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How can an RN with a BSN and more than 6 years of experience find work after not working for 2 years? Can I retain my RN license if I work abroad?



Dear Donna,

I am an RN with a BSN and more than six years of experience in the U.S. but not bedside care. I stopped working for about two years so I could travel. I have been searching for a job for over eight months, but I have been unsuccessful in finding a new position. I searched all job websites and I have reconnected with my previous coworkers.

In the very few interviews I had, the employer, from hospitals to home care agencies, stated I did not have recent clinical experience in nursing and specialty certifications. I went back to get certifications in IV and ACLS to refresh my knowledge. This has not seemed to help.

What are my options to get a job as a nurse? I would like to advance my career. How can I do so if most of certification requires recent clinical hours? Can I keep my nursing license if I work as a nurse abroad, say Europe?

NJ Nurse

Dear Donna replies:

Dear NJ Nurse,

The job market for nurses in the U.S. has completely shifted in the last five years or so. Hospital bedside jobs are diminishing as care moves out of the hospital and into alternate inpatient settings (long term care, rehabilitation, sub-acute, assisted living) and outside of facilities such as in the home. For the fewer hospital openings that exist, hospitals have their pick of nurses with
current experience.

I suggest you start looking in new directions for employment. Try outpatient hemodialysis, cancer care centers, hospice agencies and so on. Every employer has different hiring preferences and most of those employers offer training in the specialty. All of the recent skills certifications and refresher courses you took will be helpful in other areas.

While you continue to look for paid employment, it is important to find volunteer work as a nurse. This will give you recent relevant experience to put on your resume, expand your professional network, hone old skills and learn new ones. Plus, volunteering often leads to paid employment. It’s a way to get your foot in the door somewhere. I always say if you can’t get in the front door, try the back door. Look for volunteer opportunities in a hospice agency, your local public health department, or a free clinic.

You cannot rely solely on classified ads, either online or in print, to find a job. Attend professional association meetings even as a guest if not a member. Bring business cards, shake hands, talk to people, and let them know what type of job you want. Also, if there is an ethnic nurses association (e.g. National American Arab Nurses Association ( related to your background, network with the RNs in that organization. You can find other American ethnic nursing associations by doing an Internet search.

Presuming from your signature you hold a New Jersey RN license, New Jersey does not require clinical hours to maintain your RN license. As long as you meet the renewal requirements — completing the online form, paying the fee, obtaining the necessary contact hours — you can maintain your license whether you work or not in the U.S. or abroad.

When an employer is looking for a nurse with clinical certifications, in essence they are looking for a nurse with current experience. So don’t even worry about it. As you already know, clinical certification is only available to those with current experience in a particular specialty.

Even though you’re not a new nurse, the information and advice in this article will help: “New nurse, new job strategies” ( You also may read the article, “Nursing – A New paradigm” (

To learn more competitive, creative, and effective methods of finding and getting a job, I suggest you read, “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses” ( The book provides detailed information, about networking, self-marketing, resume writing, and so much more. In today’s competitive and evolving job market, every nurse must look in new directions for employment and learn and use new methods to find a job.

Best wishes,


About Author

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is’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 and, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://www.

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