Can this career be saved? This is an ongoing series about real nurses, real challenges and real solutions.
Jane* has been in nursing for 26 years. Shes worked in med/surg, telemetry, intensive care and home care. Shes been out of the workforce for eight years looking after her sick parents and taking care of her children.
She wanted to get back into the hospital setting, so she telephoned nurse recruiters and applied for jobs. But they told her, No recent experience, no job.
Needless to say, Jane was frustrated, angry and disillusioned. I thought there was a nursing shortage! she said. Why wont anyone hire me? Recruiters wont even return my phone calls. Theyre taking new graduates over an experienced nurse like me.
Jane didnt realize that while she was indeed experienced, a lot had changed in the hospital setting in the eight years shed been away. She needed to update her knowledge and skills before she could return to an acute care unit. The job market also had shifted, and even new nurses were facing challenges finding hospital work.
When Jane asked for my advice, I explained that because shed been away from the bedside for more than four years, she had two choices: either take a refresher course on her own or find a hospital that offered a reentry program for RNs who had been away from patient care.
I suggested she start by doing an online search for healthcare facilities in her geographic area and calling local nurse recruiters and human resources departments to see whether their facilities offer reentry programs. If not, and if they wouldnt hire her, I advised her to ask what it would take for them to offer her a job. None of the local hospitals offered a reentry program, and no one was willing to hire her without more recent experience. Several recruiters told her she should take a refresher course, but they couldnt tell her where to find one. They also told her taking such a course was no guarantee of employment.
Janes next step was to peruse the websites of her state chapter of the American Nurses Association (she was not a member) and her state board of nursing to locate local refresher courses. If she couldnt find the information online, she called or emailed them. Once Jane had the list, I advised her to look for a program offering a good balance of classroom and clinical time (complete with preceptor). She found two programs within a reasonable driving distance. She was surprised to discover that refresher courses took two or three months to complete and cost more than $1,000. She was unhappy about having to wait three months to get back into her career.
I suggested Jane volunteer in a healthcare setting while she completed her refresher course. This would help her ease her way back into nursing, sharpen old skills and learn new ones. It also would give her some recent, relevant experience to put on her résumé and discuss during an interview and mention in a cover letter. Once she thought about it, Jane said she felt a little more secure getting up to speed through volunteering rather than plunging right back into paid hospital work. Shed been nervous about going straight back to work, but she didnt want to admit it for fear of appearing weak. I suggested Jane get nursing liability insurance even to do nursing volunteer work.
I urged Jane, who had belonged to some specialty associations years before, to participate in her state chapter of ANA or an association for a specialty that interests her. Attending local meetings would help her reconnect to her profession, get current on issues and information, make valuable contacts and build a support system. I reminded her that networking also was a great way to find and get a job.
Within a months time, Jane had started a refresher course, joined her state chapter of ANA and volunteered at the local branch of the American Diabetes Association. She was answering phone calls from people newly diagnosed with diabetes and explaining where they could find information, providers, supplies and support groups. In fact, Jane became so interested in the work she started thinking about pursuing diabetes education as a specialty. By the time she had finished the refresher course, Jane had been offered a part-time job in a hospital-based diabetic treatment center through a contact she had made during her volunteer work. She also was offered a hospital staff nurse position through a connection she had made at a nurses association dinner meeting she had attended.
Jane accepted both positions.
I love bedside nursing, she said, but Im also interested in diabetes teaching. I have the best of both worlds.
Welcome back, Jane!
*Name has been changed.