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I had disciplinary action taken against my license in the past year. How can I present my experience and positive changes in my personal life to potential employers?

Tuesday April 16, 2013
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Dear Donna,

For five years, I have been a skilled and experienced nurse. I had disciplinary action taken against my license in the past year, because of some poor choices and charting errors, made 18 months before in another state. The Arizona state board of nursing contacted me when the complaint reached them. In the meantime I had moved, became employed and was working successfully in critical care areas of nursing. I was offered an option to enter into my state’s Chemically Addicted Nurses Diversion Option program. The complaint was based on accusations from a facility in another state. I had researched some RN blogs, and it became apparent it was best to enter the program, rather than try to fight the investigation the state board would have undertaken.

Once in the program I struggled financially, had multiple obstacles at finding employment in or out of nursing and was faced with eviction and car repossession. I made a desperate decision to return to registry nursing, taking shifts so I could feed my family and keep a roof over my head. I've learned an expensive and valuable lesson. It was discovered by the board I was employed in an aspect of nursing that I was restricted from working in at the time. My actions were reviewed by members of the state board, and it was determined I was to be placed on a monitoring program, which would last another 36 months. Instead of being revoked, my license was suspended for 12 months and I now am seeking work in the field of nursing. I am finding it difficult to convince potential employers to give me a chance to prove that I am not an addict and am an honest and ethical RN.

How do I approach the interview process and successfully become employed when faced with questions such as "why was your license suspended?" and "if there was sketchy proof regarding the facility that placed the complaint against your license, why didn't you fight it with a lawyer?" How can I present my experience and positive changes in my personal life that makes me worth taking a chance on?

Desperately Seeking Employment

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Desperately Seeking Employment,

You case is clearly complex. If I were you I would consult a nurse attorney to be sure you are on the right track. Some nurses think that consulting an attorney is an admission of guilt, but it is not. Often It is the best way to protect your interests when your license, your reputation and your livelihood are at stake. Find a nurse attorney through a referral from your state chapter of the American Nurses Association (www.nursingworld.org) and The American Association of Nurse Attorneys (www.taana.org).

Also, I suggest you find a nurse career coach who has experience helping nurses with challenges in their work history to help you overcome those obstacles. You will have to learn and practice the delicate art of discussing your past and focusing on your strengths, selling yourself and overcoming objections. Because you will need to rely heavily on person-to-person networking, you also will need to learn how to do this properly and to your best advantage. Most people don't understand the power of networking or how to use it to find a job, especially in challenging circumstances. Find a nurse career coach by asking around, doing an Internet search, or getting a referral from the International Coach Federation (www.coachfederation.org).

In the interim, look for volunteer work in a healthcare setting, such as a public health department, free clinic or the American Red Cross. This is a good way to stay connected while you seek employment, expand your professional network and get a foot in the door. Volunteering often leads to paid employment.

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.