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I have been in a state program for over four years, have cleaned up my addiction, but cannot find a job. Why are nurses like me shunned even after correcting our issues?


Dear Donna,

I have been in my state’s nurse assistance program for over four years since I received a misdemeanor and cleaned up my addiction. I have more than 100 clean drug screens and will complete the program in January. I have never relapsed, my license was never suspended and I am not on any OIG list. I have been trying to get a job for over three years and have letters of reference and a world of experience.

My question is why do states have these programs yet facilities are not aware of them. There are many great nurses who have hit a bump in the road yet have much to offer. We know that we were given a second chance and one more slip and we will be done for good. Why are we shunned even after correcting our issues?

Feeling Shunned

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Feeling Shunned,

I hear your frustration. Let me first assure you many nurses before you have overcome the same obstacles and been able to get their nursing careers back on track and you will be able to as well.

You do not mention what types of jobs you are looking for or how you are going about it, but you may need to look in new directions for nursing employment and use new techniques to be hired.

If you are looking for hospital jobs, know the job market for nurses has changed even in the past three years. Many hospitals are only hiring nurses with very current hospital experience. Even a nurse with a clean record, who has been away from the bedside for six months, might not be hired into a hospital or direct patient care setting. There are other career opportunities for nurses. Even though you are not a new nurse, you might find some helpful insights and tips in this article, “New nurse, new job strategies” (

Also, read “Picking up the pieces of your career” ( As the article states, you need to use your contacts and connections (now known as networking) to get referrals, recommendation and introductions. I know you have letters of reference but it is not enough. A more personal and direct approach is needed. Ask people, preferably others in healthcare, who can vouch for you, to make phone calls on your behalf to those who might be able to hire you. Prospective employers are more inclined to take a chance on someone when somebody they know personally reaches out to them. Again, understand you may very likely have to look for employment beyond the hospital.

Networking includes attending local chapter meetings of the American Nurses Association ( and/or the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nurses ( even as a guest. This will keep you connected to your profession, expand your professional network, and help you stay up to date with issues and trends. When there is something you want to do, it makes sense to rub elbows with those already doing it.

Since you are unemployed, it is important you start volunteering as a nurse in a healthcare setting while you continue to look for paid employment. This will give you some recent experience to put on your resume, further expand your professional network and help you to utilize your skills and knowledge while potentially learning something new. Volunteering is a way to get your foot in the door somewhere and can lead to paid employment. I always say when you cannot get in the front door, try the back. Look for volunteer work in a local public health department, a blood bank or the American Red Cross.

Also, you can get some temporary work giving flu shots and other things just to stay professionally active while you seek other employment. Contact nursing agencies that do nontraditional placement and see what is available. The more you are in the game the more you increases your chances of being hired somewhere. When what you are doing is not working, it is time to take a new approach. Use the advice above, including information in the referenced articles and create positive momentum in your professional life. If you do, soon you will start to move forward in your career and in your life.

Best wishes,

By | 2014-10-01T00:00:00-04:00 October 1st, 2014|Categories: Blogs, Nursing Careers and Jobs|0 Comments

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