Returning to nursing - your questions answered by the NHS

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In partnership with the NHS

Are you thinking of returning to a career in nursing? Mumsnet and the NHS have paired up to deliver all the information, advice and help you'll need to take those next steps back into the medical field.

We recently gave Mumsnet users the chance to ask NHS nurses, Raych and Joy, all their burning questions about returning to nursing – from the support you'd receive as a student to fitting work hours around the kids. Read on to find out how they answered.

The training process


How will I be supported back into my job role? Would there be any training provision?

Joy says: Yes, you will do a return-to-practice course that will usually last between three to 12 months depending on how long you have been away from practice. This will be a mix of theory and placements. Once on a course, you’ll receive support throughout to get you back into a job through a preceptorship programme. Make sure to ask for more information on preceptorship at your course interview.

Raych says: I’ve had an enormous amount of support from the ward team and from the in-house education team at the Royal Papworth Hospital.

Is it possible to do a 'fast track' degree instead? I trained in the 1990s and was a registered general nurse.

Raych says: If you have been registered with the NMC at some point, you can do a return-to-practice course – you don’t need a degree. The course also offers 30 units towards a Level 6 degree. Then you could do additional modules afterwards if you still wish to get a nursing degree.

I was told that being away from nursing for 10 years was the cut-off and I have been out for longer than that. Is this still the case?

Raych says: That’s not the case. People on my course had been out for longer than that. One of them had been out for 18 years and returned to a Recovery/Theatre/ITU rotation.

How do you select returners? I wanted to return to nursing and went to a half-day returners access course. Thirty ex-nurses attended but none of us were selected.

Joy says: I am afraid that there is no single way that nurses are selected for courses as recruitment and selection is undertaken by local course providers and/or employers. We want nurses to come back but people won’t be automatically accepted onto a course as they need to demonstrate that they are ready. Maybe try to get some feedback on why you weren’t selected. This will really help should you want to apply again.

Does it matter how long you practiced for? I only worked for a few months after qualifying. Will being a diploma nurse rather than having a degree hold me back?

Raych says: No it won’t. But if you wanted to, you could do a top-up course where you could study towards a degree. It’s worth contacting your local NHS trust and find out who provides the training closest to them. There are lots of opportunities and lots of flexibility as nurses are in such short supply.


Finances and support


The subject of treatment and pay of nurses is constantly in the news – have things changed for nurses? Would there be any out-of-pocket expenses at all, ie extra hours of childcare?

Raych says: I would say that many attitudes have changed in the way nurses are supported. I have found a lot of flexibility in the system. For me, long days give me greater flexibility with my home-life so I work three days, sometimes four, per week. I also get access to childcare vouchers.

Joy says: I can’t pretend everything is perfect, but things are changing. Employers understand the importance of a happy nursing workforce and are making changes to make the NHS a better place to work. One thing the NHS is offering is help with course expenses. Health Education England offers at least £500 to all returners for childcare, travel expenses, course materials, etc and will also pay for your course fees.

Is it possible to get into nursing but fit it around the school hours?

Joy says: If you are looking to get into nursing rather than return, there are several routes, including a nursing degree apprenticeship. However, the main route is still a three-year undergraduate degree at university. We recommend speaking to your closest university running a nursing course about how they can support you to fit study and placements around school hours.

Raych says: You’ll need a good support network while you’re training but once you’ve qualified, you can look for outpatient clinic posts or day ward settings which will be school hours or at least 9-5.

What plans do you have to support returning nurses who might have physical impairments that would mean they might find a placement on a clinic ward difficult?

Joy says: Everything is done to make it as simple as possible for nurses with physical impairments to return to practice. Before you start your course, all students will complete an occupational questionnaire or assessment. This will allow for the necessary requirements to be put in place, helping you to return to practice. Make sure all of this is discussed with your course provider.

Where can I find up-to-date resources on what has changed in the NHS recently?

Joy says: Getting back up to speed is the right thing to do, especially as nursing and the NHS may have changed since you have been away. Universities offer a reading list of key documents to help you update your knowledge of current policy. Universities also offer study skills courses to help you prepare for studying on a university course. Local trusts and universities also offer open days so you can ask any questions before you apply for the programme. Another simple thing to do is to do a Google search for the latest news on the NHS and nursing. It will make sure you that you have your finger on the pulse.

Benefits of returning to nursing


Would you say the NHS has better benefits than joining a private nursing company?

Joy says: It’s all to do with personal choices. What is right for one person won’t be right for someone else. There are many benefits of a career in the NHS, as there will be with other employers in the private sector who will all have different terms and conditions.

You can find out more about the benefits of an NHS career on the Health Careers website.

DD is considering nursing as a career. She is aware that hours may be unsocial, but how easy is it to return after a career break?

Raych says: There is no doubt that the mix of shifts and study is intense but if you are up for the challenge, then go for it. I’ve been blessed with a brilliant ward team and love being back in a team.

Joy says: Your daughter should speak to universities running nursing courses to see how they can support her into a nursing career. They could also consider applying for healthcare assistant jobs or applying for a nursing associate apprenticeship which offers a qualification to be able to apply for nursing later in their career.

I was G Grade/Band 6 for years, then worked outside the NHS for a while. If I returned would I get Band 5 pay?

Raych says: You would need to talk to the employer where you apply. Usually, you would be paid at the top of the Band 5 range in the NHS but it depends how smooth your transition back into the role is.

Joy says: Many nurses who have been out of practice decide to ease themselves back into the profession as a Band 5, especially if they have been out of clinical practice for a significant amount of time but the job you apply for is up to you.

Can I do the clinical hours over 24 weeks, rather than 12 weeks or are all the courses done with the expectation that the returnee will fulfil them over the length of the course?

Raych says: You would need to talk to the course providers. One way of doing it would be to join a ward and begin accruing hours but I found there to be a great deal of flexibility.

Are there any alternatives to working 12-hour shifts?

Raych says: Some people do a mixture of long days with early and late shifts. Twelve-hour shifts are doable but they do take some time to get used to.

Can you sum up the incentives to return? Eg childcare allowances, workplace culture, pay?

Raych says: For me, the incentives were a consistent wage, making the most of my training, the teamwork and working with patients. I love being able to apply my knowledge and training for the benefit of others.

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