Do you know of any RN hospital reentry programs?

By | 2021-05-07T16:32:38-04:00 July 20th, 2015|23 Comments
Dear Donna,

I have been an RN for 26 years. I left bedside nursing in 1998 to raise my children. I became a school nurse so I could work the hours my children attended school. I want to transition back into bedside nursing. Do you know of any nurse reentry programs?

Wants to Transition Back to the Bedside

Dear Wants to Transition Back to the Bedside,

The job market for nurses has changed quite dramatically in the last 10 years. For starters, hospitals are downsizing as care shifts out of the hospital and into the home, the community and alternate inpatient settings. Additionally, there is an abundance of nurses with current hospital experience in the job market. Most hospitals are only hiring nurses with very current hospital experience and do not offer re-entry programs. Taking a refresher course will not help you to get hired either. Even though you’re not a new nurse, read “New nurse, new job strategies” to understand what’s happening and why. You will learn what any nurse needs to do to market themselves today.

The job market fluctuates and is changing again. As older nurses start to retire from hospital work, the demand for all nurses to work in hospitals will increase. Once that happens, hospitals may once again offer re-entry programs.

I would suggest you consider other employment options for the time being. Look into public health nursing and ambulatory care centers. Check out hospice, home care and outpatient hemodialysis centers. They usually have comprehensive training programs and may be willing to hire you.

You can also attend career fairs in your area and network with employers and agencies. It is a good way to test the waters and speak to many prospective employers, both traditional and nontraditional, in one place. It’s also a good place to hone your self-marketing and networking skills. See what’s coming up in your area.

Since networking is known to be a very effective way to find jobs and get hired, you should also attend local chapters meetings (as a guest for now if not already a member) of the American Nurses Association  and/or the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing.

Let us help you get started on your next educational journey in nursing. Visit our Higher Education Guide and comprehensive School Directory to learn more.


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About the Author:

Special Topics Editor Deborah Filipek develops and edits content for OnCourse Learning’s blog, which covers news, trends and features relevant to nurses. She has more than 25 years of writing and editing experience, having previously worked for weekly newspapers and ad agencies in the Chicagoland area.


  1. Avatar
    Johanna October 26, 2016 at 11:50 pm - Reply

    I am trying to become a crna. I have a bachelors degree in justice studies and that is it. What are my options?

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      Cara February 24, 2019 at 11:56 pm - Reply

      Get a second bachelors degree in nursing (BSN). Make sure you have all the pre-reqs for the CRNAprograms you are interested in (Chemistry, organic chem, etc.). Pass the NCLEX and work in anICU for two – three years. And app,y for CRNA school.

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    MG June 11, 2017 at 11:33 pm - Reply

    The last time I worked in an acute care hospital was 6 years ago. During this time I have continued to work as an RN in administrative positions in home health. I also took this time to return to school and I obtained my BSN and a BS in Health Services Administration. However, I want to return to working in the Critical Care Unit; accumulate my 1600 hours required to sit for the CCRN exam, pass, and then apply to a Nurse Anesthetist CRNA/ARNP program.
    Over the past 24 years I have accumulated about 9 years of IMCU-Telemetry/Open Heart-SICU/and Neonatal ICU combined
    experience. I am having the hardest time getting hired back into the hospitals even for Med Surg because I do not have any recent hospital experience. What should I do?

    • Avatar
      Cara February 24, 2019 at 11:54 pm - Reply

      Work nights!

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    Floyd September 6, 2017 at 2:42 am - Reply

    i have a BSN degree and have not passed NCLEX. It’s been 17 years since I graduated with the BSN degree and I want to sit again for my license. Can you tell me what resources are out there to help me to achieve this goal?

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    Heather May 18, 2018 at 9:58 am - Reply

    I’m shaking my head in anger and frustration after reading this. I went to nursing school late, at age 30. I had my doubts, but stuck with it because I like helping people. And because all my instructors insisted that nursing was unique because you can leave to raise kids and return anytime AND that having a BSN really didn’t matter. I got my ADN so I could begin working to help financially. I’m here to say B.S.

    I got extensive training in L&D as a New Grad. Worked for 3 1/2 years before taking time off.

    I raised my daughter and helped my husband run his business. When we closed, I was thinking, “Great! I can return to my career!”. I happily shelled out big bucks for an RN Refresher and took it seriously.

    It’s been over a year, and here in the Seattle area, there is no shortage, but like you said a surplus. Now hospitals are not offering any re-entry training. But they also want a BSN or higher. Seriously, a MSN for a floor staff nurse?! What is left are mostly NOCs in crappy hospitals or units people don’t want, like Psych. Or nursing homes and occasionally a very rural tiny desperate hospital that nobody wants to drive to.

    I’ve never been so frustrated and angry in all my life. I’ve tried the NOC in a tiny rural hospital. Highly unsafe:. No anesthesiologist; no operating room staff, no labs at night. For L&D? I don’t think so. Then managed to get a day shift at another hospital on what they called a Med-Surg unit. Also highly unsafe. Their docs let people crash before shipping them out to bigger hospitals. Not to mention the serious lack of maturity, good management, back biting, etc. Now I’m taking another stab in another direction as you suggested in your article. Home Health. There are ZERO day shifts. All nights. Sitting alone in a quiet dark house monitoring a ventilator and fighting my circadian rhythm to not let me fall asleep, much less fall asleep on the drive home. I could just cry.

    Perhaps a trip back to college for a different major or certificate in say accounting. This is certainly not worth the money they pay you.

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      Heidi February 12, 2019 at 3:26 am - Reply

      Wow! After reading your post, I think I may rethink what I want to do. I am so sorry about how it worked out for you trying to get back into nursing. I graduated in 1984 and worked 20 years before I took time off to raise my 5 children. I was just looking on the computer for refresher courses in TX and there aren’t many and definitely none near my home. I am thinking this won’t work for me either and I never felt I’d be a bit disappointed in this. However, in the back of my mind, I am thinking I’d be better off trying to do something else. At my age, I know I would not want that night shift again and I need to have a job where there is a lot of support. What a shame re-entry into nursing has left you disappointed.

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    Naomi Nwadike May 19, 2018 at 10:26 pm - Reply

    Have you been able to resolve your situation? I see your post is almost 8 months ago.

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    Sarah Lee August 15, 2018 at 3:22 am - Reply

    I went through an RN refresher course as it was required for me to obtain my license after 5 years out. I thought it was great preparation for my reentry to nursing. I was offered a position on my first day of clinical in the refresher course. Of course, I also 34 years of age at the time.

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      Alex September 20, 2018 at 4:13 pm - Reply

      Sarah Lee: What refresher course did you take? And what area are you from? I am currently 1 yr 9 mo and counting from my acute care experience. I only had about 9 mo of acute care exp right after graduating with my BSN, then I took time off to have a baby and raise my children. Trying to get back into acute care and not getting any calls back/interviews. Considering a SNF job to get some exp but wondering how I will actually work my way back into acute care when all the jobs want acute care experience.

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      Amenda September 22, 2018 at 1:37 am - Reply

      I am trying to go back to nursing and searching for nursing refresher course in plano,tx area. Can someone recommend the places for nursing refresher courses. Thanks

      • Sallie Jimenez
        Sallie Jimenez September 25, 2018 at 1:59 pm - Reply


        You may find the answers you need on the Texas Board of Nursing’s website – Also, some learning institutions may offer online options for refresher courses. Good luck with your search.

        — Sallie Jimenez

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    Alicia June 3, 2019 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    I am reading this post and sitting here seething. I have been a nurse for 10 years and have had a myriad of experiences. I started on Med surg for 2 years then transitioned into home care, rehab, and case mgmt. I have now reached a point where it seems I can’t get any further unless I have critical care experience. Looking at the Job market now, it seems as if everyone wants the perfect ready-made nurse with all the experience built in. Or.. they want a professional nursing student with every letter behind their name with no real skill or desire for the practical application of nursing. I recently sat in a meeting with 2 nurses who had all these letters behind their name basically say they want someone with experience and they won’t take a chance on anyone else. Everyone says that nursing is a changing field and we’re always learning, but it seems that no institution is willing to help anyone learn. I’m upset at this post because the answer was – try something else. IWell, if institutions don’t want to take a chance on people who actually WANT to learn, there will continue to be a shortage. I”m so disgusted.

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    D.F.Fisher RN BSN August 16, 2019 at 7:13 pm - Reply

    I am reading the story of my life,in terms of my desire to return to the acute setting and no avenue to arrive there. Plenty of job openings on line,but no employers willing to undertake a residency program for returning nurses. If hospitals can promote these programs for new graduates,why not for the rest of us ? I am certain this subject has been broached with the health care industry, and I have yet to see an article addressing this issue from their viewpoint. Our Maturity alone is an asset to quality of care and critical thinking skills . The children are raised and most all material goods are paid for,without the “drama”of youth,and I never call in “sick” . I want back in for the sheer joy of contributing to the well being of my fellow creatures and the intellectual stimulation of continually learning.All the job posts require a year of recent acute care experience(or two). To get through THAT door, I’d work for free,but the “rules”state one cannot do that either. “Catch-22”. At this juncture in time,I believe it would have been wiser to have gone to carpentry school during the years I was working on construction sites to make my way through nursing school. This nation remains one of the only that demonstrates a chronic contempt for maturity,and we all pay,or don’t get paid for this,wherever one’s station may find them.

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      Gretchen M Eckerle August 19, 2019 at 7:13 pm - Reply

      Very well said, I’m in the exact same position. How is a brand new grad with 0 experience a better investment than a more mature RN that has spent years successfully raising their family? I was always told that I could get a job anywhere, but apparently not any time! The only job I was able to get was as a school nurse substitute, I did that for the past 6 years but it really counts for nothing as far as other RN jobs are concerned. Now what to do??
      53 with a useless degree.

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        Beverly McCleery October 3, 2019 at 4:13 pm - Reply

        Same here! ADN in ’86. 7 yrs as a PRN nurse in the ER and 2 yrs in an ophthalmogy office as the lead nurse manager. Then in ”94 got out of the nursing field to raise my family (and worked in a family business in the marketing department). 18 yrs later took a school nurse job at a private school who didnt’ require a BSN. Then was promoted to create and implement a Biomedical Health Science program and teach high schoolers about careers in the healthcare industry. I have loved every minute of my work experience and I have so much energy and ambition. I always intended to begin traveling with my husband as a Travel Nurse at this stage in my life. I know I need current hospital experience and can’t find anyone that will talk to me about how to reenter the field. I need to continue to work, so going back to school full time in order to get my BSN isn’t an option with my current employer. I am willing to do anything at night and/or weekend, take any online course, go through any orientation, etc. I just need a viable plan. Any advice would be appreciated!

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    JOHN October 18, 2019 at 7:04 pm - Reply

    Dont know what background the writer has, but the refresher courses offered at my local comm college has a 100% job reentry rate. The article is BS

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    Sue October 21, 2019 at 6:35 pm - Reply


    I am in a similar situation and agree with many points. I also teach part time at a local university and teach CPR/ACLS. It is hard to know that we are seasoned RN’s, with or without a BSN, have a hard time getting hired. I think the hospital prefers new grads as they are easier to train and cost less in terms of pay. However, us seasoned RN’s bring experience, maturity, drive, dedication,etc that a new grad, young one that is, can not touch.
    I would try the local community college, local job fairs and see what you can get. I know school nursing or long term care is a start. It is not exciting, but a place to begin working as you start the search for work in the hospital. Also, consider working as a tech or an associate if they will hire you to get in the door and then see where it goes. Worth a start. Being flexible is part of the issue and that is VIP in today’s market.
    I also tell my students, don’t leave the work force and always keep your foot in the clinical door if you wish to continue working as a clinical RN.
    Best of luck to everyone.


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    Sabha June 10, 2020 at 6:24 pm - Reply

    I’m in the same boat, I left nursing for 5 years to raise two kids and now the market is apparently saturated with nurses so a hospital job requires at least a year of experience in the past 3-5 years. I have been so angry that my decision to take time off when everyone said you could as a nurse has resulted in not being able to find a job, unless its in home health. I’ve decided to focus on school and public health nursing. However, I wanted to post a link to another article that I found much more encouraging and helpful! 🙂

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    Kim July 23, 2020 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    Same story here. I am an RN, BSN with 3 yrs med surg, 5 yrs telemetry experience currently employed for 9+ years in home health. My coworker with the same background was able to move from home health to outpatient infusion with ZERO oncogy experience while I had 3 years experience from 2000-03. I am realizing I need to lower my expectations, and feel grateful if I can even be interviewed for an Cute care not shift. No one is calling me. Secondly with Cov-2 re-entry programs in nor-cal I can see are online mainly, totally defeating my needs of clinical preceptorship, in an actual hospital where I could make contacts and possibly be hired. I even passed my oncology provider certification exam, pointless without a job. I want desperately to return to ambulatory care, or acute care but will stay put for now I guess. My own MD said many of the RNs she sees at the surgery center who are retirement age are “just done because of covid 19.” Not giving up, but I am 53, need to work a lot longer for retirement needs, etc, etc. Article above posted by the prior nurse was helpful. Best wishes to all.

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    Carol August 10, 2020 at 3:43 am - Reply

    Same here in Australia. Unless you’ve worked in the hospital in the last year or maybe even 2 years you will not get a look in. All the aged care facilities in the city where I am working are underpaying, and that is why they want nurses from 3rd world countries because they will work for less until they get their citizenship. Hence then they take a 2nd job and sometimes a 3rd job and that is when really bad slip ups happen. I think eventually though these people will realise that they are being underpaid once they look at their EBAs or the award, and get the union involved. It definitely pays to be in a union here. They haven’t taken into consideration a number of factors such as cultural differences, if people are getting referees from their friends or even family while working in their home countries, how ingrained is their standard of hygiene, the standard of the training courses in their home countries. Quality of care is imperative and managers who downplay this aspect are being foolish because they could very well be on the receiving end, particularly if they end up in hospital unconscious. The refresher courses too are getting a bad name because the standards are dropping and I wish there was an improvement and an understanding of everything I mentioned above to improve the system.

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    Jillian Davidson September 2, 2020 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    I am in the same boat as you all. I have been a RN for 16 years, and in the medical field since 1985, continually. I have worked internationally in disaster response, village health and even in war zones, in addition to ER, Maternal Child Health and other in-hospital positions. However, the last 9 years, I have been outside of the hospital, mostly in prenatal care and was a Nurse Manager.. I just left a job in the community, wanting to move forward in my career with the intent of becoming a Nurse Practitioner and Nurse Midwife. I have to have 5 years recent experience in the hospital, so was beginning that process. I took a Nurse Refresher course in June, and have been renewing all my previously held certificates – ACLS, PALS, TNCC, NRP, STABLE, and FHM. But it seems hospitals only accommodate new grads. There is a Rural Nurse Preceptorship that I have been on a waiting list since March 2020, and thought I was going to be able to enter that program after Christmas. However, due to Covid 19, they are only taking the New Grads, and the next possible time, depending on what is happening with Covid 19, is June 2021. Until then, I can’t get back into the hospital and they won’t even consider me. If I could go in as a “new grad”, I could do it. Financially, I am scraping bottom, and am considering just switching careers. It seems like those of us who have been out of the hospital for a while, but still very capable, are falling through the gaps and there doesn’t seem to be a good way for those nurses to return. The moral of the story is: Don’t ever losing your footing in the hospital. Always keep a foot in the door, even if you only work 1 day a week.

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    EARL KEYES January 19, 2021 at 5:51 pm - Reply

    What is the best nurse refresher course to take for preparation for passing the NCLEX exam I graduated from an ADN program 18 years ago and did not pass the NCLEX. I became disappointed and quit and now want to try again. I retaken Anatomy and physiology, organic chemistry, pathophysiology, basically all required sciences and want to try again. I reside in the state of Illinois please help. I must pass the NCLEX EXAM.

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