I resigned after a bad experience with my preceptor. What should I tell prospective employers about the situation?

By | 2022-02-14T17:46:26-05:00 February 24th, 2011|0 Comments


Dear Donna,

My first job after passing the NCLEX was in the ED of a level 1 trauma hospital. I worked there about four months but didn’t feel support from my preceptor. I felt that she viewed me as competition rather than a teammate, and she regularly was trying to show that she knew more than me. The funny thing was that I knew I had plenty to learn from my preceptor, which is why I was excited to get her in the first place. I felt that she put me down at every opportunity, although it was subtle and covert.

I asked to change preceptors and went from the frying pan into the fire. I ended up resigning — I suppose before I was fired — and I am not sure how to explain my challenges with that job to potential employers. I had no problems with the patients, and I never made a medication error or had an incident report, but I am getting the cold shoulder from my company’s nurse recruiter and nurse managers within the hospital as I apply for other positions there. My original nurse manager told me that she would classify me as eligible for rehire, but I can’t seem to get past go.

I don’t want to express that I felt subtle bullying that affected my confidence and ability to grow at my last job. Because I was unaware of the phenomenon of nurses eating their young, it completely blindsided me.

What should I say happened at my last job?


Dear Donna replies:

Dear Sunk,

You’ve gotten off to a rocky start in your nursing career. It happens to some. But with some patience and effort you can find a situation that is right for you. Read “New Grad Woes” (www.DCardillo.com/articles/newgradwoes.html).

Be careful about making assumptions about “nurses eating their young.” Nurses, as with the general population, mostly are good, caring people, but there always are a few who have their own issues and unfortunately pass them on to others. Sadly, sometimes the “culture” of a particular unit or workplace is not reflective of the entire profession. Read “Do Nurses Really Eat Their Young?” (www.DCardillo.com/articles/eatyoung.html) to keep things in perspective. Also read “Seven Strategies for Managing Conflict” (http://www.DCardillo.com/articles/sevenstrategies.html).

To find a better circumstance, start using networking as a way to build support and community in nursing and find and get your next job. This includes joining and getting active in your state chapter of the American Nurses Association (www.ana.org).

In terms of what to say at a future interview, you might say something like, “I got a bit overwhelmed at that job and decided to quit to look for a better fit for me.” Leave it at that. Don’t say anything negative about the former employer or preceptor, as this will serve no useful purpose. If they ask why you didn’t ask for a transfer, you might reply that there were no other openings at that time.

I urge you to read my book, “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” (www.Nurse.com/ce/7010)
Persistence and determination always win out in the end.

My best wishes,


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