Overcoming Obstacles

By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA

Jane* has been in nursing for 26 years. She’s been out of the workforce for eight years looking after her sick parents.

She wanted to go back to the hospital setting, so she telephoned nurse recruiters and applied for jobs. But they told her, “No recent experience, no job.”

Needless to say Jane was frustrated, angry, and disillusioned. She didn’t realize that she needed to update her knowledge and skills before she could return to an acute care unit.

When Jane asked for my advice, I explained that since she’d been away from the bedside for more than four years, she had to either take a refresher course on her own or find a hospital that offered a reentry program for RNs who had been away from patient care.

I suggested she start by calling local nurse recruiters and human resource departments and asking if their facilities offered reentry programs. None of the local hospitals offered a reentry program, and no one was willing to hire her without more recent experience. Several recruiters told her to take a refresher course, but they couldn’t tell her where to find one.

Jane’s next step was to peruse the Web sites of her state nurses association and her state board of nursing to locate local refresher courses with a good balance of classroom and clinical time (complete with preceptor). She found two programs within a reasonable driving distance. She was surprised to discover that refresher courses took two or three months to complete and cost more than $1,000. She was unhappy about having to wait three months to get started back in her career.

I suggested that Jane volunteer in a healthcare setting while she completed her refresher course. This would help ease her way back into nursing, sharpen old skills, and learn new ones. It would also give her some recent experience to put on her résumé and something current to discuss on an interview and mention in a cover letter.

I urged Jane to get active in her state nurses association. Attending local meetings, I said, would help her reconnect to her profession, get current on issues and information, make valuable contacts, and build a support system.

Within a month’s time, Jane had started a refresher course, joined her state nurses association, and volunteered at the local branch of the American Diabetes Association. She was answering phone calls from people newly diagnosed with diabetes and explaining where they could find information, providers, supplies, and support groups. In fact, Jane became so interested in the work that she started thinking about pursuing diabetes education as a specialty. By the time she had finished the refresher course, Jane had been offered a part-time job in a hospital-based diabetic treatment center as a result of a contact she made through her volunteer work. She also was offered a hospital staff nurse position through a connection she had made at a nurses association dinner meeting she attended.

Jane accepted both positions.

“I love bedside nursing,” she said, “but I’m also interested in diabetes teaching. I have the best of both worlds.”

Welcome back, Jane!

*Name has been changed.

Copyright Gannett Healthcare Group (www.nurse.com). All rights reserved. Used with permission.