Greenville Technical College in Greenville, South Carolina is helping former nurses with lapsed licenses get the help they need to head back to work. In the first year of the college’s enhanced nurse refresher course, which combines online and in-class work with clinical externships, 58 people enrolled, 31 of whom were over 50 years old.
Minnie Carter, 65, joined the nurse refresher course after the state funding she needed to help raise special needs girls was cut. She needed a job – and fast. In the 1970s, Carter had worked both as a nursing assistant and a nurse, but couldn’t get hired in either profession in recent years without new certification.
After losing her house and “after having my little pity-party,” Carter joined the certified nursing assistant course at Greenville Technical College and worked 14 months as an assistant to see how the profession had changed. At the same time, she brushed up on her computer skills, receiving help from the college.
Carter then took the next step, enrolling in and completing the nurse refresher course, receiving supportive services from college staff along the way. Now a nurse at the Richard M. Campbell Veterans Nursing Home in Anderson, South Carolina, Carter works 12-hour days both Saturday and Sunday and supervises two nursing assistants.
Although 12-hour shifts can be grueling for people at any age, Carter enjoys her work. “I am so thankful that I was brought up into this century,” she says, noting all the help she received to become technologically adept.
Donna Ewing, 50, let her nursing license lapse while she was busy raising her family. After her children grew up, she was ready to return to nursing. Greenville’s nurse refresher course helped her get a job at a rehabilitation facility, where, it turns out, thanks to the course, she was one of only a few nurses who knew how to use the new insulin pens for patients with diabetes.
To help people over 50 with the nurse refresher course, Greenville added in-person training modules to teach students how to:
- take an online course
- use current health care technologies, such as infusion pumps and electronic medical records software
- use online methods to find a job.
To recruit students, program staff used a variety of targeted approaches, including:
- mailing brochures to 5,000 nurses with licenses that had been lapsed for more than 10 years
- sending a press release to the local newspaper, which featured an article about the encore program
- advertising the course in the South Carolina State Board of Nursing publication, Palmetto Nurse
- sending an email blast to current and former nurses about the new modules.
Program staff learned a few lessons in their first year with the new program. Abbe Fass, who leads the nurse refresher course and who is a registered nurse, notes that older students “approach learning differently” and often need additional supportive services like extra time for completion of assignments and additional coaching on using computers and taking online courses.
Fass also notes that older nurses bring an intense work ethic to the classroom that helps them succeed, even though many haven’t been in school for years.