Innovative GCU programme returns hundreds of nurses to NHS

28 February 2018
Irene Kennedy with Return to Practice students

Hundreds of nurses who had left the NHS are now back on the wards, thanks to an education programme which recruits nurses and midwives back to the profession.

Responding to forecasts highlighting the shortage of nursing staff, Glasgow Caledonian University developed the Return to Practice programme to refresh the skills of nurses and midwives who had taken a career break.

Pete Wilson, who lives in Glasgow, graduated as a nurse but ended up doing a wide variety of other jobs including a spell as an organic farmer in the Australian Outback. Peter is part of the latest intake refreshing their professional skills at the University.

He said: “In Australia, I was two to three hours from the nearest hospital, so you think on your feet medicinally. There was always the risk of snake bites, tropical diseases, leeches or cuts that had the potential to lead to tetanus infection – that training always comes back to you. I often worked with the vet, who had the closest x-ray machine; it came in handy when my friend broke his leg.”

The University first launched its Return to Nursing programme in 2015 and since then the popularity of the courses for nurses and midwives have grown year-on-year. To date, more than 300 have successfully completed the 16-week programme, which is funded by the Scottish Government and is now being replicated by other universities.

Nursing programme leader, Irene Kennedy, hails one of the reasons for its success on partnership agreements with hospitals across Scotland which allow students to update their skills in nearby clinical settings no matter where they live.

Irene said: “Our programme is a fast-track way for our students to return to nursing in just 16 weeks. We give them the support they need to study and succeed within the University element of the course, but the vast majority of the programme takes place refreshing their skills on clinical settings. It’s important they can do this as close to home as possible, and it’s also where they enjoy the camaraderie,  which so many miss when they leave the profession.”

Like many nurses taking part in the course, Pete says he always knew he would return to nursing one day: “I went into nursing when I was really young and when I left it was the only thing I knew, and I didn’t want to burn out. It turned out to be a very long gap year and I was always pining after nursing. I’ve come back and I am a lot more mature, with some life experience, having seen some incredible things, and I wanted to bring that back to the NHS.”

Laura MacLeod, trained as a midwife straight from school twenty years ago and left nursing because of childcare issues: She said: “I had two young children and I didn’t have the robust childcare to work shifts. I have been away seven years – it was quite daunting but this course allows people like me who have had career breaks to get back on the professional register to come back and hopefully gain employment throughout Scotland.”

Programme Leader Irene Kennedy added: “I am proud of what the institution and the students have achieved and how we are positively contributing to reduce a forecasted shortage in numbers of nurses in Scotland. Working with our NHS partners, our return to nursing students and midwives bring a wealth of experience back in to the profession.”

Find out more about Return to Practice