience.

Nurses can consider these conversations as an opportunity to learn about current issues and trends in nursing to help prepare themselves for interviews and help hone in on what area of practice is the best fit.

8. Consult Professional Organizations

Professional nursing associations exist to serve all nurses, whether they are currently practicing or not. Many have job postings on their websites or in publications. These professional associations are great resources for nurses to connect with others in their desired specialty, find a mentor, or gain additional knowledge with professional development opportunities. 

Some professional nursing associations also offer free or discounted continuing education for their members.

Don’t Forget to Relax

9. Be Patient

Know that nurses who wish to return to practice after a long hiatus may not land their dream job on the first try. Like being a brand-new nurse out of school, returning nurses will benefit from gaining experience in the new setting before advancing their careers.

10. Breathe

Returning to nursing may feel overwhelming. It is a big decision to return to the workforce, especially in a field like nursing. By being prepared, doing their research, and being well-informed, nurses wishing to return to work can feel confident, and that confidence will shine through in interviews and meetings.

Big Decision, Big Reward

Deciding to become a practicing nurse after stepping away is a big decision. With thoughtful consideration and preparation, it can become an advantageous and beneficial life change. By being prepared, patient, and confident in their abilities, nurses of all experience levels can find a place in this rewarding profession.

Ready to Get Back Into Nursing?

If you’re an experienced nurse and haven’t been away from the bedside for long, you might want to consider travel nursing! Create a free Trusted profile to see some nursing jobs that match your interests!

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