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Due to a state requirement, I may be pushed out of a career I love and am fully capable of performing. Any advice for me?

Wednesday June 6, 2012
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Dear Donna,

I am a 62-year-old RN and have been teaching in both community colleges and proprietary schools for the past 10 yrs. I dearly love what I do. However, I am running into a serious problem trying to progress in my career. The state has a requirement that a nursing instructor must have one year of full-time bedside nursing within the previous five years, in order to be certified to teach. In my case, there is no way I can meet this condition because I have certain physical limitations and there is no provision in the law for being "grandfathered" in. I know many other wonderful instructors who also have been pushed out of the community college market because they can't physically keep up with hospital demands due to age or physical limitations. With so many schools pleading for instructors, it's a tragic loss to the profession. So many of us more mature nurses have years of experience and wisdom and would love to give back to the profession. I really believe the law needs to be changed to accommodate the hundreds of nurses in similar positions, but our voices have not been heard. I already have a job offer on the table if I get my MSN, but with the one-year bedside nursing rule, I am in a frustrating position. Why even get a degree if the state won't accept us? I am passionate about teaching, but am becoming more and more discouraged because I may be pushed out of the career I love and am fully capable of performing. Any suggestions?

Fully Capable

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Fully Capable,

You should talk to a nurse attorney (many will offer an initial complimentary consultation) about working with you, or with a group, to have this requirement challenged or changed. You might even find a nurse attorney who would be willing to do this work pro bono and get some publicity for the issue in the process.

Also, you can talk to your state legislators about the situation and solicit their help and support. Most politicians are very interested in hearing about issues related to healthcare because it is a very hot topic these days. Research what others states do for informational purposes. You can use the Internet and social media to communicate with other nurse educators around the country.

You can write letters to the editor of mainstream nursing and healthcare publications, both in print and online. That can be a very effective way to get the attention of influential people who can impact change. The pen is mightier than the sword. To learn more about writing letters to the editor and other ways of working with the media, read “From Silence to Voice: What Nurses Know and Must Communicate to the Public,” by Buresh and Gordon and “6 Steps to Free Publicity,” by Yudkin.

Also, you should be working with your state chapter of the American Nurses Association (www.nursingworld.org). Contact their legislative and education reps, as well as any other state nursing associations related to education, to propose changes to this requirement. There is strength in numbers.

Times are changing and sometimes regulations need to be reevaluated and revamped. That doesn't mean it will be easy, but it is certainly worth fighting for. If what you've already done hasn't worked, try a new approach. There are many ways to effect change. Create awareness of the problem and how it impacts the consumer — propose what needs to be done and take the message to whoever will listen. Someone like you needs to start the ball rolling. Charge!

Best wishes,

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nursing Spectrum/NurseWeek’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at www.Nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.Nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.Nurse.com/Asktheexperts/Deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://events.nursingspectrum.com/Seminar.