Nurse opens up about emotional return to the NHS after 20 years: ‘it was like coming home’

17 March 2022, 10:47

Find out everything you need to know about returning to the NHS
Find out everything you need to know about returning to the NHS. Picture: NHS

Sharon Swords is one of the many nurses who returned to the NHS through a Return to Practice course.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Nurse Sharon Swords has described the emotional moment she came back to the NHS through a Return to Practice course, saying it was “like coming home”.

She had wanted to be a nurse since childhood, and started her training when she was just 16. Sadly, due to personal reasons, she had to leave the profession 20 years ago.

"Nursing has always been something that I’ve been passionate about," she tells Heart. "I didn't leave because I wasn't happy or anything."

After leaving nursing, Sharon took on what she hoped would be a temporary job, but she ended up working there for 20 years.

She had planned to return to nursing for a while, but finally took the plunge when Covid hit.

Sharon decided to do the Return to Practice course, which helps people who left the NHS return to work. Other routes you can take are Readmission (which you can do if you meet the NMC requirements) or by taking the NMC Test of Competence (which is a mix of an online and practical test).

After being initially concerned that she wouldn't be able to juggle the course with working full time, Sharon became pleasantly surprised by how smoothly it went.

"They make it really easy," she tells us. "So I applied, got a place, and started."

If you, like Sharon, are thinking about returning to the NHS, here's how you can go about it.

Nurse Sharon Swords has opened up about her emotional return to the NHS after 20 years
Nurse Sharon Swords has opened up about her emotional return to the NHS after 20 years. Picture: NHS

Why do nurses return to the NHS?

All sorts of reasons! Many people will have left nursing for personal reasons, like raising a family or starting a new career.

Some nurses may be worried that they've been out of practice for too long, or that they won't remember any of their training - but you don't need to worry.

All sorts of people at different stages of their lives return to practice, and some have been out of the job for decades.

Speaking about her course, Sharon says: "There were people who had only been out 4-5 years, and other nurses like me who had been out 15-20 years because of different circumstances."

She added that there were "lots of different" reasons why people had left and wanted to come back.

All you need is a love of the career, as well as a desire to learn - and relearn - skills.

For many nurses, like Sharon, their love of the profession has always been ingrained in them.

“I’d always wanted to be a nurse - I don’t know why, I just always did," she tells Heart. “It’s something that grabbed me right from when I was little.”

Many of us will have some special memories of nurses, as well as a love and admiration for the profession.

Heart’s Zoe Hardman has opened up about an amazing experience she had with a nurse when she was having surgery on both her knees when she was 23.

“My parents were living in Kenya and I didn’t have anyone here to look after me," she says. "I’d been in surgery and had a general anaesthetic, and when I came round, this lovely nurse named Sally took a complete shine to me as she knew that my parents weren’t going to come and pick me up.

“There was just something really caring about her. She always had a really lovely smile on her face.”

It’s been 15 years since that day, but Zoe describes how she ‘still remembers so vividly’ how lovely Sally was to her. She added: “I’m really grateful for that day actually, and really grateful for her.”

Zoe also urged nurses thinking of coming back to the NHS to do so, saying: “we need you, we need more nurses, and I think what they all do is absolutely incredible.”

Is a Return to Practice course right for me?

If you have a desire to return to nursing, then the course is perfect for you.

Sharon also gave advice to those wondering whether they should do the course, saying: "Don’t think about it, just do it. Seriously.

"I promise that anybody who is doing it, the minute that they walk into that room it will be like coming home. It was for all of us.

"It was the right thing to do. Don’t think about it, just do it. Put one foot in front of the other and just go with it."

Where can I do a Return to Practice course?

The courses are available at universities and NHS organisations across the country. The length of the Return to Practice course varies depending on your individual needs.

Sharon did her course in a year, and it consisted of tuition and placements.

You can find their list of approved programmes here.

What support is available?

If you choose to do a Return to Practice course, your fees will be paid and you’ll get an extra £1,000 for travel, childcare, and books. If you choose to do a Return to Practice course through a Trust, your fees will be paid and you’ll receive a salary or £1,000.

How do I go about returning to the NHS?

Ready to return to a role where you’ll make a real difference? Sign up to this email guide, and the NHS will help you find a way to come back that suits you, tell you what financial support you’re entitled to, and give you the opportunity to have a chat with a member of our team.

Find out more about Return to Practice on the NHS website