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How can an older nurse, terminated from a former position, find a new job?

Dear Donna,

I was terminated from my position for sleeping on duty. When all my patients were gone, I would sit down and nod off for a couple of seconds. My medical doctor gave me a note, which I presented to management and human resources, detailing how the medicine I was taking to aid with sleep, and a confidential medical problem, may cause some residual sleepiness. It also stated it would take about three months for me to adjust to the medical treatment.

I’ve been a nurse for more than 30 years with experience in critical care and post anesthesia nursing. I also was a clinical manager of pain treatment center, charge nurse and preceptor. I have certification in CPAN, At 64 years of age, I’m now finding I need a slower pace, including no night call, and I do not want to be in charge. I’ve been off almost one year. I’ve been very depressed and lost all confidence.
I lost my house I purchased in 1993 to foreclosure because of a balloon payment I was not aware of until the loan matured. I didn’t have the money and was not able to refinance because I didn’t have a job.

I receive few calls for jobs for which I’ve applied and if I get an interview, I don’t hear back.
I feel the Internet may be causing these problems because everyone knows everyone in the nursing community. I’m not sure what to do.


Dear Terminated,

There are several issues here. For starters, if you believe you were unfairly terminated, and presuming you do not have money for legal fees, contact your area branch of the Legal Aid Society. Tell them your story and see if they think you have a case to at least get your former employer to change your status from terminated to resigned.

Next, because you are unemployed, it is important you start doing volunteer work as a nurse while you continue to look for a paid job. This will give structure to your day/week, help to rebuild confidence and give you some recent, relevant experience to put on your resume. Plus volunteering often turns into paid employment. It is a way to get your foot in the door somewhere. Look for this type of opportunity with your local public health department, American Red Cross, American Heart Association, free clinic or blood bank.

I also recommend you contact your county mental health department. Most counties in most states offer services and charge according to one’s ability to pay. But they don’t just work with individuals who have mental health issues. They also can provide support and guidance to navigate your way through your employment and personal situation. Help is available if you seek it. Don’t try to go it alone.

Addressing termination and unemployment on a job interview can be challenging and has to be addressed in a certain way.

I don’t think the Internet is hurting you or working against you. But it is obvious that you need help and support in this process on many levels. Utilize the resources provided above and take the suggested actions. Read “Picking up the pieces of your career” for some additional tips and advice.

Best wishes,

By | 2020-04-15T16:26:02-04:00 July 6th, 2015|Categories: Nursing Careers and Jobs|1 Comment

About the Author:

Donna Cardillo
Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP, is president of Known as The Inspiration Nurse, she is a keynote speaker, retreat and seminar leader, and author of "Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional" and "The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career." She brings more than 25 years of clinical, management and business experience to her role as career guru.

One Comment

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    Regretfully Retired July 22, 2015 at 1:10 am - Reply

    Dear Donna,
    I retired one year ago. Took time off to travel and thought would enjoy retirement but I do not and want to return to work. At 71 years of age, I am constantly told I look to be in my 50’s. I am healthy and have all my wits about me. I am a Certified Nurse Practitioner with excellent clinical skills. I am not sure how to present a resume that would discourage any prospective interviews due to age. The toughest part in seeking a job at my age is getting that interview. I love my work as an NP and am very good at it. I am also unsure how to explain my year off. I have been maintaining my CMEs. Is there a manual I can purchase as a guide in my writing my resume and cover letter?

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