If you’re a registered nurse looking to return to patient care, new opportunities abound. Perhaps you’re looking to return to your original place of practice or are interested in trying out travel nursing. Either way, you’ll definitely have some catching up to do. 

Whether you’ve been out of the nursing field for the last six months or the last sixteen years, there are a number of crucial tasks you must tackle before clocking in for your first shift—from updating your license and resume to networking with past and potential colleagues. Especially if you have an interest in a career in travel healthcare, there may be additional things to consider.  

In this article, we’ll explore five tips to make your RN return to practice a breeze so you can return to the bedside feeling prepared to deliver the best care possible. 

#1 Update Your License

Whether you’re a registered nurse (RN), a licensed practical nurse (LPN), or a Medical Assistant (MA), the first step to returning to practice is checking the status of your license. You can update your RN license in a few easy steps:

  1. Consult your state’s Board of Nursing website or call your local licensing office. 
  2. Speak directly with a professional to get the information you need. Ask about the status of your credentials, their expiration dates, and what you need to do to reinstate them (if applicable). Take into consideration you may need different information depending on your profession, for example if you’re a medical assistant vs. nurse there may be additional steps between the two.
  3. Create a list of action items needed to update your license. For instance, some states may require a nursing refresher course to review critical skills. 

Once you have a to-do list, get started on completing those items. Updating your license is one of the most important aspects of returning to your practice.

#2 Make Key Decisions About Your Work Environment

While you’re working on your licensing requirements, think about what you want your day-to-day life to look like. You don’t have to go back to the same health care field you worked in earlier in your career, and you don’t even have to be in a hospital setting. 

Consider three key elements of your work life:

  • Your physical work environment, whether you’re looking to return to:
    • Hospital
    • Clinic
    • Private practice
    • Long-term residential care, like a nursing home
  • Your working hours:
    • Which shift is ideal for you?
    • Which days do you want to be on the schedule?
    • How many hours per week do you want to work?
  • Your field, skill, or ward of choice, such as:
    • MedSurg
    • Pediatrics
    • OR
    • ICU
    • ED
    • OB/Midwifery

Your return to RN work is a fresh start—you have a variety of options to choose from, so this is your time to customize a career that you’ll love.

#3 Reconnect with Past Colleagues

If you’ve been away from nursing practice for a while, reconnect with some of your past colleagues. This provides you with an opportunity to reintegrate yourself into the nursing role and ask former colleagues to write reference letters for future employers.

When you spend time with a former colleague, also talk to them about your return to the nursing profession. Take the time to connect with an old friend, reminisce on memories of funny or challenging patients, and enjoy speaking with another person who “gets it.”

#4 Consult with Current RNs

Before rejoining the ranks of over 3 million nurses nationwide, ask a current nurse out for coffee.1 

The nursing profession changes constantly, and you’ve likely missed a few developments in the industry during your time away. By consulting with a current RN, you can get the inside scoop on current best practices, new equipment, and any added requirement or changed roles for nurses. This may also be a great time to ask if they have any recommendations for a nurse refresher course, to get you back into the swing of things.

While you meet with a current nurse—preferably one in your desired field/ward—ask them about:

  • Overall staff roles in their department:
    • Does their department have CNAs? 
    • Does their ward accept floaters and travelers?
    • Do charge and flex nurses have patients?
  • General morale among healthcare workers
  • How their ward has changed since your last tenure

Seeking answers to your burning questions will help you make decisions about your work environment and help you feel prepared for future job interviews. 

#5 Update Your Resume

When you’re ready to start the job application process, update your resume. While your most recent resume could already include all of these pertinent details, give it another once-over, make changes to wording and format, and make sure to include the following key elements:2

  • Contact information
  • A brief, professional biography
  • A summary of your work experience, including
    • Date ranges
    • Descriptions of duties
    • Reasons for leaving
  • Education history
  • License number
  • Two to three references

Ask a friend in the nursing field for feedback about your resume, as well as how to write your nursing credentials and implement any changes they suggest. An extra set of eyes can help you craft a precise, error-free resume. 

Find Career Opportunities with Host Healthcare

Returning to nursing after a break from RN work is exciting, and with a few front-end steps out of the way, you’ll be back by the bedside and making a difference in the lives of patients. 

If you’re considering travel nursing, look no further than Host Healthcare. We’re so much more than an agency for travelers—once you apply, you’ll be matched with a responsive, caring recruiter who’s ready to arrange all the details of your next travel contract. 

Host Healthcare makes it easier than ever to become a traveler. We set it up, and you show up. If traveling is in your future, we can help you find your perfect assignment.

Reviewed by:

Hannah Wilson, BSN, RN, CCRN

Nursing Specialty: M/SICU, PreOp

I began my career as a new graduate nurse in an M/SICU where I ended up working for 5 years, one year of which I was a Team Leader. In January of 2020, I took my first travel nursing position in a Burn ICU. After 13 weeks there, I spent the next 14 months in a couple of Medical/COVID ICUs in CA where I primarily cared for COVID patients. After 7 years in the ICU, I needed a change and took a permanent position in PreOp in September of 2021, which is where I currently work. Being a nurse have given me so many opportunities and has taught me more than I ever thought it could – I can’t imagine doing anything else!

Sources:

  1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Registered Nurses.” Bureau of Labor Statistics. US Government, 8 September 2021, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm 
  2. Indeed. “What Your Resume Should Look Like: Template and Example.” Indeed. Indeed, 9 April 2021, https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/resumes-cover-letters/what-a-resume-should-look-like