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After 12 years off, I want to return to work. Can you provide any tips for getting current and making myself marketable?

Monday April 29, 2013
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Dear Donna,

I received my RN license 20 years ago and took a job at a local hospital. After eight years, I left the profession to raise a family, letting my license lapse. Now, after 12 years, I want to return to work. What is the current attitude regarding older nurses returning to the workplace? Can you provide any tips for getting current and making myself marketable?

Confused and Overwhelmed

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Confused and Overwhelmed,

So much has changed since you were in the nursing workforce. Your age is not a problem, but because of your absence from bedside nursing, hospitals will not likely consider you at this time. This is because there is an oversupply of experienced nurses with current hospital experience. So don’t take it personally.

Jobs are shifting out of the hospital as care moves into alternative inpatient settings, the home, the community and other ambulatory settings. You can transition back into the nursing workforce, but you will need to look beyond the hospital and use new skills to find a job.

A great transition strategy, and underutilized job-finding technique, is to volunteer in a healthcare setting as soon as possible. Even if you don’t have your license reinstated, you should be able to find volunteer work in a hospice, your local public health department or the American Red Cross. Volunteering gives you recent experience to put on your resume, allows you to hone old skills, learn new ones, expand your professional network and get your foot in the door. Volunteering often leads to paid employment. It’s a great way to build confidence and stamina before entering the traditional paid job market.

As soon as you get your license reinstated, join and participate in your state chapter of the American Nurses Association (www.nursingworld.org). This will help you get reconnected to your profession, further build your professional network, and get current on issues, information and trends. Attend as a guest until your license is reinstated. This is both a great transition step, as well as a way to support your nursing career when you are back at work. Networking is a great way to find a job.

Depending on where you decide to look for work, you may want to invest in an RN refresher course. This will further help to build your confidence, bring you up-to-date and make you more marketable. You may need to do this to get your license reinstated.

Even though you are not a new graduate, this article offers additional tips and advice for breaking back into the nursing job market: “New nurse, new job strategies” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Strategies).

Transitioning back is a process, so be patient. Keep moving in a positive forward motion and you'll get to where you want to be.

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.