A nurse may hold a license but have left nursing for a couple of years. Now, if she is considering getting back to nursing – she will need to assimilate the changes in the healthcare system, such as the use of greater medical technology.

This is where the re-entry nursing programme comes into play. In tandem to bringing nurses back to clinical practices, this programme has successfully helped nurses with this transition.

Nursing professionals and hospital administrators in some countries; especially USA, Australia and Canada are renowned for the effectiveness of the programme.

It is open annually to potential candidates. By adapting the structure and programme framework, Malaysia and Singapore would apply the similar programme to local nurses and this could be a way to address the nursing shortage.

Benefits through this programme

The purpose of the re-entry nursing programme is to keep nurses’ clinical skills current. With several months of theory classes and clinical training, nurses can revise and brush up their skills.

This enables them to be familiar with the clinical settings that occupy the high-acuity number of patients. For countries that encounter a critical number of Registered Nurses (RN) in training, this programme will be a great platform for local nurses to refresh their nursing practices in a supervised environment.

Requirement for the candidates

Generally, the programme is created for nurses who let their license lapse. In that sense, the policies of the programme basically apply to participants who hold the RN license, but do not meet the current standard of practices, which include those who have had a lapse in practice of five years or more, have held non-practising registration for five or more years, or are no longer on the register.

However, for nurses who have not practised as a RN for 10 years or more – there will be a specific assessment for the candidates to get through prior to being selected to join the programme.


A recognised RN re-entry program will be based on theoretical concepts, simulation labs and onsite clinical practice. The theory will be taught within classes that are filled with lectures, independent study modules, online courses, seminars or a mix of these.

The studies will focus on certain subjects, mostly following the subjects that are related to the certificate offered by the re-entry programme in hospitals. Meanwhile, the simulation labs practice may involve instruction and evaluation by an instructor from a clinical agency. On weekends, nurses are expected to complete eight to 12 hours of clinical training at a liaised hospital where hands-on experience is gained within the supervision of a nurse preceptor.

What happens next when they get hired?

Interestingly, this programme guides nurses entirely until they are hired. On their first day of duty, they will liaise with a preceptor for a couple of days or even a week until they become more familiarised with the setting environments, systems and co-workers.

Most of the nurses who have successfully completed the programme will be placed in the medical-surgical unit even if they work in a different specialty prior to leaving nursing.

Nicolett Fitzgerald, RN, MSN, PhD, manager of staff development at Scripps Memorial Hospital said that starting the nurses out in the medical-surgical unit provides them with the basic practicum they need before returning to their specialty area. She also added, “If they have a passion for their specialty, the ultimate goal is to help them get back to their specialty”.

In many developed countries, the re-entry nursing programme has successfully helped many nurses who left the profession return to clinical sites. With positive response and feedbacks received from nurses, it is hoped that Malaysia and Singapore can offer a similar programme as it can help bring back nurses and reduce the shortage of nurses. MIMS

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