Return to Nursing Success Story

Return to NursingWhen Lorna Gilchrist felt the call to return to nursing after a seven year break she was a bit anxious - but since completing Southern DHB's Competence Assessment Programme she hasn't looked back.

"It was a big decision to return, but when you're a nurse, you're a nurse, and I felt drawn back to the caring side,"  Lorna says.

Lorna, who works in Southland Hospital's Assessment, Treatment and Rehabilitation Unit (AT&R), originally registered as a nurse in 1975. She spent the next 25 years working in a variety of practice settings in South Canterbury/North Otago, including hospital, aged care and district nursing, before leaving the profession and moving to Invercargill in 2000 to establish a business.

It was in 2007 that Lorna began to seriously consider a return to the nursing workforce, a move she was initially anxious about.

"I had always enjoyed nursing, and the patients make it so worthwhile," she said "However I definitely thought things would have changed and I lacked confidence. I just needed the push."

Through word of mouth and advertising, Lorna heard about the Competence Assessment Programme and decided to enroll.

The accredited programme offers registered and enrolled nurses currently out of practice the opportunity to update clinical skills and theory knowledge in order to work again in a clinical setting. The programme is based on the Nursing Council of New Zealand's requirements of at least 200 hours theory and clinical practice. Southland Hospital's programme is structured to allow for 60 hours learning time and at least 15 mentored clinical shifts. It can be completed in a full time (5 weeks) time frame or part-time (up to three months).

Each nurse who participates in the programme is matched with a senior nurse mentor with the option of working in a variety of wards at Southland Hospital and in some community based placements with appropriate support.

Lorna, who completed the programme in five weeks, said the course was a positive experience and participants felt that they had excellent support.

"I had a really good mentor and we were well received in the wards, which made coming back to the hospital really great."

"Everyone was so welcoming and we felt like we were appreciated for returning to nursing. They wanted us to succeed and we weren't expected to know it all."

Lorna particularly enjoys working in aged care, and was pleased to gain employment in Southland Hospital's Assessment, Treatment and Rehabilitation Unit for Older People, soon after completing the programme.

Lorna's advice for anyone thinking of returning to the nursing workforce is to pluck up the courage and make that phone call.

"I'm really pleased I made the decision to go back. Anyone considering it should know that they will be well supported and that every experience is a learning experience. Don't go back thinking that you need to know it all."