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How can an experienced RN who has been away from nursing for a while get back into the field?

Tuesday October 15, 2013
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Dear Donna,

I have worked for 23 years both in med-surg and home care. I had a child at 43, who is now 17, and when I was ready to go back to work my dad developed Alzheimer's, I had to help my mom for seven years of dad's illness. I still have my license, a diploma from the old school of nursing and some credits toward a bachelor’s degree. Any advice as to how to get back in the nursing field?

Wants to Get Back To Nursing

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Wants to Get Back To Nursing,

For starters let me tell you that the job market for nurses has completely changed in the time you have been away, as has the acute care environment and just about every other healthcare setting. Hospitals are downsizing as care is shifting into other settings, and they are only hiring nurses with current hospital experience. Even though you're not a new nurse, this article will explain what is happening, explain why and provide advice on being marketable in today's world (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Strategies).

One of the best ways to ease back into nursing is to start volunteering in a healthcare setting as a nurse. Contact your local public health department, a free clinic, hospice, the American Red Cross. etc. With the flu season coming up, you might even be able to get paid something to participate in flu shot clinics through your local public health department. You can sometimes get flu shot work and similar work through nursing agencies, so try contacting a few of them.

You also need to attend local chapter meetings of the American Nurses Association (www.ana.org), even as a guest for now, and/or a group such as the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nurses (www.aaacn.org0. Doing so will help you get reconnected to your profession, build a support system and professional network, and help update you with issues and trends. Plus, networking is well known to be a very effective way to find a job.

You'd be a perfect candidate for one of my “Career Alternatives for Nurses” seminars to learn what's happening in the profession. You'll also learn about transferable skills, effective self-marketing techniques to return to nursing, sample resumes and cover letters and get more specific contact/company info and leads. See where I'll be (http://www.nurse.com/events/ce-seminars). This program also is available in a home study version (http://ce.nurse.com/Professional-Development).

Transitioning back is a process, so be patient with your self. Start putting one foot in front of the other by doing the things I’ve outlined above, including reviewing the advice in the articles, and an opportunity eventually will present 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://www. Nurse.com/Events.