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Student experiences of a return to practice programme: a qualitative study

12 August 2021
17 min read
Volume 30 · Issue 15

Abstract

Background:

Nurses, midwives and other health professionals who return to practice come from a range of backgrounds and return for a variety of reasons. Much of the research on return to practice concerns programme provision rather than returnee experience.

Aim:

This qualitative study focused on the experiences of nursing, midwifery and allied health students undertaking a return to practice programme at a higher education institute. It interpreted the perceptions of the student experience of returning to clinical practice following a lapse in professional registration.

Methods:

Data collection methods were qualitative and involved focus groups. Findings were analysed using thematic analysis.

Findings:

Several themes and subthemes emerged from the data, including ‘the importance of returnee identity’ and ‘challenges and barriers’. Findings demonstrated different approaches to and influences on returnees' learning journeys.

Conclusion:

Previous knowledge, skills and experience were often hidden from view and hard to explain although crucial to returnee success.

Nurses returning to practice are a heterogeneous group because they have a variety of backgrounds (self-employed, retired, working in non-nursing health or social care roles, or carers) and academic qualifications (from certificate to PhD level). They had allowed their registration to lapse for a range of reasons, such as caring responsibilities, a life crisis, ill health, relocating abroad or retirement. They are valued for their knowledge and experience, having a love of nursing or midwifery and wanting to make a difference to the lives of patients (Kent, 2015).

This study examined the lived experience of nursing, midwifery and allied health students undertaking a return to practice programme at a university. The first author is programme lead in a university responsible for return-to-practice (RTP) recruitment, and the idea for research was triggered by a returnee comment during a personal tutor session. The returnee had felt criticised for wanting to come back to nursing, and this had a lasting effect on their experience.

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