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Do you think being terminated from my last two positions will hurt my chances of finding another opportunity?

Tuesday September 4, 2012
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Dear Donna,

I have been a nurse for five years and have loved everything about my career. I thought I was doing everything well in my positions, yet I have been dismissed from my past two hospital inpatient unit positions. I know that clinic nursing is for me and is where I want to be. I really want to go back to school to become a Pediatric Primary Care NP. I am really worried these past two dismissals will follow me and hurt my chances of finding a position. I have been honest about these terminations on interviews, as I'm not one to lie about anything. This past termination was a perceived protocol error that I feel I did not do — yet by policy, I was terminated without much information or a disciplinary period. I was just called in one day and terminated. I have decided if they do not trust me or want me to work there, then I will find a better position. Do you think these past two bumps in the road will hinder my chances of obtaining a nursing position?


Dear Donna replies:

Dear Bumped,

It is challenging to address this situation without knowing what the first dismissal was for, what policy was perceived as having been breeched, and how long you had been at both jobs.

For starters, if you don't believe you did anything wrong at the last job, I would encourage you to file a grievance (check your former employer's policy on this) to protest the action, whether you want to work there or not. Also, consult a nurse attorney. Otherwise this could negatively impact your future livelihood (references) and your reputation, not to mention your confidence.

Certainly two consecutive dismissals will be a challenge to overcome during your job search, especially with your next job. There are steps you can take to overcome the hurdles or "bumps in the road." Read “Picking up the pieces of your career” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Pieces).

Since you are presumably unemployed at this time and want to work in a clinic setting, I would suggest you start volunteering in a free clinic, public health department, adult day services or something similar. This is a good way to get your foot in the door and often leads to paid employment. It will help you to expand your professional network, learn new skills and have recent relevant experience to put on your resume and discuss on an interview.

Networking is well known to be a great way to find a job, especially when you have obstacles to overcome. Contact everyone you know, both in and out of healthcare, and let them know what you are looking for. Ask for their help and support via leads, introductions, referrals and recommendations.

Regarding how to address this situation on an interview, there is a difference between lying and providing too much information or presenting the circumstances in the wrong way. Don't ever say anything negative about past employers and try to present what happened (only if asked) in a general way — that indicates there may have been a miscommunication or personality conflict (if that in any way relates to what happened) and you learned a lesson while assuring a future employer that nothing like that will ever happen again. It doesn't mean you did something wrong, but does indicate you learned how to better handle yourself in a conflict. Be humble and sincere.

Best wishes,

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nurse.com’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at www.Nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.Nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.Nurse.com/Asktheexperts/Deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://Events.nursingspectrum.com/Seminar.