How to… return to nursing following a career break
Returning to work after a break can look a bit daunting, but Susan Hughes, from the Health, Learning and Skills Advice line explains how to access Return to Practice courses, and make a success of rejoining the nursing profession.
Get with the programme
Return to Practice (RtP) programmes are usually jointly run by NHS Trusts and university schools of nursing. The programme prepares you for re-entry onto the professional register and is an absolute requirement for returning to practice. Whilst there may not be a guarantee of a job at the end, it will provide you with the knowledge and skills to look for posts in a variety of clinical settings.
Your suitability would typically be assessed through an application process which includes an interview, a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check, an occupational health check and NMC verification (performed by the School of Nursing). Two references are often required, one of which should be from your current, or last, employer. If you have been out of nursing practice for many years, or have not been in employment or education, a reference from a professional person is usually acceptable.
Completing an RtP course for part 1 of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register also allows nurses to update part 3. An RtP course is generally tailored to help update practitioners on an individual basis, so universities should be able to help design your course towards elements appropriate to your part(s) of the register. The NMC have produced an advice sheet for those considering a return to practice.
Contact both NHS trusts and university schools of nursing direct to enquire whether RtP courses are running in your area, or see if you can register an interest in future programmes. Occasionally, details of programmes become available on the NHS Jobs website (use “Return to Practice” as keywords). Healthcare providers from the independent sector may also offer RtP courses, so contact providers direct.
After re registration
Once you have re-registered, if you are having difficulty finding permanent work, either temporary, part-time or shift work could be your next option. Contact your nursing bank coordinators, NHS Professionals, nursing homes, and nursing recruitment agencies (check first, as some agencies will require recent work experience). Your university school of nursing may be able to offer you useful advice.
Re-establish contact with former staff, including managers, and let people know you’re making your return to nursing. You may not be able to take up a position with your preferred employer, so be flexible in where you will consider travelling to, especially if it’s going be a short-term solution.
Keeping up to date
If you have had a break from nursing but have retained your NMC pin number, you could contact schools of nursing to enquire whether you can take part in some, or all, of their Return to Practice programme as a means of updating your theory and skills.
If you’re worried that you haven’t been keeping up with developments in nursing, don’t worry. The Nursing Times and other nursing magazines and websites have all the latest news and research for you to reacclimatise. And if you have any concerns or questions about returning to nursing, you could always submit queries to online nursing forums.
Don’t forget, many nurses make a successful return to nursing. Consider it an opportunity to rejoin your profession feeling refreshed and ready to take up a new challenge!
Run by the Careers Advice Service and sponsored by NHS Careers and Skills for Health, the Health Learning and Skills Advice Line provides careers information to support people working in healthcare. The friendly, trained career coaches can also give you constructive feedback on your CV and help assess your skills.
For a free, confidential discussion about your career, call freephone 0800 150 850 from 8am to 10pm, seven days a week.