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Careers resource for returning to practice

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If you have taken a break from Nursing, which has led to you no longer being on the NMC register, there are several routes to help you to get back into Nursing. This section illustrates some of the different routes and settings where you might work after returning.

🎬 - Indicates the role contains a video case study

🎧 - Indicates the role contains a podcast case study

Watch Alison’s story below, who took early retirement and returned to practice during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whatever your reason for considering a return to nursing, your skills and previous experience can be used in roles across all settings. 

Return to practice


Name: AyonaAyona - Return to work

Job title: Unpaid carer to her daughter. Not currently in paid employment. 

Setting: always worked in hospital before leaving nursing

Ayana was a staff nurse in an adult ward 8 years ago but decided to leave the role to look after her daughter who has autism. She’s now really keen to go back into nursing and has been developing an interest in the care home setting. 

Goals and Needs: She would like to know how to return to nursing and move into the care home setting but doesn’t know where to start.

How do you make this change

First, identify a care home with nursing provision which currently has assessors/supervisors/mentors and who has already supported pre-registration students on placement or supported a previous nurse to return to practice after a career break. This can be done by arranging to speak to the care home manager who will have this information and will also be able to tell you if they are able to support you to return to practice with them.

You can either seek employment as a support worker in this care home, which will provide experience in caring for people in a care home setting before being supported onto the return to practice programme. Alternatively, you can apply directly to a university for a place on a return to practice programme and ask the care home if they are willing to provide the placement for you whilst on the programme. 

What do you need to do to return to practice and find work in a care home

Each UK country provides information on returning to practice with a host of information on how to access courses and how to apply:

Education and training

All registered nurses with active registration are recorded on the NMC register. To ensure this registration is current, every registered nurse must undertake a revalidation process every 3 years. If you have not been through this process and as a result have lapsed from the NMC register for fewer than 6 months, there is a process which can be followed to be readmitted onto the register.

The NMC have recently consulted on its Return to Practice processes and we would urge anyone who is looking to return to look at the NMC website

If you have to undertake a return to practice programme these are university-based and run at degree level. If you have been out of academic practice for more than 10 years, or have not studied at degree level before, then many universities run study skills courses. These are usually 3-6 weeks in length and prepare you to get back into study and to study at degree level.

Return to practice programmes are usually generic and not field specific. They include academic learning and placement hours. Programmes can vary in length from 3-6 months depending on how many years you have been out of practice. If you are in employment, the programme can be undertaken part time.

Across the UK, Return to Practice programmes are fully funded at the present time.

Personal characteristics

  • A commitment to study and to undertake placements
  • A willingness and ability to balance competing home and work life commitments
  • Enthusiasm to return to nursing

Where can I find out more

There are return to practice leads in universities across the country. Contacts for these leads can be found on the individual university websites.  

In England, there are return to practice leads in local Health Education England offices. To be put in contact with the relevant lead, visit the Health Careers website and use the number or contact form at the bottom of the page.

Where the role can lead

Becoming a registered nurse - social care is changing, and people being cared for in social care are becoming more complex. Roles such as specialist practitioner and advanced clinical practice level roles are being developed in care homes with nursing, to provide the service required for changing patient needs.

Being a registered nurse in social care can also lead to a management role, such as a care home manager. 


Woman 9Lisa qualified with a diploma in Nursing in 2002. She worked for 9 years on a surgical ward at her local hospital, looking after people who had undergone different types of surgery, from orthopaedic to plastic. 

Lisa’s husband was offered a job opportunity in Abu Dhabi and the family moved there for 6 years. Initially Lisa kept up her nursing registration, however as time went on was unable to meet the requirements of revalidation and her registration lapsed.  

On returning to the UK Lisa was really keen to get back into nursing and, encouraged by her family, she looked into re-joining the register. Searching on her local university website she found they did a return to practice programme in general practice nursing. Having loved her General Practice placement as a student, Lisa chose to return to practice within General Practice and fulfil a long-held desire to become a General Practice Nurse. 

As a General Practice Nurse Lisa continues to undertake further training to build her knowledge and skills in this setting. 

What is a Return to Practice Programme in General Practice Nursing?

This programme combines academic study with clinical placements in General Practice settings to develop the knowledge and skills needed to re-join the NMC register. The academic study includes topics such as recognising and managing deterioration, end of life care and medicines management as well as written assignments. Placements are done within General Practice and you will be supernumerary, in order to maximise learning opportunities in a safe practice environment.

You will have a practice assessor and practice supervisor to support you in practice as well as an academic supervisor. The programme takes approximately 6-9 months to complete and once completed successfully, you can then apply to the NMC to re-join the register. 

What do you need to do to return to practice in general practice nursing?

In England, the Return to Practice programmes are funded by Health Education England. Details of the programmes in England can be found here. Here you can also register your interest, and someone will get in touch to talk you through the process, which includes identifying a programme provider. 

There is also a self-fund option by finding a local/accessible university which does the Return to Practice programme and applying directly. Whichever route you choose to undertake, placements are organised by the university as part of the programme. You will need to be able to manage your time effectively to fit in academic study, assignments, placements and home life. You will need to be self-motivated to learn; some of the return to practice programme may be done online. 

Each university may have their own admissions criteria, however generally you need to have studied to a minimum of diploma level and had active NMC registration previously. You will be asked for a character reference, a DBS check and occupational health clearance. 

Personal characteristics 

  • Interest in preventing ill health and giving continuity of care
  • Motivation
  • Organisation
  • Determination
  • Optimism
  • Excellent communication skills

Where can I find out more

Where the role can lead

The General Practice Nurse is vital member of the General Practice team. General Practice Nurses can have their own patient list, supporting the management of long term conditions such as diabetes, chronic obstructive airways disease and high blood pressure. They can give vaccinations, childhood immunisations, perform cervical screening and undertake health checks.

Once you are a General Practice Nurse, further training can be undertaken to develop knowledge and skills to become an Advanced Nurse Practitioner or Nurse Consultant.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, a 12 week programme for a return to Part 1 of the register is available and nurses apply for a position on completion of the programme in whichever area they wish to work.

In the case of a General Practice nurse, there is a specific GP Nurse course available at Ulster University and currently GP federations are supporting registrants who wish to work in primary care, to undertake the course. 


In Scotland, the Return to Practice Funding Scheme, managed by NHS Education for Scotland (NES) aims to provide funding to support former nurses and midwives by paying their university programme fees.

The Scottish Government have a new funding model where candidates apply to an NHS Board or independent employer for a returner vacancy. More details about Return to Practice can be found here.


Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) provide a full NHS bursary, including tuition fees and a non-repayable bursary (£1,000). Further details are available here: Health Education and Improvement Wales - Return to practice for Nurses, Midwives and Specialist Community Public Health Nurses.

Students can enquire regarding route back into practice nursing across Wales AEI’s although placements for general practice nursing are based on commitment and placement capacity from the health board. 

Page last updated - 25/03/2023