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How can a nurse with a criminal background (4 misdemeanors) find a job if no employer will give them a chance?

Monday February 3, 2014
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Dear Donna,

I am a newly licensed LPN enrolled in an accelerated RN program. In accordance with the requirements of my state's board of nursing, I divulged my pre-nursing criminal background that included four misdemeanors.

The BON issued me an unencumbered, unrestricted nursing license. However, when an employer checks the status of my license, my pre-nursing transgressions are attached to my license as additional public record. I am finding it virtually impossible to find employment as an LPN. I cannot hide from my past and I take full accountability for my actions. I know I am a good nurse with an unbridled passion for this profession. How can I find employment if no employer will give me a chance to prove myself?

Having Challenges

Dear Having Challenges,

When you have obstacles to overcome in the job market, you must rely more heavily on person-to-person networking. That means contacting those in your circle, both in and out of healthcare. Let them know what you're looking for and the challenges you are having. Ask for referrals, leads, introductions and recommendations. There are people who will take a chance on someone that has made some mistakes, especially if they know someone who can vouch for your character. Read “Picking up the pieces of your career” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Pieces).

As the article recommends, start volunteering somewhere as a nurse while you continue to look for paid employment. Volunteering gives you recent relevant experience to put on your resume and discuss on an interview, helps hone old skills and learn new ones, expands your professional network and builds confidence. It also is a way to get a foot in the door somewhere as volunteering often leads to paid employment. For volunteer opportunities, consider a free clinic, your local public health department or a blood bank.

You may need to be upfront with these folks but wait until they've had a chance to meet and talk to you before telling them about your background. Be ready for some tough questions and rehearse telling them about how you made some mistakes but have turned your life around with the help and support of some good people. Let them know you are determined to be a great nurse (mention your unbridled passion for it) and how you would be grateful for the chance to prove what you can do, even on a provisional basis (less risk for them). Do all this in an enthusiastic, sincere and upbeat way. Actions speak louder than words. Read “Put your best foot forward for maximum impact”
(www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Best-Foot-Forward).

You also need to get out to professional nursing association meetings, even as a guest. Networking is one of the most effective ways to find a job. Attend local chapter meetings of the American Nurses Association (www.ana.org), The National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses (www.nflpn.org) if there's a chapter in your area, or any other specialty association. The value of networking is people get to meet and talk to you a little and hopefully get a good feeling about you, so they may have fewer reservations about hiring you if you learn of an opening.

Your journey may not be easy, as you have already discovered, but where there is a will there is always a way. When what you're doing isn't working, it's time to try a new approach as I’ve suggested above and in the above-referenced articles. Persistence and determination always will win out in the end. I'm rooting for you.

Best wishes
Donna


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://www. Nurse.com/Events.