Renewing my Wisconsin Nursing License – 2010


2 years ago, I wrote about the decision facing me in February 2008 on renewing my Wisconsin Registered Nurse license.  It’s now 2010 and the decision faces me yet again, as it does every two years.  Since leaving nursing in 2004, I’ve always made the choice to keep up my licensure – because you just never know what the future holds and after all that schooling, I really don’t feel like giving it up any time soon, even though I have not officially practiced as an RN since 2004.  I look back to my post of August 10, 2004, the day I walked away from my 15 year career – I apparently was somewhat nervous about the ordeal of quitting my nursing career in exchange for self-employment and freelancing.  I don’t remember being so nervous, but it’s understandable that I would be, it was a pretty huge leap, from my perspective.

My decision to go into nursing in the first place wasn’t really the warm and fuzzy reason of wanting to take care of people and make them feel better.  That is a nice bonus that comes after (reason #1)  job security and (reason #2) steady income, if I’m being honest.  When I started nursing school, I was a newly divorced single mom of 2 – the job security appealed to me a great deal, understandably.  In my 12 years of nursing, I can’t say that I was completely unhappy doing it, but there certainly were aspects to the job that I really hated …. and some that I really enjoyed, and I always thought that, eventually, I would go back.  I was not sure when that would be – or how or why, but being a nurse is not something that you entirely let go of, and not something you can completely walk away from either.  I’ve always considered myself to be taking a break from it.

I said I would go back to it when I really started to miss it.   I don’t.  Not yet.  Will I ever, really?  I don’t know – – considering the changes and reforms happening in health care these days – – I don’t know if that is an industry that I ever want to situate myself in again.  Time will tell – – but, for now, I continue to hold onto my license as an insurance policy in case everything else blows up.

In 2010, I have the same gripe I have now, as I did in 2008 – – – aside from a few bucks out of my pocket every two years, there are no educational requirements should I decide to re-enter the nursing field.  In Wisconsin, mandatory continuing education as a condition of licensure exists for the majority of health care professionals except for nursing. Can you imagine?  I haven’t practiced since 2004.  That’s 6 years now.  In the ever-changing field of medicine, I can’t even begin to imagine what I’ve missed and how much I don’t know.  Honestly, in my world of graphic design, coding, writing tech books and web hosting – – I don’t do a lot of patient triage around here, ya know?  If I decided to re-enter the nursing field tomorrow, I would have one helluva learning curve on my hands.  And yet…I am legally allowed to walk onto any floor in any hospital and start practicing again, as if I never walked away.

As a potential patient in one of those hospitals – that scares me more than just a little.  They don’t say that nurses are the front line of patient care for nothing, they are.    Where would that put you, as my patient, if you walked into my ER tomorrow?  Good thing you don’t have to worry about it, since I’m not returning any time soon.

No continuing education requirement for Registered Nurses in the state of Wisconsin, really?  No proof of active practice required.  No re-entry requirements to at least prove I know the difference between Haldol and Heparin?  Is there no one at the Wisconsin Department of Regulation & Licensing who cares whether I am competently able to recognize vital signs within normal limits….and what to do if they are not?  Let’s not even start in on the changes in pharmacology since I walked away from nursing 6 years ago.  My best barometer of new drugs on the market these days are the spam emails I get about Viagra and Ephedrine.

And yet, I, Lisa Sabin-Wilson, RN, will send in my $80+ to the state of Wisconsin at the end of this month in order to hold on to that ability to walk into any hospital or care facility tomorrow and get a  job if I need one.  Because money is all it takes here in Wisconsin — no one out there really cares if I’m competent, as long as I’ve forked over the necessary fees every two years.  In a nursing shortage, you would not believe what deficits and short comings the Directors who hire nurses will ignore in order to fill the quota on the floor.  I’ve seen it over and over too many times to know that I would have no problems getting hired tomorrow if I wanted to.

Rest assured, any potential, future Wisconsin area patients of mine — when and if I do make the decision to re-enter the nursing field – – I will pick up where the Wisconsin Department of Regulation & Licensing leaves off….I will seek out the education I need in order to feel confident and competent, should I ever again step foot in a patient care facility in the official capacity of a Registered Nurse.

At least this year, for the 2010 renewal, aside from our payments, they are also requiring that we fill out a survey that will tell our government, and governing bodies, essential information about the current supply, demand, location, and skill level of Wisconsin’s nursing workforce.  They are making the survey mandatory for Registered Nurses renewing their license in 2010.   Armed with this information – policy and decision makers can sit around in board rooms for the next several years pontificating on how best to ensure a highly skilled nursing workforce in the state of Wisconsin.

In the meantime, I’ll send in my payment and look around for a good re-entry program, should I ever need it.  Maybe by the year 2012, they’ll actually require that I prove competency after 8 years of non-active practice.

I know – crazy, right?

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10 thoughts on “Renewing my Wisconsin Nursing License – 2010”

  1. That’s pretty interesting about the renewal process…I figured there’d at least be a test or something lol!

    Happy new year and I hope it’s a prosperous one for you and the family 🙂

    1. Happy New Year, Bug!

      You’d think there would be at least a test – – 20 questions, maybe? But no… money is all it takes.

  2. I also face the to-renew-or-not-renew issue: for me it’s a NY State Massage Therapy License, which I used in supporting myself for 13 years in NYC. Loved it then, but will probably never go back to it. But I continue to send in my fifty bucks every two years. Not sure why, but something about it feels good to me. Which is enough. But look at it this way: chancess are you will never be a nurse at a hospital again, but you retain the legal priviledge of nursing a loved one, if the need arises. That’s pretty cool.

    From a fan of your WordPress for Dummies Book

  3. You should keep up your hard earned registration.

    Should you want to go back into nursing you and your employer would be jointly responsible that your gap years were not putting patients safety at risk. For some roles this would not be an issue and for others a education courses could help you fill in the gaps.

    Only when you are out of the profession for much longer should you consider allowing your registration to lapse.

  4. Lisa,

    That’s incredible. I always thought it was stupid that any idiot could buy a 200′ yacht and sail away from the broker’s dock without even knowing port from starboard but to literally have your finger on some other human being’s pulse – scary.

    Can’t wait for 3rd edition…


  5. I would always say to keep your license up. There is a lot of possibilities that the future can hold and it is better to have your license than to possibly regret not having it!

    My father did not renew his electrician license and then when he tried to years later it was very difficult and expensive to do so.

  6. I kinda always had a soft spot for nurses – the fact that they dedicate a large proportion of their lives solely to caring for others – so I’m glad to see you haven’t left it behind completely! 🙂

  7. This post really reminds me of what I am going through. I was in grad school for psychology, the marriage and family therapy track. I was coming up on my 2nd (and final) year and I got a job offer that I couldn’t refuse. I still receive emails from the school every once in a while and although I love what I am doing now, I still feel like going back and getting that degree.

  8. Before licensure, it was all on the job training. Even with a license, it is on the job training. Life long learning happens everyday. Licensure is just a money making scheme. You can read all about making a cake, starting an IV, installing floor, etc, but the bottom line is, hands on learning is where the real learning occurs. Spare me the extra expense of a class, set me up with a mentor for a day instead. Furthermore, I will seek the information I need as it is necessary to perform safely.

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