• 04 April 2019
  • 7 min read

How to return to professional nursing or midwifery practice after a career break

  • Ruth Underdown
    Adult Nurse
  • 0
  • 24263

If you’ve had a career break from nursing or midwifery, you may decide you want to return to your profession. Here’s how to get back on the NMC register.

Returning back to nursing can be daunting... here's the necessary information to make it as seamless as possible.

As a qualified nurse or midwife, you must meet practice hours requirements in order to remain on the NMC register.

If you fail to meet this standard then you will need to go through the requirements laid down by the NMC to reregister.

If you have worked as a nurse or midwife in the last 3yrs (450hrs) or 5yrs (750hrs) then you can apply to be readmitted onto the register, as long as you can meet all the criteria required.

If you have not met the minimum standards then you will need to attend a Return to Practice course which varies in length from 3mths to a year in length at university.

Posts advertised in the UK for nurses and midwives are only available if you are an NMC registered nurse or midwife, and unless you are currently registered with the NMC (or soon to be) you will not be able to apply for any vacancies.

In order to legally work as a nurse or midwife in the UK, you must have an active NMC registration.

If this registration lapses, for whatever reason, it is a criminal offence to continue to practice as a nurse or midwife and if you forget to renew your registration whilst employed, you may face disciplinary processes from your employer.

It is also worth noting that it can take between 2 and 6wks to be readmitted onto the register.

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An NMC registration is valid for 3 years as long as the annual retention fee is paid prior to the renewal date.

If you do not pay your renewal fee on time, your registration will lapse, and you will automatically be removed from the NMC register.

You can now also pay by quarterly or annual direct debit which allows you to spread the cost of your registration over the course of the year and can help to prevent this from happening.

There is a multitude of reasons why a nurse or midwife’s registration may lapse; from simply forgetting to renew it at the appropriate time to not having undertaken the required number of practice or CPD (Continuing Professional Development) hours or not being able to meet another required standard for successful revalidation.

Nurses or midwives may have a lapsed registration is if they have not practised for enough time for their registration to be renewed, either through travelling abroad or through a career break.

Being readmitted on to the NMC Register

In order to be readmitted to the NMC register, there are several criteria any nurse or midwife needs to fulfil.

They boil down to:

• A minimum of registered practice hours undertaken 450hrs in the 3 years prior to readmission 750hrs in the 5 years prior to readmission

• Requisite continuing professional development (CPD) undertaken 35hrs CPD in the 3 years preceding readmission

• Health and Character – basically a declaration you are fit and healthy, have no criminal convictions and no impairments to be able to practice effectively

• Professional indemnity arrangement (basically malpractice insurance) – the NHS insures its staff to practice, but if you’re in the private sector this is something you will need to sort out yourself – check if it is covered by your trade union membership such as the RCN or Unison

• References – if required

• English Language requirement – you must be able to prove you have the necessary command of the English language.

Return to Practice

There is an alternative option for qualified nurses and midwives that cannot show the required hours of practice, and that is to complete a returning to practice nursing course.

There are many universities throughout the UK that offer this type of course, but they are all very similar in content.

There are usually two intakes per year.

Either September or February / March, and consist of a combination of academic study and clinical placement experience.

You will need to apply directly to the university of your choice and be invited to interview.

At the interview, your needs will be discussed and how you can fit the course around your life and circumstances.

Some employers will offer Return to Practice placements with the offer of permanent employment at the end.

These are ‘employer led’ return to practice courses where you will be paid, usually at Band 3 whilst you are working towards your reregistration as a nurse.

It is worth looking out for these positions as it will provide you with an income whilst you are training.

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What happens on a Return to Practice Nursing Course

You will attend a university campus on a part-time basis to complete an academic theory module, and in conjunction with this, you will also attend a clinical placement for the duration of the course.

The academic portion of the course will focus on a student centred approach to learning and will cover some common themes, whichever university you choose to study with.

You will cover topics such as:

● Reflective Policy

● Health and Social Policy

● Research Awareness

● Teaching and Learning

● Professional Issues - Ethics and Legal

● Health Promotion

● Communication Skills

● Drug Administration

● Clinical Issues - inc. wound management, diabetes and infection control

● Manual Handling


● Study skills, critical reading and referencing

Your clinical placement experience will give you the opportunity to put your refreshed academic knowledge into practice.

You will work closely with a named mentor who will re-introduce you to working at registered nurse level.

You will achieve specific learning outcomes and your mentor will validate your learning experience.

Once the course is completed you will send evidence of your learning achievements along with your application to re-register to the NMC, and once the renewal is paid you can expect your NMC pin number to arrive within 4-6 weeks, although it has been known to take both less and more time than this!

How to apply for a Return to Practice Course

All Return to Nursing or Midwifery Practice courses are run through universities, but you don’t apply through UCAS as with other university-level courses.

You should enquire directly to the university you want to study with for an application pack. Health Education England should help to fund your return to practice course if you are in England.

Different arrangements are in place for devolved parts of the UK.

There's more information about courses on the NHS 'Returning to nursing' page. 

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  • Ruth Underdown
    Adult Nurse

About the author

  • Ruth Underdown
    Adult Nurse

Since qualifying in Adult Nursing in 2002 I’ve worked as a specialist nurse with the NHS, and in the private sector as a general nurse and sessional nurse for a hospital at home team (I’ve been about a bit!).

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