Journal of Professional Nursing

Leaving from and returning to nursing practice: Contributing factors

Isabel Jamieson, RN, MNurs(Melb), Senior Lecturer, School of Nursing and Human Services, Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology
Chris Taua, RN, MN (Dist.), Principal Lecturer, School of Nursing and Human Services, Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology

Reference:  Jamieson, I., & Taua, C. (2009). Leaving from and returning to nursing practice: Contributing factors. Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 25(2), 15-27.


Many nurses leave nursing and never return. Others return after a period of time. Given the global shortage of nurses a better understanding of these movements is needed. The present study focused on nurses who had been out of nursing for more than five years, and explored factors that influenced their leaving and return to practice. All the nurses who had undertaken a Competency Assessment Programme at a given New Zealand tertiary institution during 2005 were invited to participate. Of the 70 questionnaires mailed out 32 (44.5%) were completed and returned. Quantitative data were analysed using Microsoft Excel, and the qualitative data were coded and analysed by means of content analysis. For each, leaving and returning, three key issues emerged. Nurses left for personal reasons, to seek a career change, or because of poor working conditions. They returned when they had the personal freedom to do so, for fiscal reasons, or because they were motivated by some sense of unfinished business. These findings indicate that it is important for educators involved with Competency Assessment Programmes to collaborate with employers in ensuring that there are opportunities for re-entry to positive work environments, with a degree of flexibility that suits the demographic characteristics of those nurses returning to practice.

Registered nurse, career break, exiting, re-entry, workforce, returning to practice

Introduction and Background
Since the introduction in New Zealand of the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act (2003) all nurses who have been out of practice for five or more years must successfully complete a Nursing Council of New Zealand approved Competency Assessment Programme. They then become eligible for issue of an Annual Practising Certificate prior to re-employment as a New Zealand Registered Nurse. Given the workforce shortage of registered nurses (RNs) both globally (Zurn, Dolea, & Stilwell, 2005) and locally (New Zealand Nurses Organisation, 2007) knowing why nurses leave and choose to return is important information for Competency Assessment Programme educators so that they can offer appropriate support to nurses as they re-enter......cont.

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