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Do I need a refresher course, and must it be in the state where I am licensed?

Tuesday September 6, 2011
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Dear Donna,

I am from another country and have a BSN degree. I have experience on a cardiac ICU, but I have not worked for three years. I have decided to take a refresher course. Do you think this is a good idea?

Can I take the course in Philadelphia, where I live? My license is in New York, not Pennsylvania. Do you have any suggestions on schools or medical centers that offer the refresher course? Please help me to gain confidence and start working again.


Dear Donna replies:

Dear Minjung,

Taking a refresher course may be a good idea. The course will not only refresh your knowledge and skills but also help you get acclimated to the nursing/healthcare culture in the U.S. if your experience was not in the U.S.

The reason you need to take an RN refresher course in a state where you hold an active RN license is that the courses typically include a precepted hospital experience. If you wish to work in New York or Pennsylvania, you should apply for a license by endorsement in one state or the other (or both). Then you can take an RN refresher course in those states. To do that, contact the boards of nursing in New York or Pennsyvlvania (www.ncsbn.org/contactbon.htm) and apply for a “license by endorsement.”

In the meantime, start volunteering somewhere healthcare-related while you look for paid employment. Volunteering helps to build confidence and work stamina. It also helps to hone old skills and learn new ones and gives you some recent relevant experience to put on your resume. Plus, volunteering often leads to paid employment. It is a good way to get your foot in the door.

I also recommend that you get out to local chapter meetings of the American Nurses Association in your area, as a guest if not a member. This is a good way to get reconnected to your profession and build a professional support network. And it is well known that networking is a very effective way to find and get a job!

My best wishes,

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nursing Spectrum/NurseWeek’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.