Terminated for Crying at Work

  1. Hello Nurse Beth,

    I have been a nurse for almost three years and have a few different jobs in a few different specialties and right now I am faced with an upsetting/confusing situation. I started my most recent position 3 months ago and a few weeks ago I had a
    break down and started to cry, mainly because one of the patients reminded me of my mother in her final days before she passed away.

    I cried with the charge nurse for a few minutes and may have said that I felt that
    i could no longer care for critical patients (I unfortunately say things when I'm upset that I don't mean). the charge nurse took it as i was no longer able to work on that unit and relayed what happened to my manager. Long story short they took what I said as a resignation and did not allow me to return to work. So since then I have been applying to jobs and I am having a difficult time coming up with a reasonable explanation as to why I left, as I feel I did not resign and did nothing wrong besides get emotional at work.

    What is the best way to explain this to potential employers? especially those where i would be working on an inpatient unit (not critical care)? Thanks for your help!




    Dear Terminated for Crying at Work,

    If you did not resign, then you were terminated, but either way, with a most recent tenure of three months and a "few different jobs" in three years, your question is good for your situation:
    What is the best way to explain short employment tenures?

    You do not want to mention that you were emotional at work. Even though everyone gets emotional at times and it's understandable in the kind of work we do, it's not something to share in an interview.

    The best thing to say that is it wasn't a good fit. Never say anything negative about a previous employer, and do not dwell on the situation, but segue to the positive as soon as possible. "I'm looking forward to working for an organization that shares my values"

    You must also carefully prepare for upcoming interviews by anticipating the most commonly asked questions.

    For example, here's an example and excerpt from my book "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land You First Nursing Job...and your next!"

    Tell us when you had a conflict at work and how you resolved it

    Variations of interview question:

    Describe a time when you disagreed with your boss.


    Tell me about a difficult patient and how you handled the situation Describe a conflict with a coworker, and how you resolved it.

    What the employer is looking for: Conflict resolution skills. Interpersonal skills. Team work. That you can interact well with others.

    How to answer: Have 3 examples ready, one of conflict with your boss, one with a co-worker, one with a customer/patient. Segue if needed (“While I haven’t had that particular experience, I have had….”). Then give them a similar example that shows your ability to communicate with others and come to a working agreement. They will go with it.


    Once you land a job, it's going to be very important for you to stay put for one to two years. Think of it as building your credit back up if you've ever had poor credit. You need to establish a stable work history.

    If you have been impulsive and overly emotional at work before, or if you don't know what is contributing towards your short work stays, think about getting some counseling. It can be very helpful to gain insight and perspective.


    Best wishes,


    Nurse Beth



    Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your
    Last edit by Brian S. on Oct 12
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  2. 2 Comments

  3. by   Ms.UndastoodRn
    Everyone is so literal nowadays. Everything is social media driven. No one takes the time to ask questions, get to know you as a person. It's neither here nor there but you can't say anything without it being taken out of context. Charge nurses are thrown into their jobs without proper training, like using your listening ears and asking questions. My Mom died of lung cancer and whenever I had to take care of someone dealing with the same illness it was very hard for me. To say I hate cancer is an understatement. I hope you find something quick and just learn to censor your emotions and not share too much. Get a journal and start writing things down, that way you have an avenue to release your feelings/emotions.
  4. by   Dafabb
    It's ok to have an emotional out sometimes just not often. I worked oncology for 5 yrs and all of us at one time cried with our pt/family, by ourselves. I have sat in the NS and cried(rarely) over an aged pt. It could be as simply as they miss there pet and hope they get to see them again. One thing I will say now and It was drilled in me 40 yrs ago is " Nurses eat their young" This is as true today as all those years ago. Trust is something you give our sparingly in certain areas. When it comes down to them or you then you just might be looking at the underside of a bus! I am not a negative person just practical and have seen it over and over......

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