Returning to nursing after a career break
In the Conservative 2019 election manifesto, much was made of the promise to recruit 50,000 more nurses by 2024-2025. A key element of this pledge is to encourage former nurses to return to practice. Whether you’re an experienced RGN with years of frontline NHS experience, or you’ve spent time working in secure settings as a prison nurse, the requirements to return to practice are set out by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).
If you’re considering a return to the nursing profession here’s what you need to do.
The NMC readmission requirements
To work as a nurse in the UK, you must be registered with the NMC. If your nursing career break has been longer than you anticipated, then you will need to reapply to join the register.
The NMC readmission criteria are comprehensive; it focuses upon practice hours, continuing professional development, professional indemnity, language skills and revalidation as well as your general health and wellbeing and your chosen referees.
The most important part of the readmission criteria is your number of practice hours.
“You must have undertaken registered practice for either:
450 hours in the three years before you start your readmission application, or 750 hours in the five years before you start your readmission application.”
If you have not been able to complete the set amount of required practice hours, then you will be expected to complete the new test of competence or participate in a return to practice course.
Updating your CPD and revalidation
Continual learning is a crucial aspect of being a nurse. Medical advances are happening daily, so it’s vital that you’re up to date on the latest patient care. Your CPD activities form a huge part of the revalidation process, so if you’ve been away from nursing practice for a while, it’s time to dust off your textbooks.
The NMC readmission criteria state that you need to have demonstrable proof of 35 hours of learning in the three years prior to your readmission application.
You also need to ensure that your revalidation portfolio is accurate and up to date. Revalidation is required every three years; it’s a requirement of the NMC registration renewal process and it is designed to promote continual good practice. Every nurse on the register needs to provide evidence of their continual learning, and revalidation is a core part of this.
The revalidation process was launched in April 2016 and the NMC states that “If you're applying for readmission within 6 months of your revalidation due date, you’ll need to complete some of the revalidation requirements.”
We know that there will be many nurses who have been out of practice for far longer and will never have participated in revalidation at all. In these cases, it’s still relatively straightforward to re-join the NMC register.
If you are unable to meet the practice hours or the CPD requirements
The NMC is realistic and knows that there are many hugely talented and highly experienced nurses who may have previously left the profession but could be considering a return to the field. The NMC has been keen to stress that regardless of how long you’ve been out of practice, this will not prevent you from re-joining the register.
If you know that you will not meet the readmission criteria, then you should look at the return to practice standards which were updated in May 2019.
The standards state that former nurses in these scenarios should choose to either complete an approved return to practice programme (which are available throughout the UK) or you can take a test of competence. Both options are designed to test your knowledge and competency to ensure that you still meet the high standards required by the NMC.
Once you’ve passed your programme or your competency test, you will be able to re-register with the NMC and start working in your preferred field.