• 07 April 2020
  • 7 min read

Things to consider if returning from a nursing secondment

  • Katie James-Lawrie
    General Practice Nurse
"We all get into a rut at some point or another in all aspects of life and a secondment can offer a short term alternative."

General Practice Nurse, Katie James-Lawrie discusses the benefits of a nursing secondment and gives some key points to keep in mind when returning.

Topics covered in this article

What is a nursing secondment?

What are the advantages of a secondment?

What are the barriers to taking a secondment?

How will a nursing secondment change my work dynamic when I return to my job?

What are the important things to remember?

What is a nursing secondment?

You've heard the word ‘secondment’ being battered around, but what is it?

It is a temporary transfer of an employee to another area of work.

This can be both internal and external, for example, internal transfer into management for career development or a worker who wants to advance their skills as a nurse by going to study externally at a university.

Both of these give you a chance to gain new skills and experience providing specific benefits to your employer.

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A secondment can be both short term or long term depending on the agreement with your employer, host employer and yourself.

It's also worth noting these changes can be made permanent, depending on the secondment and your personal development.

What are the advantages of a secondment?

A secondment will offer you new skills in an area of potential interest. This will boost your career development as well as increasing or fine tuning the skills you already have.

These new skills are desirable to you, as well as your primary employer, in order to enhance their workforces strengths.

Also, you bring skills from your initial employment which are beneficial for your host employer and their workforce.

In the instance of career progression, taking a secondment at a different management level or in an area of interest can prove beneficial as it allows you to make a move to ‘test the waters’ if you were.

This way you can decide if you like the new role without making a permanent jump.

Agreeing to a secondment can open your eyes to new perspectives and opportunities.

You will have exposure to a variety of different people with varying skill sets and different skill levels, both managerial and task oriented.

These can always be adapted or taken forward into your new role or returning role with your primary employer.

Depending on the secondment terms, your original job will be saved, so you can have your cake and eat it.

It is a good idea to have the secondment agreement in writing, including the three parties wishes, to prevent complications if they do so arise.

We all get into a rut at some point or another in all aspects of life and a secondment can offer a short term alternative with the added benefits of the above.

Sometimes, a change from ‘the norm’ will give a new lease of life to a much loved job.

What are the barriers to taking a secondment?

There is a certain level of upheaval to be expected.

Some people adapt to this with great ease, whilst others may find it harder.

Depending on your secondment agreement, you may find yourself having to adapt home-life to suit the roles new needs, this could be a change in the days or hours worked or even the location, for instance a university campus.

There may be a level of uncertainty in your new role, it's a big jump into an area of unknown and it's not always clear what is expected of you.

A clear line of communication between your primary employer, host and yourself will prevent any unknown niggles.

Also, as stated earlier a written agreement will be hugely beneficial.

In some cases, the job you left may not be available to you upon return.

If this occurs another job will be offered either in a similar position or area, or alternatively, you may be offered a promotion or a complete job change.

This will depend on a lot of factors and each situation is unique to that of the individuals involved.

How will a nursing secondment change my work dynamic when I return to my job?

It's important to realise that when a secondment is offered there are a lot of potential changes, for both better and occasionally worse.

If you have left a position lower then the one you're returning from, for example jumping a band, 5 to 6, you may find it difficult to adapt or maintain the established working relationships if returning to the original place of work.

Alternatively, you may return back to a new ward and the dynamic may not suit you.

Both of these can be helped by maintaining regular contact with managers.

When returning to work from a secondment there is a potential that your job role may have changed.

If you have gained or fine tuned some skills, it may be that these are expected to be utilised to the fullest, for instance, taking an advanced nurse practitioner course will enable you to make decisions through critical analysis and evidence based practice.

Or similarly returning to practice as a nurse and not an HCA, will have your role transfer from assisting the nurses to making those nursing decisions.

After a secondment there is a chance that you will have progressed a step too far and you may have become over qualified for the role you are returning to.

Due to this you may want to look for other job options better suited to the new skill set and the experience you've gained.

However, there may be a time period you have to stay with your primary employer, so be sure to discuss this when talking regarding the terms of your secondment.

Upon return you may have to experience other changes, for instance, there may be a change in hours, location or pay.

These are topics which can be discussed so a mutual agreement can be decided.

Usually, a change in circumstance will be discussed with you prior to you returning to your usual workplace, and will involve your employer and yourself.

What are the important things to remember?

It is important to keep the lines of communication open in order to keep the transition between starting and returning from a secondment as smooth as possible.

This is a mutual responsibility involving all parties as it will allow a focus on exactly what is expected of you upon your return.

Ensure that you know who you are reporting to, to keep things simple and structured.

This will enable issues to be dealt with in a more efficient manner and limit any confusion and possible conflict between all parties.

Lastly, remember secondments are hugely beneficial to all, both employee, employer and host employer.

The skills and experience you can access are both invaluable to you and your career development and personal growth.

However, they are not suited to everyone and this is ok too.

  • Katie James-Lawrie
    General Practice Nurse

About the author

  • Katie James-Lawrie
    General Practice Nurse

I'm Katie, a part-time General Practice Nurse and a ‘part-time’ mummy (If you can ever be one of those). I have 12 years experience in nursing with a mere year of that experience working within General Practice.

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