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I'm a 56-year-old RN with a BSN who wants to get back into the nursing job market. How do I start the journey to transition back into nursing?

Friday May 17, 2013
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Dear Donna,

I'm a 56-year-old RN with a BSN who wants to get back into the nursing job market. I did home health, acute and clinical care for 9 1/2 years, last working in 1987. What I'm really interested in doing is an alternative-nursing career. I feel like I need some guidance, though, because I'm flooded with my own ideas and interests. I also like education and feel I could keep up with the online or classroom classes for an MSN degree. Which MSN schools do you recommend?

Wants to Get Back Into Nursing

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Wants to Get Back Into Nursing,

A great way to start the journey of transitioning back to nursing is to look for a volunteer position in healthcare. Consider your local public health department, a free clinic, the American Red Cross or hospice. Volunteering is a great way to hone old skills and learn new ones, activate your professional network, build confidence and work stamina and gain some recent relevant experience to put on your resume and discuss in an interview. It's also a good way to get your foot in the door somewhere as volunteering often leads to paid employment.

I also recommend that you attend some local chapter meetings of your state chapter of the American Nurses Association (www.ana.org), even as a guest for now if not a member. This is a great way to get reconnected to your profession, further expand your network, and get up to date on issues and trends. When there's something you want to do it makes sense to rub elbows with those already doing it. Plus, networking is known to be a very effective way to find a job — traditional or nontraditional — under any circumstances, but especially when you have obstacles to overcome, such as a long absence from nursing.

Also start getting out to career fairs, seminars, and nursing conventions. You never where the spark, idea, inspiration, opportunity or contact will come from.

My book “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses” would be very helpful to you in many ways (www.nurse.com/ce/7250). Not only do I specifically address your situation but it will also guide you in developing up to date self-marketing skills including resume writing, interviewing and networking. Additionally, you would be a perfect candidate for my Career Alternatives for Nurses seminar. The day is packed with information, resources, and inspiration to fire up your nursing career. There usually are several nurses who attend who are in the same situation as you. See where I'll be at www.nurse.com/events/ce-seminars. This program is also available in a home study version if you can't get to a live seminar: ce.nurse.com/Professional-Development.

Going back to school for an MSN is a smart thing to do (no pun intended). There are so many good schools for online and live classes, I couldn't possibly recommend one. Look for a school and program that best meets your needs and interests related to schedule, financing, flexibility and in terms of a concentration (administration, education) that has course work and a curriculum that is interesting and exciting to you.

Transitioning back is a process so be patient with yourself and the process. Start moving in a positive forward motion with all of the above suggestions and the right path — and opportunity — eventually will reveal itself.

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.