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How can I re-enter the workforce as an RN after I’ve been away from nursing for more than 20 years to raise my family?

Question:

Dear Donna,

After being away from nursing for more than 20 years to raise a family is it even possible to get back in at any level? I have a current New Jersey license, CPR certification and volunteer experience.

Feeling Hopeless

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Feeling Hopeless,

It absolutely is possible for you to get back to nursing in some way, so don’t despair.

Know upfront that the job market for nurses, as well as the delivery of healthcare, has changed quite dramatically in the last 20 years. Care is shifting out of the hospital and into alternate inpatient settings: the home, the community and other ambulatory settings.

How we find and get jobs today has changed too. Networking has become the standard whether in-person, online (social media such as LinkedIn) or telephone. Even though you’re not a new nurse, read this article for more tips on how to conduct your job search: “New Nurse New Job Strategies” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Strategies).

If you wanted to pursue anything related to direct patient care — home care, hospice, hospital, in-patient rehab, etc. — you would need to take an RN refresher course with clinical preceptor experience. That being said, you may be able to find non-traditional RN work without taking a refresher course. Read on.

You say you have volunteer experience but don’t mention what type. While looking for paid employment as a nurse, look for volunteer work as a nurse in a setting such as your local public health department, American Red Cross, local blood bank, free clinic etc. Volunteering is a great way to gain recent relevant experience, build confidence and work stamina, and expand your professional network. Plus, volunteering often turns into paid employment.

You might even be able to get a paid part-time job now at some of the above places. Flu season is coming up so giving flu shots though your local public health department is a good way to get started. And since the American Heart Association and American Red Cross have education and training programs that they pay some nurses to teach, you might be able to do that for now. These are just a few possible options.

There are also some nursing agencies that do non-traditional placement and they may have something for you to help you ease your way back into the nursing workforce. You’ll find many of them exhibiting at career fairs. See what’s coming up: http://www.nurse.com/events/career-fairs.

I also recommend that you get out to local chapter meetings of the American Nurses Association www.ana.org or other nursing associations as a guest for now. This is a great way to get reconnected to your profession. Get up to date on trends and issues and further expand your network. You also would benefit from attending a Career Alternatives for Nurses seminar. See what’s coming up: http://www.nurse.com/events/ce-seminars.

Transitioning is a process so be patient with yourself and the process. You can do this.

Best wishes,
Donna

By | 2013-09-04T00:00:00+00:00 September 4th, 2013|Categories: Blogs, Nursing careers and jobs|6 Comments

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  1. Avatar
    KERRY January 26, 2017 at 9:03 pm - Reply

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS INFORMATION I FOUND IT TO BE VERY HELPFUL. I AM AN RN THAT HAS BEEN AWAY FROM NURSING FOR SEVERAL YEARS AN FIND MYSELF WANTING TO GET BACK INTO IT. I HAVE BEEN DOING PRIVATE CARE AND VOLUNTEERING FOR SEVERAL YEARS AS A PATIENT ADVOCATE.

    IT CAN BE VERY OVERWHELMING JUST THINKING ABOUT HOW TO BEGIN AGAIN.

    PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF THERE IS ANY OTHER INFORMATION YOU CAN SUGGEST THAT WOULD HELP MAKE THIS TRANSITION A SMOOTHER PROCESS.

    THANK YOU AGAIN!

    KERRY

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    Jennifer Nienhouse September 28, 2018 at 7:28 pm - Reply

    Yes, thank you! I have also been out of the field for 16 years to homeschool my kids. Your vote of confidence is helpful and will use your advice. I also am 53 so I have two hurdles to jump over getting back into the field. Hoping to find a job that suits my abilities and my needs. I am not up for 12 hours shifts any more but more part time work in the community. What are your thoughts on getting into Lactation consulting? Is that a strong field fot specialize in? I have been interested in that for years and have been thwarted every time I want to take the training classes. But looking to try again soon. I would love to just be a Lactation Consultant and travel to my clients houses for work. Any thoughts?

    Jennifer

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    Carol October 1, 2018 at 12:47 pm - Reply

    Depending on the area there may be a refresher course available. I can tell you it is not easy going back. I was in an office job for quite a few years and went back to doing IVs and things in long term care and hospice. The equipment had changed quite a bit. I felt awkward. But doing assessments was not difficult. The problem is that most places are too busy to let you learn. They want you to hit the ground running. Even private duty agencies sometimes want you to do a skills demonstration and test as part of the hiring process though they do offer training. Home health agencies often require competencies so they may have practice manikins and things to help you with skills.

    I always tried to work at least part-time to keep my skills up until I got into management and I never thought I would go back. But never say never! If there is an area that you are interested in you can always apply and talk to them about the situation. They may work with you if they need nurses bad enough. Right now I have been out of clinical nursing since June and I am feeling like I had better get back in soon.

    Another thing I did was buy a venipuncture training kit. I practiced before I had to start an IV on a real patient. It helped a little. And I reviewed nursing skills- there is a lot of information and videos available online.

    Do not give up. But realize it will feel awkward. Like being a student nurse again in some ways.

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    Stacy October 13, 2018 at 12:40 am - Reply

    Thank you for this informative article! I, too, am wanting to return to nursing after twenty years of homeschooling our four children. One daughter just graduated from nursing school, and another is about to begin. After so many years away, it is quite intimidating to think of returning, but I know it’s possible. I am still licensed and have been taking courses to prepare myself. Thank you for your words of encouragement!

  5. Avatar
    Carmen August 3, 2019 at 10:39 pm - Reply

    Thank you so very much for this information! It is very intimidating getting back into the nursing arena after so long. I took time off as well to care for family and now it seems that even my working RN friend who offered me a job months ago put in in a terrible position acting like i better take what was offered or I would never have any luck! I was so sad after that! It was an impossible 2 hour a day trip and I have an unsafe car. Then another “friend’ told me last fall “You will never work again if you don’t take that job”! This article has given me new hope! I had been seriously depressed until I read this because I love nursing and worked very hard to become a RN 22 years ago as a single Mom of 3 little ones. I honestly was feeling lately that I would never be able to practice my profession again. So THANK YOU very much for giving us this information and giving all of us hope!

  6. Avatar
    Naomi Thomas RN-BSN August 20, 2019 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    I have been out of the Critical Care nursing workforce for 8 years. I was savagely assaulted and raped. I lost so much. However, God allowed me to have my mind and body made whole again. I’m eager to get back to my first love, Nursing. I have kept my BLS, ACLS, RN licensure current. I took the RN Refresher Course and have my TCRN course and more. No matter how much effort I’ve taken to ensure successful reentry, there seems to be no love for returning nurses. I have been extremely surprised by the lack of care, concern and general lack of support. I have made cover letters to changes in my resume and am unable to properly relocate to gain employment with ascertaining my RN endorsement licensure for the same rationale. The lack of recent experience. Either I have too much prior experience to get into a fellowship(new nurse) or not enough recent experience. It’s daunting and leaves me with the one option; to go back to school for another more inviting career. I live and love being a nurse. I love the evidenced base practice, the fast pace hands on care, holistic care and having the ability to change many lives in a positive way. We not only care for the patient but the family, friends, neighbors, fellow co workers and all persons we encounter. It’s sad that as a nurse, if something terrible in life happens to you that there’s no one there in our very own field, that care to welcome you back. I fought to overcome and there’s nothing to come back to. What’s left to do now? Who do I go to?
    Sincerely,
    Loving Nurse For Life

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