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  • 07 January 2019
  • 11 min read

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

  • Matt Farrah
    Co-Founder, Niche Jobs

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 are always entitled to return to work after a career break, but if your registration has lapsed you may need to follow the NMC process for returning to the register.

Nursing jobs in the UK are only available to NMC registered nurses, 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.

An NMC registration is valid for 3 years as long as the annual retention fee is paid and the notification of practice form is returned with at least 15 days before the renewal date.

There are a multitude of reasons why a nurse or midwife’s registration may lapse; from simply forgetting to renew it as 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.

Another reason why a nurse or midwife may have a lapsed registration is if they have not practiced for enough time for their registration to have lapsed, either through working 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:

• Sufficient practice hours undertaken

• Requisite continuing professional development (CPD) undertaken

• Health and Character – basically a declaration you are fit and healthy and have no impairments to being 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.

• References – if required

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

Requirements to rejoin the register as a Midwife

The requirements for rejoining differ according to whether you are a nurse or a midwife.

In order to begin practising as a midwife again, you will need to complete the intention to practise form for the current supervisory year (1 April - 31 March) and have a named supervisor of midwives who, along with your employer, will support you back to work.

You will need to complete the required CPD or clinical practice hours as per a nurse - see below for the requirements for a nurse.

There are Return to Midwifery Practice courses available, which may be of benefit to you if you have not practised for a considerable time.

Every nurse and midwife working in the UK is contractually obliged to renew their registration in order to maintain their employment.

Requirements to rejoin the register as a Nurse

If you are a qualified nurse, you will need to complete some rather specific requirements.

You will need to show that you have complete 750 hours of registered practice in the 5 years previous to your request to rejoin.

You will also need to give evidence of 35 hours of learning activity within the previous 3 years.

Practice experience can include supervisory, teaching, research and managerial roles as well as direct patient care jobs. However, you may not include hours accrued when you were lapsed or not registered (eg, HCA experience).

If you can meet these requirements, you just need to contact the NMC for a readmission pack, which will need to be completed in conjunction with two nominated referees.

There is guidance available to show who is eligible to be a referee for you, and you should contact the NMC directly if you require this.

There is an alternative option for qualified nurses that cannot show the require 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.

Course intakes usually happens in either September or February / March, and consist of a combination of academic study and clinical placement experience.

Arranging your placement is usually your responsibility, and most universities will ask you to supply details of your placement when you apply for the course. 

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 - Ethical and Legals

● 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.

It’s unclear whether any NHS funding is available to cover course fees, but you can enquire when you apply for the university when you apply.

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


Case study


Bronagh's return to midwifery

Bronagh took a career break from midwifery in 2009. She kindly spoke to use about the process she's currently going through to get back into professional midwifery. 

How long has it been since you were last practicing?

I took a career break in 2009 due to family commitments.

At that time I had been practising as a midwife for 9 years and as an adult nurse for3 yrs prior to that.

And you’ve recently decided to pick your midwifery career up?

Yes, I am / have been in the process of trying to get back on the NMC register for quite some time now and it is a lot more difficult than I had been led to believe!

What are the challenges of getting back onto the NMC register?

I do realise I am outside of mainland UK and therefore it’s maybe easier to access the support and requirements needed to be eligible to rejoin the register there.

However my attempts at rejoining the register have been met by several set backs and I have been left feeling frustrated with the situation especially given the shortage of midwives in the UK at the moment!

Tell us what you’ve learned - what would you advise other to do, not do?

My registration lapsed at the end of 2011 as while I had attended CPD days while on my career break I did not meet the required number of clinical Practice hours.

According to NMC guidelines any nurse or midwife hoping to obtain re entry to the Nursing and midwifery registrar following a lapse in registration must have completed between 350-750 practice hours , dependant on how long you have been out of practice, and 35 CPD hours.

If you do not meet these requirements then you must complete a Return To Nursing/Midwifery practice course.

As stated I took a career break and therefore fell short of the requisite number of practice hours to be eligible to re-register so to gain entry to the registrar again my only option is to complete a return to midwifery practice course (RTMP).

Unfortunately this has proven to be a lot more difficult to access than I had anticipated!

I have been trying to access a RTMP for the last several years with no success.

I have contacted the NMC, NIPEC, Queens University Belfast and my local health trust in an attempt to be able to undertake such a course. I have to say that my points of contact at QUB and NIPEC have been very informative and helpful throughout.

When I initially contacted QUB regards a RTMP in late 2011 early 2012 I was told that QUB had not ran a RTMP course in quite some time and were not in a position to say when they would offer one.

However eventually last year they were given the go ahead to commission a RTMP for January 2019 and I was delighted!

Unfortunately due to a lack of applicants they were unable to proceed with the course.

They hope to advertise this course again in April/May of 2019 with the hope that there will be more applicants and the course will go ahead in January 2020.

This will again entail me completing and submitting my application form/ supporting statement of why I should be offered an interview for a place on the course and obtaining referees to support my application.

If my application is successful I would then have to interview for a place on the course - just as I had done years ago to gain a place on my BSc Midwifery course.

I have also contacted university’s in England with the possibility of doing a RTMP via distance learning ,however currently it would not be possible with family commitments as it would entail me doing the study days in England 2 days a week for 10 weeks.

I am also dual qualified and could take a return to nursing practice course here in Northern Ireland - it is ran twice a year.

However my passion is for midwifery and so for the minute I will hold out in hope that this year maybe I will be successful!

However, that all said, I do realise this is more an issue for those practitioners who wish to return to midwifery in NI where there is not the same provision in place to gain access to a RTMP course.

Wow, that’s sounds tough. And like you say, especially at a time when there’s such a shortage / crisis of staff anyway! So there’s no funding for you in NI?

I believe the RTMP which was to be offered by QUB was to be funded by the DOH.

I had asked NIPEC regards funding if I was to secure a place on a RTMP in England.

The response I received was that it would have to be considered at the time of application.

Looking for a complete career change? Here's how to change your career and become a nurse.

For further information about returning to work as a nurse or midwife, visit the NMC information.

About the author

  • Matt Farrah
    Co-Founder, Niche Jobs

I'm fascinated by the career choices we all make. It speaks about who we are. People choose to become a nurse or work in medicine or care for one of two reasons. One: simply, they always wanted to be a nurse or social worker or doctor. Two: even more simply, they want a job which helps people. In our blogs I want to explore these career choices: the ones that put other people first.

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  • Matt Farrah
    Co-Founder, Niche Jobs

About the author

  • Matt Farrah
    Co-Founder, Niche Jobs

I'm fascinated by the career choices we all make. It speaks about who we are. People choose to become a nurse or work in medicine or care for one of two reasons. One: simply, they always wanted to be a nurse or social worker or doctor. Two: even more simply, they want a job which helps people. In our blogs I want to explore these career choices: the ones that put other people first.