Out of nursing for 20 years, what to do?

Dear Nurse Beth Advice Column - The following letter submitted anonymously in search for answers. Join the conversation! Nurses Nurse Beth Nursing Q/A


I have been out of clinical nursing for over 20 years, but my RN license has been ACTIVE. What is the best step to take in order to get back into patient care. Last 20 years, I have bein doing Non- nursing NGO type work in South East Asia.

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Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development.

 Returning to patient care after a significant period can be challenging, but with your active RN license and experience in NGO work, you have a foundation to build upon. Here are some steps you can take to  transition back into clinical nursing:

Assess and Refresh Your Skills

  • Certifications. Obtain your BLS. 
  • Clinical refresher programs. Look for clinical refresher programs that include classroom instruction and supervised clinical practice. These programs can help you regain hands-on experience and confidence.
  • Volunteer work. Volunteering at local hospitals, clinics, or community health centers can provide practical experience and help you ease into the clinical environment.

Update Your Knowledge

  • Online resources and journals. Stay current with medical advancements and best practices by reading nursing journals, attending webinars, and participating in online nursing communities.
  • Local workshops and conferences. Attend nursing workshops, seminars, and conferences to network with other professionals and stay updated on the latest trends and practices in nursing.

Network and Seek Mentorship

  • Reconnect with professional organizations. Rejoin nursing associations or local chapters of professional nursing organizations. They often provide resources, networking opportunities, and job leads.
  • Mentorship. Find a mentor or a peer support group for returning nurses. A mentor can provide guidance, share experiences, and offer support as you transition back into clinical practice.

Update Your Resume and Job Search

  • Resume and cover letter. Update your resume to highlight your active RN license, recent education or training, and NGO experience, emphasizing transferable skills such as leadership, project management, and cross-cultural communication.
  • Job search. Start applying for positions in areas of interest. Be open to various roles that can help you gradually transition back into patient care, such as part-time or per diem positions.

Familiarize Yourself with Current Technology

Electronic health records (EHRs). Ensure you are comfortable with EHR systems, as they are widely used in healthcare settings. Many institutions offer training on their specific systems.

Medical Equipment. Update yourself on the latest medical equipment and devices used in patient care.

If you have a specific area of interest (e.g., geriatrics, pediatrics, critical care), consider specialized training to enhance your skills and marketability.

By following these steps, you may be able to transition back into the clinical nursing field and provide high-quality patient care.

Good luck on your journey back to clinical nursing! Best wishes,

Nurse Beth