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What is your recommendation for an RN refresher course? Does an RN who hasn't worked in a while need to apply for lower-level jobs?

Tuesday June 24, 2014
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Dear Donna,

What is your recommendation for an RN refresher course? My license is current, but I haven't practiced nursing for a while. I'm enrolled in WIA program. My career coach suggested a CNA refresher course because transportation to NOVA is an issue. I don't think WIA will pay for an online course. I feel I may have to take a step back, so I need your best advice.

May Need to Step Back

Dear Donna replies:

Dear May Need to Step Back,

I wish I knew how long you've been away from nursing and what you did beforehand. I also had to research what all the acronyms in your question might stand for because none of them are standard abbreviations. By CNA, I'm going to assume you mean California Nurses Association although at first I thought it meant certified nurse’s aide. WIA, I am assuming, refers to Workforce Investment Act, a program specific to the state of California. And by NOVA I'm assuming you're referring to a workforce development center but am not certain. I hope we’re talking about the same things.

It is very important to know the nursing job market has changed quite drastically in the past four to five years. So even if you take an RN refresher course, are unlikely to be hired into a hospital. Even though you are not a new nurse, read “New nurse, new strategies” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Strategies) to better understand what is happening and how you need to market yourself in a changing healthcare industry.

Reentering nursing is a process and requires some patience and determination. I suggest you join and start attending local meetings of your state chapter of the American Nurses Association, California or 'CNA’.

Most associations have reduced dues for unemployed nurses. You also can attend meetings as a guest (without joining) for now. This is a great way to get reconnected to your profession, get up to date on issues and trends and expand your professional network. Networking is known to be a great way to find job openings and get hired.

You also should start volunteering somewhere as a nurse now. Volunteering is a great way to ease yourself back into nursing and into the workforce. It provides recent relevant experience to put on your resume, hone old skills, learn new ones and further expand your network. It also helps to build work stamina and confidence. Look for these opportunities in free clinics (where the medical staff are mostly volunteers), a hospice, local public health department or any setting in which you might be interested in working.

Volunteering also is a way to get a foot in the door somewhere and often leads to paid employment. Keep in mind that if you are going to do anything hands-on, such as giving vaccinations or doing venapuncture, even as a volunteer nurse, you should have up-to-date nursing liability insurance.

Taking an RN refresher course might help you to build confidence and skill and become current with practice standards. But is it absolutely necessary for you to get hired in any setting? No, it isn't. I would start applying to some ambulatory/outpatient settings and see what kind of feedback you get.

You would benefit greatly from reading my book, "The Ultimate Career Guide for Nurses," which is available everywhere books are sold. You should consider attending my Career Alternatives for Nurses seminar (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/career-alternatives-for-nurses-tickets-8773924043?ref=ebapi), or using the home study version (http://ce.nurse.com/Professional-Development).

Transition is a process, so be patient with yourself and the steps necessary, as outlined above, to cross that bridge.

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.