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What if I cannot get a positive reference from my long-time employer?

 Dear Nancy,

I was fired after working at a community hospital for 18 years. My concerns are what the employer, HR and others, outside my department, say about me. What if I cannot get one positive references from there? I have not looked for a job for so long. I am concerned if I will be able to find another job.


Dear Laurel,

Your concerns about what your former employer and human resources will say about you is not something that can be controlled. One would hope that gossip and rumors don’t take place, but human nature being as it is, gossiping and rumors will occur. If, however, you learn that any person at the facility is saying things that are untrue about you (e.g., you stole from patients or you were an incompetent nurse), then you need to contact a nurse attorney or other attorney in your state who works with employees and in the area of defamation law. Defamation, whether spoken (slander) or written (libel), can be the basis of a lawsuit for which monetary compensation is granted to the person defamed.

Insofar as how to handle looking for a new position and the need for references, you need to consider the fact that you had worked at the facility for 18 years. That is a commendable amount of time to work for one employer and you should stress this in interviews. If you have copies of your annual evaluations that are positive, these can also be shared with prospective employers.

You did not indicate what the basis for your termination was, but you should put the termination in the best light that you possibly can. It might be helpful for you to submit your question to Dear Donna,’s career expert for additional pointers.

Sometimes situations like the one you now find yourself in can result in a positive outcome. Although the termination was difficult for you, to be sure, it may open the door to new areas of practice for you and provide you with the opportunity to advance your nursing practice in ways that are not clear at this time.

Regards, Nancy

By | 2021-05-07T16:34:58-04:00 June 17th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

About the Author:

Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN
Our legal information columnist Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN, received her Juris Doctor from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and concentrates her solo law practice in health law and legal representation, consultation and education for healthcare professionals, school of nursing faculty and healthcare delivery facilities. Brent has conducted many seminars on legal issues in nursing and healthcare delivery across the country and has published extensively in the area of law and nursing practice. She brings more than 30 years of experience to her role of legal information columnist. Her posts are designed for educational purposes only and are not to be taken as specific legal or other advice. Individuals who need advice on a specific incident or work situation should contact a nurse attorney or attorney in their state. Visit The American Association of Nurse Attorneys website to search its attorney referral database by state.

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