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How to Get Nursing Jobs After Being Fired

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Unless you’ve committed an offense that cost you your nursing license or seriously jeopardized patient safety, you can often bounce back after being fired and find another job. To persuade employers that you’re not a risk, be honest when discussing the reasons you lost your job, while also emphasizing the ways in which you excel as an employee and what you learned from the experience.

Take Responsibility

Own up to any mistakes that prompted your firing. If you lie, you risk violating the Nurse Practice Act and destroying your chances of finding a job. If you blame external factors or another person, prospective employers may hesitate to trust you. If you address the issue upfront, explaining what you learned from the incident and how you’ve changed your behavior to ensure it never happens again, they’re more likely to believe you want to get back on track. If you lost your job for not pulling your weight, for example, stress that you realize this placed a burden on your fellow nurses and that you’ll never behave that way again. If you were fired because of substance abuse, stress that you've been clean for six months and that you're attending a recovery program. Also emphasize that you never treated patients while under the influence.

Tell Your Side

In most cases, employers will document the circumstances surrounding your termination and add this to your personnel file. If potential employers contact your prior employer, they’ll only hear the company’s side. Similarly, if your firing creates an issue with your nursing license, you’ll need written proof that you deny the claims against you. If a past employer fired you for disobeying the charge nurse’s instructions, but you have evidence that doing so might have harmed the patient, for example, refute the charges against you in writing. Also prepare an explanation to use during interviews. Don’t accuse your supervisor of lying, but do discuss your take on the incident in detail so that prospective employers take your account seriously.

Provide Context

Once a nursing recruiter hears the words “fired” or “terminated,” she might not notice your stellar attendance record or that you earned a promotion at your last job. In addition to being honest about your termination, you must also put it into context for the interviewer. For example, point out that you lost your job after transferring to another department that wasn’t a good fit for you. Emphasize, however, that you consistently received positive performance reviews from your unit manager in your previous department. If you were fired for mentioning something work-related on a social networking site, point out that you’d never posted about your job before and that you didn’t violate HIPAA or other privacy laws.

Line Up References

Before you apply for another nursing job, talk to your previous supervisor and ask her what she’ll say if contacted by a prospective employer. If you didn’t commit a serious offense or if your overall performance was up to par, she might agree to give you a positive recommendation. Ask if the two of you can agree on a reason for your departure that suits both of you. If you think your last boss won’t speak highly of you, ask your former colleagues or professional connections who can testify to your character, skill and work ethic. If you belong to a nursing association, for example, ask someone who’s worked with you on a committee or project to act as a reference.

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Jochen Sand/Digital Vision/Getty Images