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Why I chose to return to practice 



Ann Walsh explains why she decided to return to nursing after retiring at the age of 55.

Nursing vacancies in England rose to a record-high of almost 44,000 in the first quarter of 2019, the latest figures show. If current trends are not reversed, this figure could rise to 100,000 in the decade. NHS England is attempting to tackle the shortage of nurses in part by encouraging nurses who have left the profession to return to practice. They have a target of 1,500 to 2,000 nurses returning to work over the next two years.

I am a return to practice nurse. Originally, I trained as a nurse in Leicester – working at Leicester Royal Infirmary, Leicester General and at former Groby Road Hospital, and eventually becoming a district nurse sister. However, for the past 15 years, I have worked as a practice manager. As I had a young family, I wanted to work part-time but this was tricky in nursing, so I moved into a variety of NHS training and management roles.

By the age 55, I wanted to retire. Working as a practice manager can be highly pressured, and I wanted to step back and enjoy a slower pace of life. However, soon after retiring, I found I missed being with patients – and knew I wanted to return.

I’m at the stage of my career where I’m not looking to rise through the ranks. I just want to use my skills and experience as I was originally trained to do. But in order to return to nursing, I needed an up-to-date registration from the NMC. 

To obtain this, I decided to do the University of Northampton’s return to professional practice course. This 16-week course aims to help nurses who have had a break to ‘enhance and hone their existing knowledge and skills, so that they can confidently return to practice’. After successfully completing the course nurses can re-register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and start applying for nursing roles. 

I really enjoyed it and can highly recommend the course. The curriculum is excellent. The tutors are supportive and do an excellent job in facilitating the course and bringing us all together as a team.

From a young mum aged 27 through to people of my age, there was quite an age range on my course and it was great to connect with other nurses. I also had an excellent placement at a GP practice at Hockley Farm in Leicester. 

‘There is more pressure on nurses now’ 

There were some challenges though. Since I first practiced, a lot has changed in the NHS. The main difference is probably the increase in pressure on nurses now, meaning the workplace can be a difficult environment in which to set good standards. 

Technology has become more prominent in the role too. This can be a big help but can also add to our workload if it’s not designed with the end user in mind.

However, I always say to people that what patients want from a nurse is still the same. They want someone kind, caring and competent, and most are usually extremely grateful for the care they receive.

I finished the course towards the end of last year and plan to apply to become a GP nurse in a local practice, as I don’t want to work on hospital wards again. Working in a GP practice is something I’m familiar with, as I’ve spent the past 15 years managing two practices. I understand the political context, the job remit and what is expected of a practice nurse. I’ll also be able to spend more time with patients than is often the case on an acute ward.

‘The NHS is crying out for nurses’ 

My advice to anyone thinking about returning to nursing is to just get on and do it. The NHS is crying out for nurses, so everyone who passes a return to practice course will be able to secure a job. Nurses build up a lot of knowledge and expertise over their careers, which is still relevant today. The course just ensures they are up-to-date and can fit smoothly back into the workforce. 

It’s been a really positive experience to use the skills and experience I have built up over many years to help care for people. I’m looking forward to nursing for the foreseeable future.

The University of Northampton is one of the partners in the ‘Best of Both Worlds’ recruitment campaign. It is the first campaign of its kind to address the national shortage of doctors and nurses by highlighting the many benefits of relocating to Northamptonshire, including the varied career opportunities and better quality of life.

The campaign unites the University of Northampton, Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Northampton General Hospital, Kettering General Hospital (KGH), St Andrew’s Healthcare and Northants GP.

For more information on the return to professional practice course at the University of Northampton visit https://www.northampton.ac.uk/courses/return-to-professional-practice/