Tips for nurses reentering the workforce
Going back to nursing after a break requires dedication and determination. Learn how to make a smooth reentry.
Are you considering reentering the workforce as a nurse after taking time off? It’s a common scenario. Many nurses step away from their careers to raise children, care for aging parents, or explore a different career. The other good news is, there are plenty of nursing jobs out there.
Depending on how long you’ve been away from nursing, you might be intimidated about reentering the workforce, but as a seasoned nurse, you’re not only valued, but in demand, says Michele George, MBA, BSN, RN, National Director of the Academy of Medical Surgical Nurses.
“In hospitals, we rely on our experienced nurses,” says George. “You might not have worked for a while, so you may need to get up to speed on the new equipment and systems, but you can still work with newly licensed nurses and show them the tools of the trade, like sterile technique and how to prioritize your time. As more and more nurses retire, there are a lot of inpatient units running with just newly licensed nurses, and that’s not the best scenario.”
If you’re planning to return to nursing, here’s what George and other nursing leaders recommend:
Research reentry requirements
Check with the state nursing association or board of nursing for your state's requirements for reentering the profession. At a minimum, you'll need to renew your license if it has expired. You may also need to meet a continuing-education or hours-practiced requirement. Some employers offer refresher courses or orientation programs to help experienced nurses prepare to reenter the field.
Update your skills
Not sure your nursing skills are up to par? “My suggestion for nurses returning to the workforce is to assess their current competencies and seek to gain competency in areas they are lacking,” says Kristene Grayem, MSN, CNS, PPCNP-BC, RN-BC, President of the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing. “Then, take a look at the competencies required in a role that interests you and assess whether you have those skills or not.”
You might also want to refresh your keyboard skills, too, recommends Debra Cox, MSN, RN, CENP, Past President of the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing. “You’ll need them to prepare for the increased speed that’s needed to document in electronic medical records,” says Cox.
Join a professional organization
Being a member of a professional nursing associations will help you reconnect to the profession, says George.
“My affiliation with the Academy of Medical and Surgical Nurses has helped me in so many different ways, but especially when I was away from nursing.” says George, who took time off from nursing to care for an aging parent. “It helped me feel like I still had my professional identity.”
Being part of a professional organization also give you access to a lot of great resources to update and build your knowledge and skills, says Deborah Dunn, EdD, MSN, GNP-BC, ACNS-BC, GS-C, President of the Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association. “The networking alone will open career doors for nurses,” she says.
Explore your options
You don't have to return to the same type of nursing job you left, and there are many different options to choose from, even beyond the traditional inpatient or outpatient nursing jobs. (Monster's nursing site is a great resource.)
“There are many roles nurses can play today,” says Catherine Firanek, MBA, BSN, RN, nephrology nurse educator, author, and speaker for the American Nephrology Nurses Association; and Director of Scientific Affairs at CVS Kidney Care. There are job opportunities for nurses not just in patient care, but also in health care product development, marketing, sales, research, and quality.
When Firanek was looking to go back to work after a break, she met with an employment agency to help her evaluate her goals and explore new opportunities. “The guidance the team provided helped me expand my job considerations and develop interviewing techniques and preparation so I could present my best self,” she says.
And you don't have to embark on the job search alone. Could you use some help taking the first steps? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of nursing jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Additionally, you can get job alerts sent directly to your inbox to cut down on time spent looking through ads. Those are two quick and easy ways Monster can help you kick-start your career once again.