On July 25th, 2017, I published a blog post all about returning to the nursing workforce after a hiatus. Getting a foot back in the healthcare job marketplace door can be a challenge, but it is indeed possible, nurses. This episode is a deep dive into this important nursing career subject.
Whether you’ve personally faced this situation or not, it’s food for thought for every nurse. After all, you may need to take a temporary break from working some day, and you can learn from others’ experiences and do your due diligence in advance.
In the aforementioned blog post, I talk about the fact that you must admit that having been away from the profession is indeed a liability that you simply need to overcome. Make no bones about it: having been away is often seen as a weakness or character flaw, even if you were doing something as laudable as caring for a dying parent or disabled child. Nurses can be very judgmental about other nurses who take a break from working, and you need to work hard to push past those judgments and make a case for yourself.
Your reentry plan needs to include many factors, including but not limited to:
- A professional overhaul of your resume
- Establishment of an online brand (LinkedIn at the very least)
- Cover letters that tell a convincing story
- Enrollment in a nurse refresher course if it’s been more than a year or two
- A business card for face-to-face networking
- Concerted research about favorable employers, jobs, and the overall market
- A commitment to assiduous and consistent networking
- Requesting informational interviews with key individuals
- Identifying your allies
- Outreach about your job search to everyone you know
- And a whole lot more
In the blog post, I wrote:
Your reentry plan to get back into the nursing marketplace has to be strategic, targeted, and focused. It also needs to be multifaceted. Responding to job postings is fine, but you also need to network, reach out to former colleagues, talk to family and friends, pound the pavement (literally and figuratively), and make a concerted effort to get in front of as many people as possible.
I also wrote:
Before you begin this process, it’s very important that you check your expectations at the door. You probably won’t be able to hop right back into the ICU or PICU after eight years on the sidelines. You may need to embrace a different area of nursing where someone without recent experience may be welcome. Remember, this first job is just a stepping stone, a place to begin. You’re not signing away your life and career — you’re just taking a position in order to reestablish your “street cred” as a nurse.
You may be very lucky and find a new nursing job fairly quickly — this does happen. However, most nurses in this type of situation will need to be patient with the process. The nursing profession has both a forgiving side and an unforgiving side — you’ll need to look both sides squarely in the face.
This can be done, folks, and I’ve seen it firsthand with my coaching clients. One client was even away from nursing for 18 years as she raised children!
A word of caution: if you’re indeed planning to take a break from working for a while (whether it’s one year, five years, or more), please prepare before you take the leap. If you’re on the brink of stepping away, consider the following:
- Is there a way to at least work a per diem shift once a month or so in order to keep your hand in the game?
- If not a paid per diem position, can you do some volunteering during your break from working as a nurse?
- What colleagues can you plan to consistently keep in touch with during your hiatus?
- Can you periodically take part in seminars, webinars, conferences, meetings, or other in-person or virtual nursing events while you’re not working?
- Consider how you’ll contextualize your time away from the nursing workforce.
In closing, I shared the following:
In this process, you need to take off your blinders in terms of what kind of job you may need to land at first. Like I mentioned above, this position is just a stepping stone, and a very important one at that. You’re actively rebuilding your resume and your confidence, and you can view this process as the planting of seeds in the interest of the near and distant future.
I know from experience that you can get this done. I also know that you need to be willing to really dig deep to make it happen. Rejection can be a debilitating experience, but you need to be ready to accept rejection, learn from it, and then take inspired action once again.
Returning to the nursing workforce is worth it. We need you, and you need us. Whether you were temporarily disabled, caring for an aging parent or spouse, raising children, or traveling around the world, you deserve to continue to be a nurse if that’s what you truly want.
There is no shortage of opportunities for nurses, and if you’re willing to think outside the box, you’ll be more likely to land a fresh start and a new lease on the life of your career.
If you need help, ask for it. This can be a lonely business, and having allies in your corner is paramount. Come back to nursing and rejoin the profession you love.
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Be well, dig deep, and keep in touch!
Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is the Board Certified Nurse Coach behind NurseKeith.com and the well-known blog, Digital Doorway.
Keith is co-host of RNFMRadio.com, a wildly popular nursing podcast; he also hosts The Nurse Keith Show, his own podcast focused on career advice and inspiration for nurses. Keith was previously the resident nursing career expert at Nurse.com.
A widely published nurse writer, Keith is the author of “Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century.”
He has also contributed chapters to a number of books related to the nursing profession, and has written for Nurse.org, Nurse.com, MultiViews News Service, LPNtoBSNOnline, StaffGarden, Working Nurse Magazine, and other online platforms.
Mr. Carlson brings a plethora of experience as a nurse thought leader, online nurse personality, holistic career coach, writer, and well-known successful nurse entrepreneur.