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Nursing refresher course programs can aid recruitment

BY: Eileen Williamson, MSN, RN on September 25, 2019

There’s a lot of information out there on return-to-practice programs for nurses.

As recruiters, you are in the best position to find and use nursing refresher course information to help returning nurses “come home again.”

I think many would agree being able to put our careers on hold at one time — and come back at another — is one of the great things about being a nurse.

At different points in our careers for a variety of reasons, we decide to stop working for a time, only to find when we’re ready to return the door to re-entry isn’t easy to open.

It’s that time of year when you’re working on next year’s recruitment program, so if you don’t have a great re-entry process in place why not research what’s new out there in the design of current return-to-practice programs?

Your major goal always is to recruit and retain good nurses, so don’t allow yourself to lose them because your program isn’t all it could be.

Make nursing refresher course programs work for you

First and most important is having a nursing refresher course program that works for everyone.

In the past there were issues that made return-to-practice programs not only difficult for nurses’ lives and careers, but also less than effective in providing them a successful re-entry. The goal of current programs is to be best at both.

One such program is Allegheny Health Network’s RetuRN to Practice program that focuses on engaging returning nurses in current professional practice and enculturating them back into their department, specialty and unit.

They describe their program as one that seeks to return nurses to the bedside and other practice sites by focusing on successfully re-integrating them into the workplace.

This includes things like:

  • Flexible scheduling
  • Paid refresher courses
  • A support network
  • 12-week refresher course in collaboration with the University of Delaware

Nurses stop their careers for different amounts of time for different reasons, such as:

  • Child care
  • Parent care
  • Supporting the work needs of their spouses
  • Advancing their own education

When nurses are ready to return, they are at different places in both their lives and careers. Your program needs to be able to accommodate all those differences.

“Recruiting and retaining nurses is not an easy task,” said Press Ganey CNO Christy Dempsey, MSN, MBA, RN, CNOR, CENP, FAAN, to HealthLeaders Media. “It requires that we understand the drivers of job satisfaction across the nursing life cycle.”

Particularly interesting in her advice are the words, “across the nursing life cycle.”

Extended time periods away can mean the end of a nursing career for some if organizations don’t work to accommodate their current work-life needs.

As you set up your nursing refresher course program, remember you’ll have many nurses with many different stories and you need to have options to attract and accommodate all of them.

Attraction leads to good recruitment — accommodation to successful retention.

Tips to tailor your nursing refresher course program

  1. Remember, you’re not just hiring, you are engaging returning nurses and making them part of your organization, so take all of their talents and needs into consideration.

  2. You’re not just signing them off on a check list of skills. You’re bringing them back into current nursing practice.

  3. The life the nurse had most recently is not going away, so be mindful of child care and family needs with flexible staffing plans, connections with college programs, on-site child care and more.

  4. Make the re-entry process welcoming for those not quite ready to return by having information on preliminary things they can do to prepare.

  5. Assign some of your most senior nurses to be experts and preceptors for your returnees.

  6. Provide mentors and set up returning nurse cohorts who provide additional support in the early stages of the program.

  7. Former employees who took time off may decide to return. They are a special group to think about including in your plan. How wonderful if your program makes them feel you’re glad they’re back. They have much to offer because they know the facility. But remember they’ll also likely have doubts, fears and questions about being out so long.

  8. Some may have allowed their nursing licenses to lapse and may not be sure what they need to do now that they’re ready to return to practice. Have information ready about how to get their license reinstated or reactivated and what your state and board of nursing requires.

  9. Consider paid tuition for returnees in need of certain mandatory continuing education courses or paying some of the return-to-practice costs of needed continuing education, online classes, etc.

  10. If you’re not able to set up a new program for 2020 at your facility, have information on local college-based programs or online programs available in your area.

Remember, each nurse’s success at re-entry is all about the thought and preparation you put into your return-to-practice program.

You want returning nurses to be ready to work for you and your patients, but you first need to get them ready.

Do all you can to make their return to practice successful. Be the employer who says, “We want you back in nursing.”

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Eileen Williamson, MSN, RN

Eileen Williamson, MSN, RN, is a former senior vice president and chief nurse executive who led nursing programs and initiatives. She continues to write and act as a consultant for Nurse.com. Before joining the company in 1998, Williamson was employed by North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in New York, where she held a number of leadership positions in nursing and hospital administration, including chief nurse at two of the system’s member hospitals. She holds a BSN and an MSN in administration, and is a graduate fellow of the Johnson & Johnson University of Pennsylvania Wharton School Nurse Executives program. She also is a board member and past president of the New Jersey League for Nursing, a constituent league of the National League for Nursing.