Calling Nurses Back to the Field

Nurses Activism


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byramona salotti, rn, bs

nursing spectrum

masthead date june 16, 2003


we came from throughout the philadelphia area, 30 women who shared a common bond: we all were inactive registered nurses.

our reasons for leaving the profession were similar, and familiar-family commitments, professional frustrations, better opportunities in other fields. but the nursing shortage had inspired many of us to reconsider our commitment, and the conference "re-discover nursing," hosted by nursesponsorstm, brought us together.

the daylong program, held at the wyndham summerfield suites in east norriton, pa, march 14, 2003, offered participants information and motivation to learn about re-entry programs available in the philadelphia area. ten healthcare providers that offer rn re-entry programs attended, including health systems, hospitals, a community college, and providers of home health, elder care and dialysis services.

the re-entry programs cost from $550 to $1,300, and their formats vary from group classroom instruction and clinical preceptorships to one-on-one orientation programs designed for new employees. some facilities reimburse the program fee in exchange for an employment commitment.

sandra canally, rn, president and ceo of nursesponsorstm, says the conference was the first of its kind in this area. with conferences throughout the us and a website , canally hopes rns will be inspired to relaunch their nursing careers. she points to statistics that tell the story of the nursing shortage.

nearly 500,000 of the estimated 2.7 million licensed rns are not employed in nursing, according to the 2000 national nurses survey.1 more than half of those were in nonhealth-related occupations. about 42,000 inactive rns are in pennsylvania.1 between 1996 and 2000, 175,000 nurses gave up their licenses to practice, a sixfold to sevenfold increase from previous years.1

but pursuit of these inactive rns through re-entry programs has not caught on in the healthcare industry, canally says. and there is scant information available about existing re-entry programs. for example, one of the attendees of the march conference admitted she felt guilty about not using her skills at a time when nurses are so desperately needed, but she said she had difficulty finding re-entry programs.

inactive rns are "a trained and experienced, but virtually untapped, resource" for remediating the nursing shortage, says johanna tracy, rn, bsn, a nurse educator and contributor to the book chicken soup for the nurse's soul. tracy encouraged nurses to write about personal nursing experiences. she used excerpts from the book, which all attendees received as a gift, to encourage us to re-examine our inactive status and consider some of the opportunities available to nurses today.

earlier, gloria donnelly, dean of the college of nursing and health professions at drexel university, took us back in time to when we first decided to become nurses. with a slide presentation featuring the cherry ames, rn, book series, donnelly, a serious collector of the series, pointed out that cherry ames exemplified many of the nursing profession's core values, which are still relevant today. cherry portrayed commitment, professionalism, and a focus on patients, along with personal ambition, motivation and organization, and excellent management and interpretation skills, which made her a good nurse.

some of the women came to the conference after a 10- or 15-year hiatus from nursing, intent on returning to clinical practice. my reason for attending was simple curiosity; after all, i'd been away from the bedside for 30 years. but i came away from the conference reminded of the pride i have felt in being a nurse, and i realized that all nurses are responsible for promoting the nursing profession-even those of us who are no longer clinically active.

the response from the philadelphia-area conference makes canally hopeful about wooing inactive nurses back to the field. one attendee enrolled in an rn re-entry program the day of the conference. within a week and a half, 10 others had taken action as a result of information they received there. canally intends to track outcomes of the conferences and monitor the percentage of attendees who register for re-entry programs and return to clinical practice.

the next conference in this area will be september 12 in plymouth meeting, pa. for information, call (215) 654-9110 or visit

here is a sampling of rn re-entry and refresher courses available in the greater philadelphia/tri-state region.

rn re-entry programs

albert einstein medical center

dept. of veterans affairs medical center

fresenius medical services

genesis elder care

gentiva health services

home health corporation of america

montgomery county community college

montgomery hospital

new courtland elder services

temple university health system

tenet health system

rn refresher courses

bucks county community college

contact: janet baker, (215) 968-8324

montgomery county community college*

contact: albert tarquinio (215) 641-6347

northampton community college*

contact: judy rex, (610) 861-5094

our lady of lourdes school of nursing

contact: dorothy letizia, (856) 782-2100

raritan valley community college

contact: helen jones, (908) 526-1200, ext. 6688

university of delaware

contact: ruth hurst, (302) 831-8837

university of pennsylvania school of nursing

contact: kathleen burke, (215) 898-4522

penn state hershey medical center*

contact: valerie miller, (717) 531-7575

*also offers rn reactivation course.


ramona salotti, rn, bs, is an occupational health consultant.



1. the u.s. department of health and human services. health resources and services administration. bureau of health professions, division of nursing. the registered nurse population: findings from the national sample survey of registered nurses. march 2000. published february 23, 2002. available at: rnsurvey00.pdf. accessed march 20, 2003


2,709 Posts

sounds good but once they come back to work, how long will they stay after finding out what the working codnitons have become like since theyve been gone. All these ideas are great but none will have long term success until the work environment for nurses is repaired first. Otherwise, all these creative recruitment initiatives is just money wasted as the revolving door continues to turn.


1 Article; 5,758 Posts

The refresher course most people use around here is Community College of Allegheny County. It cost around a thousand.


213 Posts

if hospitals are serious about luring inactive nurses back to the bedside you should offer these courses for FREE. afterall, they do not charge for orientation for new grads. it strikes me as ironic that a hospital will spend thousands to get a foreign nurse to fill a position but not put out a few hundred to get back an inactive nurse. :cool:


327 Posts

I agree with the above postings. First, refresher courses should be free, same as any orientation or residency. In fact, they might even start paying nurses, same as medical residents are paid.

Second, as has been discussed on numerous threads, the nursing shortage is not a shortage of nurses--just one of tolerable work environments. There are more than enough inactive nurses to meet the current shortage. Recruiting re-entry nurses is a nice idea, but it all ends up in the same pot as other recruitment efforts: If working conditions do not change, there will be a perpetual shortage. Those new re-entry nurses will be out of there as fast as new grads and other nurses are leaving.

The bottom line--you don't solve a shortage with window dressing and gimmicks. You solve it from the bottom up. If working conditions become optimal, everything else will fall effortlessly into place.


1 Article; 5,758 Posts

PS I am trying one last time to go back. Tried before and failed, if this does not work out I am going to Merry Maids.


416 Posts

I would agree that health care delivery in our country has its problems. Before I became a nurse I worked in the proverbial trenches first as an Emergency Medical Technician and then a Surgical Technician. I have been in health care for 23 years (I now work in Radiology as a PACS engineer). No job is perfect but some of us find those things that reward us emotionally or financially and pursue those opportunities as best we can.

I came to nursing with tremendous enthusiasm but left with great frustration. I won't bore you with the details but I did tire so of the negative stereotypes and poor working conditions I was subjected to for almost 12 years of my nursing career. I kept hoping for change that never came so I took action and pursued employment that offered me greater personal satisfaction. I am still in health care but not in nursing.

I wish you well (fellow RN's) in your endeavors. I really do. But I assure you that my experiences have been such that I have no regrets moving on.



433 Posts

Originally posted by roxannekkb

If working conditions do not change, there will be a perpetual shortage. Those new re-entry nurses will be out of there as fast as new grads and other nurses are leaving.

-----I agree. Also, I doubt that many re-entry nurses will be beating down the hospitals doors to make a substantial difference.

The bottom line--you don't solve a shortage with window dressing and gimmicks. You solve it from the bottom up. If working conditions become optimal, everything else will fall effortlessly into place.


elprup, BSN, RN

1,005 Posts

Just found this thread. It is 2012, I graduated 2008 with my BSN, and have yet to land a coveted RN job. First one did not work out....they expected me to function as an experienced nurse with zero ezperience! Interviewed for Versant new grad position. Got to 2nd interview and then disqualified because they said I was no longer a new grad due to my few months of "experience". So I could not get a staff nurse position or a new grad position! And I had moved twice for those two jobs!!!! I tried LTC and hated hated it. Then took lower job at rural medical clinic and stayed for a year until I could not stand being utilized as an RN for such low pay. But now that I am back to applying for RN jobs I am fighting with my previous employer as to why they will not state they utilized me as a registered nurse! Because, now jobs still think I have zero experience, even though I have a year of clinic experience!!! I am soo frustrated with nursing and doing everything right (professional resume, BLS, ACLS, Suit, thank you notes, blah blah blah... But I am always their second choice because of my lack of acute care experience. I am so done. So frutrated! Now looking into a refresher course, even though I read and review nursing info almost every day. I never thought getting an RN position would be easy, but jesus, it is wicked hard if not impossible.


7 Posts

Specializes in MedSurg/Tele/Onc/PeriOp/Education.

Nursing positions are a dime a dozen. Sometimes one must consider accepting a position at a lower pay or in an area not of one's particular area of interest. Most nurses are encouraged to seek a Med/Surg clinical position for at least one-two years. It is,then, usually easy to transition into a specialty. However, one has an obligation to appear satisfied while on duty, regardless of position. There are thousands of nurses veying for that perfect position and the experience is only one trait. Others include integrity, character, flexibility, and adaptability. One should perform an honest self-assessment and ask what ability is weak that employers are placing one in that second position. Identify the why and one can improve on the who.


991 Posts

elprup- this is a wonderful find.

I wish there were more posts to this to gain more insight into what we were thinking back then and compare the thoughts and experiences of what the different age groups of nurses are experiencing now- similarities, differences, new grads, older nurses, their specific accounts/ reasons for leaving nursing. Interesting - the few posts express the nursing powers that be were presenting "gimics" to lure experienced nurses back into the profession. From the few posts I conclude- conditions in the workplace have not improved but only gotton worse and it seems from the few posts, nursing managment back then were attempting to solve the problem(s) now they seem content to keep it that way- an apathy. It will be this apathy- an unwillingness to challenge or rock the status quo( the money managers(ceo's and all their fine men/women) that will be nursing greatest downfall. perhaps the fault does not lay with the staff nurse role but the mind set of those in nursing managment. If only there were some real solid leadership qualities in today's managers with the brash boldness and "dedication" to speak out against this fiscal focus as prioity#1.

I do remember hearing back then that young staff nurses were hired to be nurse managers so the senior managment could "groom" them. The examples of what we are left with today- is not what the profession is about. I almost have to wonder if their wide eyed naiaveness was not exploited.

Specializes in Trauma, ER, ICU, CCU, PACU, GI, Cardiology, OR.

at this level, i agree with all previous post to a certain extend as i'm aware of all of your concerns, as a upper management nurse i saw the writing on the wall way before it occur, along with several of my colleagues. however, when we tried to rectified and confront administration they became deaf to our pleads leaving us to manage the load without any backup. needless to say, i witness at first hand several of my then colleagues throw in the towel and resigned as they venture into the unknown non-medical careers. furthermore, it is an easy way out to blame someone else when all the facts are unknown. therefore, an argument of this magnitude is ludicrous to try and make sense to those who were not in management during that time. certainly, i'm aware of certain types of management that all they care about is reaching those numbers, instead of their nursing staff work conditions. having said that, those like myself that are trying our best to overcome this cloud hovering over us, are simply overshadowed by those who are happy to see our defeat. unquestionably, when one brings complaints without a solution administration takes the defensive mechanism. with that said, it is up to us to reclaim our profession in bringing the nursing profession to a higher caliber standard for all nurses. lastly, it will take all of us pulling together if we want to regain what is rightfully ours, and take charge once again in what nursing is meant to be as we guide our profession into a successful future. in conclusion, i will quote a wise person that once wrote the following... " united we stand divide we fall"

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