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I have not worked as an RN since 2006 and am having a very difficult time finding employment. What are my best options?

Monday January 28, 2013
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Dear Donna,

I am a 61-year-old RN who has worked in various healthcare positions in the past five years. However, I have not worked as an RN since 2006, when I was a quality assurance nurse. I have experience working with developmentally disabled and mentally ill individuals. I am able to work part-time and am having a very difficult time finding employment. I have an associate degree and the majority of jobs require a bachelor’s. I do not have med/surg experience — I have worked in psychiatric facilities. Please tell me what my best options are, even if it means applying for a position other than an RN.

Needs a Job

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Needs a Job,

You don't need to look for non-nursing employment. You do need to take additional steps to transition back into the nursing workforce.

Because you are out of work and have been for some time, seek a volunteer position as an RN right now, while you continue to look for paid employment. Volunteering gives you recent experience to put on your resume and discuss on an interview. It is a good way to hone old skills, learn new ones and expand your professional network. Volunteering is a way to get your foot in the door and often leads to paid employment. I always say when you can't get in the front door, try the back. Contact your local public health department, a free clinic, a mental health hotline and the American Red Cross for volunteer opportunities.

You have to actively network and face-to-face networking is the most effective type. Attend career fairs in your area as well as nursing association meetings, such as the American Nurses Association (www.nursingworld.org) or any specialty association that interests you. Attend as a guest, if not a member. This is a good way to get reconnected to your profession and get current with issues and trends. See what's coming up in your area at www.Nurse.com/Events/Career-fairs.

With your QA experience, I suggest you contact your state Quality Improvement Organization, formerly known as the Peer Review Organization. Find your state chapter at
www.qualitynet.org/dcs/ContentServer?c=Page&pagename=QnetPublic%2FPage%2FQnetTier2&cid=1144767874793. Also contact some insurance companies about various positions. Most of them are always looking for nurses. They do QA work and some have mental health positions, such as depression management nurse.

Start making plans to return to school. It will boost your confidence and credentials, and keep you relevant and marketable. Read “Go back to school and change your life” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Back-to-School) and “Master the scholarship game” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Scholarship-Game).

Before you look for positions outside of nursing, consider attending my Career Alternatives for Nurses seminar or using the home study version. There is more out there than you might realize, even with your current level of education and experience. Find out more at www.Nurse.com/Events/CE-seminars/ and CE.Nurse.com/Professional-Development.

Persistence and determination will always win.

Best wishes,

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nurse.com’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.