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In Their Own Words: The Experience of Returning to Acute Care Practice

Asselin, Marilyn PhD, RN,BC; Osterman, Paulette PhD, RN; Cullen, H. Allethaire MSN, RN

Journal for Nurses in Professional Development: May-June 2006 - Volume 22 - Issue 3 - p 104-111
CE Article

The worldwide nursing shortage requires hospitals to utilize innovative recruitment strategies to attract registered nurses. One of these strategies is the "re-entry" program for registered nurses currently employed outside the hospital. Although there is significant literature on the development of such programs and the personal adjustments made by participants, there is a paucity of literature regarding the experience of returning to practice from a professional practice perspective. This study examines the experience of the registered nurse who returns to acute care, using a descriptive, exploratory qualitative design, and asking: (1) What is the meaning of the nurses' experience when returning to acute care practice? (2) To what extent does the practice environment facilitate the retention of nurses who return to practice? (3) To what extent does the practice environment hinder the transition back to practice? Data indicate that returning registered nurses perceptions could be categorized into 3 themes: (1) motivation prior to entry, (2) coping during the process of returning to practice, and (3) the impact of the role of environment in the facilitation of or hindrance to nurse retention. Implications for staff development specialists are discussed.

The purpose of this study was to describe the experience of a nurse returning to acute care practice and identify factors that hinder transition and/or facilitate retention of nurses who return to practice.

Marilyn Asselin, PhD, RN,BC, is Associate Vice President, Patient Care Services, Kent Hospital, Warwick, Rhode Island.

Paulette Osterman, PhD, RN, is Professor, Department of Nursing, Community College of Rhode Island, Warwick, Rhode Island.

H. Allethaire Cullen, MSN, RN, is Education Specialist, Community Outreach, Kent Hospital, Warwick, Rhode Island.

The authors have disclosed that they have no significant relationship with, or financial interest in, any commercial companies pertaining to this educational activity.

ADDRESS FOR REPRINTS: Marilyn Asselin, PhD, RN,BC, Associate Vice President, Patient Care Services, Kent Hospital, 455 Toll Gate Road, Warwick, RI 02886. (e-mail:

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.