So I made a change in my role at work and having worked for two years on the rollercoaster ride of being deputy programme director for undergraduate students I decided to apply to be a programme leader for the Return to Practice (RTP) nursing course. Prior to applying (and much to my shame) I had little awareness of the course, what it entails and the nature of students on the course.
In being actively involved in the recruitment and support of RTP students I found that how challenging attempting this course was going to be for them; some were hoping to fit other jobs around the course, some were getting loans, some had dependents who relied on them.
Many had identified that that they had sacrificed their nursing career due to overwhelming family/personal issues and felt this was their last chance to get back to a career that they loved and worked hard to initially achieve.
Adding to this challenge was the worry and anxiety our students suffer (I feel I can say this now as I can proudly say that I am part of the RTP community) and many of the questions asked by students surround their worries about being good enough, being away from practice too long, using technology etc.). It is really common for me to get enquiries about the course only for the applicant not to apply due to not feeling able to do it.
Having now being in post for nearly 8 months I can honestly say that I have found this to be an incredibly positive experience, I have met some truly inspiring students who have overcome many obstacles to return back to our fantastic profession.
From this experience I have experienced a number of highs and lows (meeting my first cohort was an incredible mix of relief and pride, and whilst we have ups and downs I am incredibly proud of them) and learnt a lot about myself.
I particularly learnt that:
Sometimes what works for in relation to teaching and support for pre-registration students does not always work for post registration students.It is important to set boundaries and guidance when supporting RTP students (particularly in relation to committing to the course and balancing demands of study and outside responsibilities).That in some ways RTP is a “hidden course” that is in the background and misunderstood.
As a result of this, I am passionate about raising the profile of the Return to Practice course and the raising the profile of the wonderful students who I have worked with and will actively work to promote the course. I have already made sure there is a BCU RTP Twitter page to work alongside the work that Health Education England do, as well as working with our marketing team to promote the course. I can already see the benefits with increasing enquiries, consistent numbers of applications for the April and September course (I am aiming for record numbers) and at our open day we were busy with people wanting to return.
The RTP in some way has also helped me personally with my own challenges, I am pushing my own phobias and anxieties to attend conferences and meet with people previously that I would have avoided due to shyness and social phobias.
I would like to say to anyone who considering returning to practice come and do it but be realistic. It is a tough course and it will push you, try and remember just because something is difficult it doesn’t mean that you are not good enough, it means it is difficult! But you can and will do it.
The NHS is a challenging place to work but we need your expertise and skills to come back and help, if you choose a RTP course personally, academically and clinically you will be supported and nurtured and pushed. A number of students who started the course terrified of technology are now engaged in technology whether it is the use of IPad in a clinical area, enrolled on twitter and trying to get their head round hashtags and follows, or actively blogging.
Finally to those of you considering a return you are important and needed, the greatest and most wonderful profession in the world needs you, the NHS needs you, colleagues need you and our patients need you, come back we will look after you.
Chris Jones – Programme Director for Return to Practice Nursing at Birmingham City University (City South Campus).