Skip to main content Blog

Returning to Nursing After a Break: It Can Be Done

A very happy nurse smiling while looking off camera standing in a hospital waiting room

Reentering the nursing workforce after a hiatus can be daunting. The ever-changing landscape of health care and technology is enough to intimidate even the bravest nurse who has stepped away from the profession. 

But as the saying goes, Once a nurse, always a nurse. Take comfort in knowing that your innate caring and nursing skills will resurface, and it’s possible to be a bedside nurse again — even if it’s been a while.

Here are helpful tips on returning to nursing after a work interruption. Yes, there will be challenges, but we nurses are quick learners and a resilient bunch. 

And you may be pleasantly surprised at how quickly our great profession welcomes you back with open arms.

How to prepare for your return to nursing

Your nursing career restart begins with some preparation before your job search. Although a passion for nursing and a desire to return to patient care is a great launching point, you must also take inventory of the prerequisites for a nursing position.

Items to check off your nurse relaunch list should include:

  • An active nursing license
  • Up-to-date CEUs 
  • Current Basic Life Support (BLS) certification - Your new employer may help with this step.
  • An updated resume
  • Nurse networking efforts - Reconnect with the nursing community via’s social networking app, Facebook groups, nursing associations, etc.

Also, consider choosing a nurse mentor who is currently in the field. A mentor is an invaluable resource. Having inside knowledge and an ear to bend during your transition will help ease you into your new position with fewer surprises.

In addition, be proactive in working on your weaknesses. For instance:

  1. Consider taking a nursing refresher course if you’re concerned about rusty skills. Nursing refresher courses can be done online or in person. This abbreviated training typically refreshes clinical skills such as clinical assessments and knowledge of pharmacology, nutrition, and critical thinking.
  2. Keep your computer skills up to date and brush up if necessary.
  3. Listen to educational nursing podcasts and take CE courses for instruction on areas of weakness.

What to expect when reentering the nursing workforce

Once your job search is over and you have landed a nursing position, be prepared for some challenges and a learning curve. Technology and the hospital environment may differ significantly from your last job, depending on how long you have been away. 

Your skills may be clumsy initially, so don’t be surprised to feel overwhelmed and frustrated.

You will begin an onboarding and orientation period as a new nurse. Make the most of this time to familiarize yourself with old and new skills and technology.

Even the most seasoned and expert nurses will undoubtedly be challenged at times as they relaunch their careers. However, your basic instincts and skills will kick in, and you’ll soon catch on. 

In time, you’ll be proud of your accomplishments at work. With each baby step, your confidence will flourish. You’re nursing again, and you should feel good about your contributions to patients.

Overcoming challenges when returning to nursing

Plan to step into your career relaunch with an open mind. There will be difficult days ahead. But knowing how to overcome them will help you stay in the game and come out on top. Here are some tips:

  1. Be honest with your employer about your employment gap time, questions, and hesitations. Express the need for extra help and a slow reentry into the job. 
  2. If needed, ask for an extended orientation. 
  3. Request a mentor for your first few months to a year. The support of a mentor will ensure a smoother transition back into nursing.
  4. Seek assistance from your peers and colleagues instead of struggling alone. Don’t be afraid to ask questions as needed. Seek out nurses who are happy to help in your orientation, as some nurses are more patient than others.
  5. Participate in ongoing professional development. Continue to educate yourself in areas in which you don't feel as confident.
  6. Laugh when you can — it can take the pressure off just about any situation. Your peers will be drawn to your infectious personality as you come up to speed on the unit.

My return to bedside nursing success story

After working as a school nurse for many years, I decided it was time for a change. I accepted an RN position at a small children's hospital where I could transfer my pediatric knowledge to a bedside nursing job. Although I had held various jobs, I hadn’t worked in a hospital for two decades.

I must admit that this change was quite a challenge for me and came with a steep learning curve and some uncomfortable surprises. 

As expected, there was a new electronic medical record (EMR) to conquer. And even the most basic equipment differed from what I was used to. Everywhere I turned, I was in learning mode. I felt like I was a new nurse all over again.

I was honest with my nursing supervisor about requiring additional support. As my orientation was winding down, I asked for an extension of the program. I needed more time in certain areas where I was still weak. This extra training paid off and allowed me to feel safe and in control of my assignments.

Many nurses on my unit were very supportive and pointed out areas where my past expertise helped in a situation. These instances helped me realize that my knowledge and transferable skills were valuable in my new position.

As I got more experience, I became more confident. Soon, I was competent and assured as a bedside nurse. 

Was the transition initially intimidating? Absolutely. But the sense of accomplishment at the end of the day far outweighs the uncertainty that comes with a return to bedside nursing.

Whether you’re actively seeking a new role or assessing your next steps, explore’s job marketplace to help match your experience and skills to the best-fitting role.