Letting my Personal Identification Number (PIN) lapse from the Nursing and Midwifery Council was a big decision as it meant that I could no longer practice as a nurse. At the time I let mine lapse I was still working in the NHS, still working in health and care and using my experience to advise on strategy, commissioning and policy decisions but no longer providing clinical care to patients. 

I hear many stories about people who knew as a child that they would become a nurse, see some beautiful pictures of them as tiny tots in a nurses uniform and read many articles about people only ever wanting to be a nurse. I don’t recall having these thoughts or feelings, in fact I don’t actually recall when I decided to be a nurse but in September 1983 I arrived at Russells Hall Hospital Dudley, moving into the nurses’ home as the hospital was still being built.

I loved my training (well most of it ...) and was so proud to qualify in 1986. This career has given me some fabulous opportunities including working in diabetes services, adult intensive care, a dialysis unit, managing a nursing agency, transplant coordination, clinically managed networks, improvement and transformation of large scale change programmes. I have been so lucky and feel so privileged to enjoy a career that the NHS and independent sector have to offer.

Deciding to reinstate my PIN wasn’t really that big a decision as it was always only a thought away. It was my then line manager Lynne Winstanley, in one of our one to one meetings, whilst setting my objectives for the coming year, who helped me to prioritise it and take action - there is definitely something powerful about putting something in writing and saying it out loud! 

Deciding which University to go to was pretty straightforward as Birmingham City University is only a few miles away. Their clinical practice partners were all in Birmingham but I had a secret desire to go back to the hospital where I completed my original training. I rang Julie, a colleague of mine from the Network era and a senior nurse at Russells Hall Hospital. After a coffee we agreed that the Surgical Assessment Unit with a gynaecology ward was a perfect clinical placement for me. 

Natalie, the then Band 7 Ward Manager, was appointed  my sign off mentor along with Nicollet. Both are amazing and inspirational. They are leaders with a "sense of agency" - that is, skills, confidence and ability to make a positive difference, an innate ability to influence and make change happen. Everyone was friendly when I arrived on my very flexible shift patterns and walking onto the ward to see Matt and Lucy on duty was always particularly motivating.

I remember once being told that you can tell the personality of a ward manager by the environment when they are not there. This is so true on B5, indeed across the surgical division. Julie creates the conditions for her team to be able to do their work with skill, autonomy and passion and this feeds across the system through Sara, my Matron to the team leaders. Even when things got busy (which they did at times!!) the ethos and values remained focused on person centred care and support for each other.  These are important conditions, especially for students, to thrive rather than survive.

I was anxious as I drove for my first morning shift but honestly within 10 mins of handover I though "I’ve got this" . There was loads to learn; ladies who have has a hysterectomy go home within 24 hours rather than 10 days, there are many more types of insulin than I used to give, and we don’t do the Australian lift, instead slide sheets that have enormous positive impact when used correctly, to name a few.

I met some amazing people during my clinical practice, including the daughter of someone in my original intake in 1983 - it’s a small world! Everyone had an important role and worked together to make people’s experience positive. Karen, Vicki and Keisha took me under their wing from the day I met each of them. Care Support Workers with enormous knowledge and experience - let them help you!

Two of the newly registered nurses had a huge impact on my experience too. Sian and Kim were both on their Preceptorship programme - a period of around 4-6 months when newly registered nurses are supported to develop their confidence and enhance competence, critical thinking and decision-making skills.  SIan and Kim were so energised, so eager and so passionate - I loved working shifts with them as we learnt together - mentoring and reverse mentoring in real time.

Returning to practice is a privileged opportunity and I would recommend everyone with a lapsed pin to find out more. I would also encourage anyone with a current PIN who hasn’t done any clinical work recently to think about this course as it not only gives you current clinical knowledge and skills, it also gives you confidence.

Today is exactly 12 months since the day my PIN was reinstated with the NMC and whilst I never considered that I wasn’t a nurse, I feel my pride in the profession just seeing it in writing! 

If returning to practice is an option for you then do it!