Sometimes life takes a course, which requires an unavoidable break in employment. Depending on the reason why, whether or not it was expected, and the length of time away, re-entering the healthcare workforce after a break may present a challenge.
Re-entering healthcare is unique
The medical field is constantly evolving and changing. An interruption in your professional course, even if for only a few years, could mean missing out on new medications, procedures and technology. For these reasons, re-entering the healthcare workforce can be trickier than resuming work in other fields. Not only does it become a matter of your own professional and clinical confidence, but a matter of being able to provide the most up-to-date standards of care for your patients after spending time away.
This article aims to assist you in addressing and overcoming common obstacles that can pop up along your way back to working in medicine. These hurdles include deciding which type of position will be best suited for your needs and interests, keeping up to date with your qualifications, properly addressing your time away to prospective employers and demonstrating that you remain a high quality candidate.
Addressing the absence
Unfortunately, you will have to prove yourself more than other applicants. After having an employment lapse, employers tend to judge you more harshly. After all, employers prefer a potential long-term employee and do not want you to leave the position after having invested time and resources into your training. They may also be hesitant to hire you if they feel there is a chance of you becoming overwhelmed in balancing the position with your personal and/or family life. For these reasons, be prepared to put in some extra effort in order to prove that external pressures will not detract from your commitment or productivity. The best way to do this is to address the concerns directly! (1)
Addressing a break in employment can be challenging but I would urge you to be as forthcoming as possible about the reason for your employment gap. According to experts at Forbes, you can either wait to address it in person on the interview or incorporate a brief statement to address the gap on your cover letter. (2) Did you return to school to finish a degree or change careers? Was it a medical issue? Was it to raise children or care for an ill family member? Did you relocate? Essentially, show the prospective employer that you are honest and have nothing to hide regarding the unemployed period. Any or all of the aforementioned are reasonable situations!
Explain why you have decided that this is the appropriate time for your return to work. Maybe your children are now in school full-time, your relative now has another caretaker, or you completed the degree you were working on. Establishing that the factor leading to your previous departure is no longer a contender for the majority of your time and attention is imperative. (1) Once you have demonstrated that you have been thoughtful in your decision to return and are in an ideal position in your life to do so, any remaining concerns should be quelled.
Determine your ideal position
Evaluate your needs
Spend time thinking about what type of position would be an ideal match for you. This may be different from what had been a good fit for you in the past. If your situation has changed, you will need to consider your current availability, family responsibilities, medical or physical limitations etc. in order to help determine which position or work environment would be best.
Find your niche
You do not necessarily have to contribute to the profession in the same capacity as before either. Healthcare professionals are fortunate to have numerous options for employment. You can decide on per diem/part-time or full time, clinical or non-clinical positions or choose to or mix-and-match any of the above. If you were involved with direct patient care before, you may want to consider trying your hand in another area such as teaching or consulting. Considering these factors in advance will help you focus your job search and choose a job opportunity that you can fully commit to. (3)
Practice makes proficient
Identify your strengths and weaknesses
Having time away to distance yourself from the field can give you a better perspective on your professional abilities. Consider past employment experiences and pinpoint the components that you found most rewarding and enjoyable. (4) While on hiatus, seek out opportunities to improve your weaker skills or pursue further training in the areas of your profession that most peak your interest.
Sharpen your skills
After time off from work, anyone may feel a bit rusty at even with his/her strongest skills or feel nerves kicking in when returning to patient interactions. Some organizations and hospitals offer clinical courses or “re-training” programs to get back into the swing of patient care and ease your transition. Physicians, nurses and other providers can brush up on skills and patient exchanges to improve self-assurance. (5) Taking extra courses or obtaining special certifications will not only boost your clinical confidence but will also help fill-up the unemployment gap on your resume. Being able to discuss the aforementioned on an interview shows how ambitious and dedicated to life-long learning you are. It also demonstrates to a prospective employer that you will be ready to jump back in full speed ahead. (6)
With your licensure
Make sure you are up to date with all licensing and certifications. This includes, but is not limited to, state licenses and continuing education credits. It also includes other certifications such as basic life support training or infection control (as indicated for your position).
With your profession
Research the new technological trends and treatment advancements in your field. (4) Showing that you have not fallen behind the learning curve and are eager to get back in the game to utilize the new techniques and modalities is imperative. Sign up for courses or webinars, which can usually be completed remotely from home, to keep abreast on these relevant subjects.
Talk about it
When you are ready to get back to work, talk about it! (7) Discuss what you are looking for with your friends, family and colleagues so that they will keep you in mind if an appropriate position should open up. Attending professional meetings and conferences can also be an asset at this time. In addition to providing networking opportunities, you can confer with colleagues regarding current practices.
Write about it
If you have the chance to contribute to a professional publication or complete research in the interim time that would be a great idea! This can range from contributing to professional blogs or newsletters to conducting medical research. Publications offer a way to continue being involved in the profession remotely and will help buff up your resume when the time comes. It also allows for a means of professional collaboration, which can help keep doors open for future job opportunities.
Social medias platforms, such as LinkedIn, are an extremely valuable tool for networking. (8) Post your updated resume and include new skills or certifications you may have acquired so that others can easily access your qualifications. LinkedIn and professional groups on Facebook are great ways to keep well informed of both job openings and professional education opportunities. (9) Job search websites, such as CovalentCareers and Indeed, also allow you to post your resume (for free), provide easy application processes and allow prospective employers to search your qualifications and contact you if interested.
Set new goals
As you “relaunch” your healthcare career, it is important to set new professional goals; these should be both short and long-term goals. Consider the professional path you would like to be on, which may be slightly different from what you had planned 5 or 10 years ago. (8) Try to be as realistic as possible in setting the goals, making sure to consider any aspects of your life that have changed or are outside of your control.
It might take some time to find the “perfect” position. If an opportunity does not present itself right away, consider taking part-time or per diem positions in the interim. Choose “stepping stone” positions that will enhance your resume by adding to your skill set and help you in reaching your ultimate professional goals. (3) Keep on your search and keep on networking until something more ideal comes along. (1)
Make sure you are mentally prepared and have the time and energy to commit to a new position! Expect a transition period while you ease your way back into the swing of things. Being confident in your own decision to go back to work is first step. Then consider what position will be a good fit, reach out to your network and keep at it until your find what you are looking for.
- Clark, D. How Stay-at-Home Parents Can Transition Back to Work. Harvard Business Review. April 2017.
- Quast, L. Addressing Work Gaps in Your Cover Letter. Forbes. November 2014.
- Salpeter, M. A Game Plan for Relaunching Your Career. February 2014. U.S. News & World Report: Money.
- Collamer, N. How to Relaunch Your Career After Time Away. Forbes. August 2014.
- Gorman, A. For Doctors Who Take A Break From Practice, Coming Back Can Be Tough. Kaiser Health News. June 2015.
- Smith, J. Here’s How To Explain An Employment Gap On Your Resume. Business Insider. March 2014.
- Johnson, W. What it’s like when a stay-at-home dad goes back to work. Harvard Business Review. April 2016.
- Tolver, K. 4 Powerful Strategies for Relaunching Your Career in 2018. Entrepreneur. January 2018.
- McCluskey, M. Gaps in your resume, what you need to know. U.S. News & World Report: Money. November 2015.