I have lost two jobs because of issues with medication counts. How should I address this with potential employers?

By | 2022-02-14T17:40:16-05:00 December 15th, 2010|0 Comments

Question:

Dear Donna,

In May, I was fired from a job that I held for 10 years. I was working the 11-to-7 shift, and the 7-to-3 nurse who came on after me was suspected of stealing narcotics. He was taking the cards that the pills were packaged on and their corresponding sign-in sheets, so the facility initiated a policy requiring us to count the cards and record the count on a form.

When I counted with the 3-to-11 nurse, there were 12 cards. When I counted with the 7-to-3 nurse suspected of stealing, there were 12 cards — or so I thought.

Later that day, management told me that two cards were missing. They had checked the cart after I left and found the discrepancy. I think that between when we counted and the time management checked the cart, the 7-to-3 nurse might have stolen the cards. I was suspended. I then was suspended at the end of the month for not reporting the discrepancy to a supervisor. I didn’t report the discrepancy because there wasn’t one when I left.

I never would steal narcotics or cover for anyone who was. In the 10 years I worked there, I received good performance reviews every year and had only received two or three write-ups during my time there. My attendance record was impeccable, and my patients and co-workers liked me.

I was fired on the basis of flimsy circumstantial evidence. Even the hearing examiner at the appeals tribunal at unemployment found there was no basis in fact for my termination. I am using an attorney who specializes in employment law. The Drug Enforcement Agency or my state’s board of nursing never contacted me. In fact, I received a license from another state after explaining the situation.

In July, I was hired by another facility. When they interviewed me, I was upfront about the previous incident. Three months into the job, my narcotics count was off. I readily admit it was my mistake, and I should have been more diligent when I counted. I was told to resign because my employer would have to tell the health department about the situation if I was fired.

Now I find myself looking for another job. Should I mention the second job on my resume and job applications in light of what happened, or should I omit it? I’m afraid I’ll never get another nursing job if I mention it. If asked to account for the employment gap since May, I can tell them I was handling personal and family obligations and doing volunteer work — all true, by the way. My father went into a nursing home, and I’ve been handling all of his affairs. I’m also moving, and I just started doing volunteer work at a free clinic.

Diana

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Diana,

It is challenging to advise you on this without knowing all the details. Although false accusations are sometimes made and mistakes happen, for this to happen to you twice is either incredible bad luck or something else. I’m not suggesting that you are diverting drugs, but perhaps you need some peer coaching on how to make sure this never happens again. You must learn to protect yourself and take appropriate steps from further serious accusations and/or mistakes, whether they are caused by carelessness, forgetfulness, stress, having too much on your plate or whatever.

Not including this recent job on a resume, if it were found out later, could be perceived as your attempt to hide something. Some states have laws that require that all nursing employment in patient-care settings be reported specifically because there are some nurses who are either causing patients harm or diverting drugs or working while impaired and jump from facility to facility. I’m not saying that is the case with you, but I am saying that concealing the last job could work against you in a serious way if discovered or if in doing so you are not adhering to state regulations. Of course, a resume is not the same as a job application, but omitting it could be perceived as an attempt to conceal something.

Regarding legal advice, I would have preferred that you work with a nurse attorney since this is a case in which employment law overlaps with nursing practice. Assuming that is not the case, ask your attorney to find out what the reporting laws are in your state regarding your responsibility as an RN to report all employment to future employers.

It’s good that you’re volunteering in a medical setting. I also recommend that you attend chapter meetings of your state chapter of the American Nurses Association (www.ana.org) or other nursing association. You can attend as a guest if not a member. Networking is a great way to create a peer support system, stay current with knowledge and information, and find and get a job — especially when you have challenges to overcome.

Working with a nursing career coach might also be an option — someone who can coach you on working your way through this situation as well as how to avoid further mishaps in your practice. Because it’s likely that you are stressed because of job experiences and your personal challenges, it would be advisable to find professional support from a coach or counselor. Get the help you need to move forward.

You will have to decide whether to reveal your recent employment. Whether you do or don’t, tell future employers/network contacts that you had family challenges that have been resolved, that you have taken steps to avoid future mishaps, have learned and grown from your mistakes, and are committed to moving forward with your career.

Best wishes,
Donna

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