I graduated from nursing school in New York City with an associate’s degree in 1994. I worked in community, ambulatory and home care for four years and then stopped working because of illness. When I was ready to return to work a year later, I couldn’t find a nursing job so I moved into the nonprofit sector. I went back to school for a master’s in acupuncture, and that’s my current profession.
I’m interested in going back to nursing and including acupuncture in my nursing practice, but am not sure what steps to take. I have no recent nursing experience, and the re-entry programs I see are ones for those interested in renewing med/surg experience. I’m also dealing with major financial challenges that don’t allow me to pay out of pocket for re-training. I still live in New York City. Can you offer me any insights in re-growing my nursing career and finding work?
Dear Nurse Acupuncturist,
When you say that acupuncture is your current profession, I don’t see that as outside of nursing. Many nurses have incorporated acupuncture, Reiki, massage therapy, hypnotherapy and even meditation, yoga and other holistic modalities into their practice in various ways. They haven’t changed professions; they have simply expanded their practice as you have.
Holistic nursing is a growing specialty. Rather than trying to refresh in traditional nursing, which you state you don’t want to do, I suggest that you immerse yourself in self-education in this specialty. Do so by joining and becoming active in the American Holistic Nurses Association. At least attend local chapter meetings and national events, if possible. AHNA has wonderful printed material, including books, which you can find in some college libraries. You also can find used copies of their books online for a nominal price. Here are several related CE courses.
I would suggest that you look into employment opportunities in hospice. Not only is your background perfectly suited to this area of practice but holistic modalities such as acupuncture are used widely in this specialty for pain management, etc. Many hospice agencies have great training programs. If you can’t get a paid position in hospice right away, look for volunteer work. It is a way to get your foot in the door since volunteering often leads to paid employment.
To get more closely connected to nursing, seek volunteer work as a nurse while you continue to look for paid employment. Volunteer work can be great retraining in itself. But it is also a good way to expand your professional network while honing old skills and learning new ones. Volunteer work gives you recent relevant experience to put on your resume and discuss on an interview.
Since networking is known to be one of the best ways to learn about opportunities, both volunteer and paid, and get interviews, it is vital that you attend professional association meetings as a guest. In addition to AHNA, consider joining or becoming active in the American Nurses Association and the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing.
In the interim, contact some nursing agencies in the area. Many of them do nontraditional placement and might have some interesting temp or part-time work for you while you continue to look for something more suitable. At least it will generate some income.