Trying to Get Into Acute Care With LTC Experience

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Dear Nurse Beth,

Three years ago, after having my fourth (surprise!) baby, I decided to take a break from work and focus on my education. I zipped through a BSN program and continued onto an MSN program. I am very close to having my MSN in Nursing Informatics, but I have no hospital experience (only LTC/SAR experience) and I am having trouble finding a position because it has been so long since I've been working. I am looking into hospital positions to gain experience to work my way up to a Clinical Informatics Specialist role. I was a manager at my last position, but employers seem a bit put off by my gap in experience. I'm really discouraged also because there's a nursing shortage, and I still can't seem to find a job. I'm in NJ and am pretty flexible.

How do I get back into nursing without returning to LTC/SAR? Thank you!

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Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development.

Dear Having Trouble,

So it sounds like you have a lot going for you except for recent experience and acute care experience. But getting back into the workforce after a significant gap is like jumping onto a fast moving merry-go-round.

Even though there is a nursing shortage, it's a specific shortage. There's a shortage of experienced acute care nurses.

In acute care hospitals, new grads can compete for a position in a residency program, which gives them a prolonged orientation and supports them in transition from school to practice. However, typically they accept only new grads.

Experienced nurses are sought after and can usually land a job without a problem. They receive a fairly short orientation designed for nurses with acute care experience who really just need to learn "how we do it here."

Unfortunately, there's not much in between, that is, for non-new grads without acute care experience. Some hiring managers view LTC/sub acute experience favorably while others don't see it as a guarantee for success in acute care. That's because some nurses hired from LTC/sub acute background do very well with a short orientation, but others do not.

If you are applying to floor/clinical positions, having a Master's in Clinical Informatics is not the skill set or educational background they are looking for. Likewise, manager experience may or may not be seen as valuable for a clinical nurse, depending on the manager's point of view.

So this is all to say that your goal to break into acute care will take perseverance and a lucky break. Your goal is to keep your employment gap from getting any longer. If you are offered an opportunity, even if it's not your first choice, take it. Once you get in, you can strategically apply and transfer to other roles and specialities.

Consider taking a refresher course. Not only will it help your skills and resume, you can make contacts in the program that could lead to a job. The instructors may have connections to hospital colleagues.

Meanwhile, keep applying and best wishes!

Nurse Beth