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If terminated from a previous job, should you reveal this information during your interview with a potential employer?

Monday May 5, 2014
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Dear Donna,

If terminated from a previous job, should you reveal this information during your interview with a potential employer? No proof was ever given I allegedly gave a patient wrong prescription at discharge.

Needs Interview Help

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Needs Interview Help,

You should not bring up why you left your last job unless the interviewer asks you outright. If you are asked, it is usually best to be honest about the fact you were terminated. But you have to carefully craft and rehearse how you describe the reason/circumstances.

I wish I knew more about the specifics because it doesn't seem like something that would automatically result in termination in most cases unless, of course, the patient was, or could have been harmed by wrongly taking the medication. Or perhaps if the script was for a narcotic. The fact that you say you were not shown any proof of the error and seem to doubt its validity is concerning. If you felt you were wrongly accused and terminated then you should have brought this up with the human resources department or consulted a nurse attorney to assist you.

So assuming you may have given the wrong prescription but there was no harm to the patient, when you must describe why you were terminated, you might say something such as, "Unfortunately I was let go because I was told I gave a wrong prescription to a patient upon discharge. The patient did not take the meds and no harm was caused, but my employer considered it a medication error and therefore cause for termination. I will say I learned a hard lesson from the experience and will never make that mistake again." Be careful not to make it sound like you were wrongly accused or there was no proof even if you feel that way. You have to tread lightly with a prospective employer.

When you have a challenge in your background such as this, using networking (what we used to call word of mouth) to find and get a job becomes more important. That's because employers are more willing to take a chance on someone who has been referred or recommended to them by someone they know.

You'll find more tips on moving forward in the face of career challenges by reading, “Picking up the pieces of your career” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Pieces). You also could read my book, “The Ultimate Career Guide for Nurses,” available where books are sold, as it goes into great detail about networking for job finding, overcoming obstacles and addressing the type of situation you find yourself.

Start volunteering as a nurse while you continue to look for paid employment. This will help to keep structure to your week, show a prospective employer you are not staying idle while unemployed and expand your professional network. It’s also a way to get your foot in the door somewhere and often leads to paid employment. Seek these opportunities in your local public health department, a blood bank, hospice, cancer care center and free clinics.

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://www. Nurse.com/Events.