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Returning to nursing after a career break

Written by: Mandy Day-Calder
Published on: 28 Feb 2020

9 tips on how to return to nursing after a career break.

Returning to nursing after a career break

Picture: iStock

Nothing stays still for long in healthcare, and being away from nursing for an extended period can make it harder to slot back into things.  Whether the career break was your choice or enforced due to sickness or other personal reasons, stepping back into the ward can be daunting.

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Here are some tips for returning to work after a career break

  • Coming back only when you feel ready will help you gain a sense of control

If you do have to return earlier, focus on the positives. Nursing is hard enough and if you begrudge being back at work it will feel impossible. 

  • Be prepared

Sort out any practicalities well in advance, both at home and at work. Don’t let childcare or other issues with dependants ruin the first few days back.

  • Be open and honest with yourself and your manager

It’s okay not to know everything and together you can work out a plan for the next few weeks or months.

  • Consider whether you need any additional training

As well as formal return-to-practice nursing courses, there are plenty of shorter options for updating clinical or managerial skills as well as courses aimed at improving confidence and assertiveness.

  • Network with other nurses in similar situations

If you don’t know any local nurses, online forums can be a useful source of support. Get support from an occupational health department, union or other professional body.

  • Act ‘as if'

Despite the rollercoaster of emotions, outwardly you need to remain calm. Patients will still expect the same level of care, diligence and attention that any nurse would give. Lift your shoulders up and say ‘I can do this’. But remember only to work within your sphere of competence.

  • Don’t expect too much of yourself and watch your energy levels – you will likely feel more tired than usual

If a phased return isn’t possible, ask if you can use your annual leave to come back on shorter hours.

  • Don’t compare yourself to others

Just like you, they may appear calm on the outside, but feel otherwise inside.

  • Be patient

Keep a reflective journal and make a point of looking back every week or so to monitor progress.

Read more careers articles on Nursing Standard

This article was written by Mandy Day-Calder, a life and health coach with a nursing background who runs a healthcare training company