Back on med/surg after 15 years


There are a lot of questions regarding older nurses getting back into the hospital so I thought I'd start a thread about my experience. I used to work on med/surg and also a tele unit many years ago. I've been working at a desk job. I realized if I didn't get my skills back I was never going to be able to and so I applied for some positions.

I interviewed on a tele floor with three very young nurses asking me the questions and I really did poorly. Things like me saying, "I love to work alone" - which is true but not what to say in a job interview on a unit where "teamwork" is "the thing". I could tell by their faces. Then, since they were working short- a code was called in the middle of the interview and the managers ran out of the room and left me to find my own way out of the large medical center. So, I had reviewed all my old tele strips, meds etc, and was definitely qualified but was not hired. Sigh

Evidently the nurse recruiter likes me and so she contacted me about another unit and miraculously, this unit was way more laid back in the way they interviewed. They didn't appear to be writing down a number based on my answers. I had asked HR "what kind of metrics are they using to score the candidates?" and of course I couldn't get any info. I have no idea how I was scored, but no one was writing down anything and so I said, "I love to teach young nurses" at which point all their faces lit up and they told me their unit had 40% new grads and pretty much, when do I want to start.

So, I am pretty much terrified. In fact, I realized how out of the loop I am when I took one of my kids this week to the ER and they hooked up an IV and I exclaimed loudly, "That IV pump is so small"... Like, totally uncool! I should not have said a word but the IV pump was only about a third of the size of the ones I used to use... It also had words scrolling, and the nurse had a pager thing on her shirt and all kinds of stuff I had never seen before. All things I will be careful NOT to exclaim about when I actually start at my new job. Don't want to date myself or anything!

I will try to update this post as I go, but it appears I passed the employee physical yesterday. The physical was 3.5 hours long. It was unbelievably involved and I will not comment from a negative view since I could somehow be identified and loose my new job that I am very excited about, but this is what I had to do in order to pass (keep in mind I am a 50 year old female)

-drug test

- hearing and vision test

-pulmonary function test

-mandatory flu shot and titers taken by a student who I had to instruct

-cardio test

-exam where I was in gown and I had to excercise and measurements were taken of my back, neck, arms, legs, hips etc.

- lifting 100 pounds in a milkcrate off the floor up to my waist and back down (and they wouldn't tell me what the minimum was and I ran over and went through my papers for my job description to read the 100 pounds)(confirmed later)

-moving a 200 pound dummy off of a bed onto another bed and back- with someone minimally helping with the transfer

-lifting a 100 pound dummy up off a bed and into a chair and then back up onto the bed-alone ( I was not allowed to put the bed in lowest position)

I really have no idea how this is all going to go, but I will try to write as candidly as possible without jepordizing my new job. Thanks for any supportive words and we are about to find out if you can in fact "teach an old dog new tricks".


Specializes in Med-Surg, Geriatrics, Wound Care. Has 11 years experience.

Wow. That sounds like a crazy fitness test. I mean, drug screen is typical. I've done titers and mandatory flu shots. But, I never had any of that physical stuff. I think "can you bend over and kinda come close to touching your toes", a "fit test" to make sure the N95 mask fits... Maybe I'm not remembering stuff...


1,753 Posts

Specializes in Surgical, quality,management. Has 12 years experience.

What the heck??? My organisation is a "no lift" as are pretty much all in Australia. Slide sheets, hovermatts, hoverjacks, banana boards, pat slides sit to stand hoists, Sara Steady, full hoists and speaking up about bed heights is normal.

This is one of the issues that makes me flinch when I read it....basically healthservices are putting workers at risk without these items.

Jedrnurse, BSN, RN

2,776 Posts

Specializes in school nurse. Has 31 years experience.

Did they make you sell your soul as well?


110 Posts

So, do you think the gov't regulations in Australia have anything to do with the safer working conditions? The laws are different state to state in the US and there is a lot of variation in working conditions. I'm taking the ibuprofen and hoping I didn't permanently injure my back... I live in an area where there is a "nursing shortage"...


56 Posts

Has 25 years experience.

I'm in WA state, my hospital has all of that equipment to help lift & transfer pts too. Plus a few rooms have ceiling lifts- even double lifts! ( I used to do agency nursing and every hospital I went to had all of that equipment as well) I hope your hospital has it too because we need to save our backs. Sounds like you nailed the physical! Woohoo enjoy your new job!


110 Posts

Well, I am done with a week of lab orientation. I had never used dummys to practice IVs or NG tubes on etc. They also had an anatomically correct female to practice Foley's. It all seemed very low stress compared to long ago. Also, it appears the hospitals are far more organized now with things like Rapid Responses- which I had never heard of- to help identify patients that are having problems.

I remembered all kinds of stuff I thought I had lost to the passage of time. Driving there I was remembering the names and numbers of the cardiologists I used to work with, the last time I worked on a medical floor. Crazy that I would randomly recall this, but I guess info was somehow all filed away together.

A couple hilarious things happened. I could not recall the name of "chux" and were calling them peripads. Also, when I went onto the unit to have my locker assigned, I was looking for the door to the med room. Remarking on " oh this must be a pocket door" and still looking, I realized the other nurse was staring at me. I have no idea how long it's been that med rooms didn't have doors that were locked, but I had never heard of such a thing.

I start actually on the floor next week under my preceptor, and this is supposed to be only part time, but I am trying to orient fulltime to get up to speed.

I'll keep posting because I know some old nurse out there is wondering if they can ever get back into bedside nursing. I say go for it. So far, so good!


1 Article; 2,220 Posts

Specializes in Travel, Home Health, Med-Surg. Has 20 years experience.

I am glad things are going smoothly for you! Good luck starting on the floor. There are lots of old nurses out there cheering you on!!

Mrs.D., BSN

132 Posts

Specializes in Medical cardiology. Has 5 years experience.

I'm sure it will all come back to you! Sure you will need training on the new machines, EMR, etc., but 15 years of experience will be so so useful to your coworkers when you get your bearings.

So much luck to you!

TriciaJ, RN

4,307 Posts

Specializes in Psych, Corrections, Med-Surg, Ambulatory. Has 42 years experience.

I can relate. I went to med-surg relatively late in life. I remembered (from nursing school) when every surgical wound got a sterile dressing change, med carts were wheeled around (before that there were little trays with the holes and slots) and most of the machines hadn't been invented. After I had been in med-surg a few years the hospital put together a rapid response team. That was the best thing ever.


82 Posts

Good Luck!! I have been applying for an RN position after a 9 year absence. I'm also in my 50's. Not having any luck, but your story is an inspiration for me. Keep us posted.

Has 33 years experience.

I did bedside care until 60, had many physicals as I was doing agency and travel work. I would have walked out of a physical that required me to lift 100 pounds. 38% of nurses have back injuries.... shouldn't have to get one during a physical.

" I realized if I didn't get my skills back I was never going to be able to ". I'm not sure what you mean by skills. As nurses, we have many skills. You don't have to break your back to prove them.

I do wish you the best. Let us know how it's going.