AHEC - North Carolina Area Health Education Centers Program
Touched by an AHEC: Stories from 100 Counties
James R. Hildreth, RN

James R. Hildreth, RN

Caldwell County | Northwest AHEC

James R. Hildreth, RN – Nurse Refresher Program

“I’d been thinking about getting my North Carolina RN license reinstated for some time but hadn’t considered a return to active nursing in some capacity. That is, until my oldest sister was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. From the summer of 2008 until her death in October 2009, I helped from time to time with her care. During these periods, I had the opportunity to meet and interact with the very fine nurses from both the hospice and home health agencies. Because of my sister’s encouragement, and my exposure to these fine professionals, I decided for sure I would pursue getting my license reinstated.

Prior to learning about the Nurse Refresher Program through Northwest AHEC, I was preparing to reenter nursing via the nursing program at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute. Obviously, learning about and enrolling in the NR Program through NW AHEC preempted the need for the more formal education. In reality, it shortened the timeframe required –although it was a full year from my NR orientation to the completion of the clinical preceptorship hours – and considerably reduced the expense necessary. Additionally, I became acquainted with other former nurses who were pursuing reentry or re-licensure and I’ve become friends with several.

Although clearly necessary to bring my nursing background up to date (and help full forward my prior nursing education dormant in my brain), the self-paced modules were, at times, tedious. And, the periods between receiving graded tests from the monitor seemed like ages at times. But once complete, I was ready to get into the clinical portion.

Thank goodness for the stimulation and clinical labs that were offered in tandem with the modules. They were extremely helpful and no doubt assisted me to be less anxious when I hit the unit in early December. There should be more of these. I found most of great value.

The clinical portion was a giant does of reality. It was overwhelming and daunting during the first couple of sessions. However, I was very fortunate in that I had two preceptors who had returned to nursing via the NR Program. Not only were they sensitive to the learning needs, they were challenging in term of application of knowledge, organization, and other aspects of nursing on a highly active post-surgery unit.

In the last clinical sessions I had responsibility for numerous patients. This was of great benefit since at the end of the day, it was clear I was gaining confidence. I don’t know how a NR student could return to active nursing without the help of the clinical portion of the program.

In the beginning, 160 hours of clinical refresher seems like quite a lot. At the end, it seems short but intense enough to give me a good foundation for moving forward.

As of the end of my NR Program, I am seriously considering going to active nursing in oncology (or related areas), hospice and palliative care, or home health care. Another potential area is working with veterans since I’m a veteran myself."