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What can I expect from a return to practice nursing course?


After hearing the concerns of potential return to practice candidates, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust developed a programme offering support where it is needed most

We know that many ‘lapsed’ nurses keen to return to practice are experienced, compassionate and committed. However, often these nurses need more support than the current university-based courses offer.

To overcome this and to help tackle the nursing shortage, we have recently embarked on a new project to support nurses in returning to practice, known as our ‘Work based Return to Practice’ course.

Addressing concerns

We gave all potential applicants the opportunity to meet with us face-to-face so we could support them with the recruitment and returning process. We didn’t want the official application form to put off possibly excellent candidates at the start.

In these informal meetings we talked to them about their non-nursing careers, what they had done since leaving nursing and what skills and experiences they had gained that they felt were transferable to the nursing workplace.

We also asked them what they saw as the barriers they needed to overcome to make a successful transition back into nursing.

Many of them expressed similar concerns:

  • How will I cope with going straight back to a band 5 post?
  • How can I find the best placement to broaden my skills for practice?
  • What practical support will there be in the workplace?
  • What is the process for post-course resettlement into a band 5 post?
  • How much does the return to practice course cost?

They also said they would like a supported pathway back into the profession. We felt we needed to create an ‘offer’ for these potential returning nurses that helped to address these concerns.

Stepping stone

Many of the potential applicants welcomed the opportunity to ‘ease’ back into practice via the band 3 post. Even some of our out-of-practice candidates; those people who had kept their registration but not worked in adult branch nursing for a while, also preferred the Band 3 post stepping stone approach despite the fact that they could have applied for a band 5 post quite legitimately.


We created a set of competencies for the staff to work through during the course in a very practical way. These covered the essential areas of nursing that are current high priorities, including:

  • High quality record keeping
  • Pressure ulcer prevention
  • Infection prevention and control
  • Falls prevention and management
  • Long-term condition management and a self-care model
  • The frail elderly
  • Safe discharges
  • Lessons learned from The Francis Report and transferring this into our own practice
  • The 6Cs
  • End of life care
  • The Integration Agenda
  • Dementia care

’Grow your own’

We feel staff benefit from being included in the workforce numbers of the ward. They are given a training contract which includes supported learning experiences to help them work towards re-registration and competence while working as part of the team, with the aim of increasing their sense of team and belonging.

We wanted the whole ward to be part of their learning and development and in this way have a ‘grow your own’ feeling among the ward staff.

We are using the financial difference between the band 3 and 5 to pay candidates’ course fees, removing another very big barrier to accessing a return to practice course.

Our main priority is ensuring RTP candidates gain the skills and knowledge they need to work across the health community. We are arranging shadowing opportunities for candidates keen to consider community working on re-registration, to help them understand the particular skills required for this area of care. Even if the candidates decided to work in inpatients, this experience is beneficial in helping them with safe discharge planning.


Theresa Brennan is practice development nurse at Lings Bar Hospital, Nottingham


If you would like to find out more about returning to practice with Nottingham Healthcare NHS Trust please email:


Readers' comments (2)

  • I have been doing all of those things for 30 years, and have been smashed to smithereens by the businesses, and treated like rubbish and when I want to return to the nhs,the website says I have an account already and wont let me in. Im on zero income and in despair.Then people wonder why Im angry.The only thing I cant do is transfer my cpd on line. I don't know how to do it

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  • Is this available in Chester? Is there an age restriction

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