How can I navigate probing questions about my employment gap and personal situation during a nursing interview?

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Dear Nurse Beth,

Need advice. I was a nurse with about 2 years of nursing experience in CPCU/CICU, worked as PCT in CPCU during school. Unfortunately, our CPCU also turned into COVID ICU, I had some tragic personal things happen and working COVID made things worse.

I had no other choice but to leave the hospital. Since then have been working in a wellness store like IVs and IM shots since Summer 2022.

I've done a lot of therapy and finally ready to return to the hospital v excited. However, just had one interview and within two minutes the HR person drilled in and was probing hard asking what my personal situation was and why I wasn't working in the hospital.

Because hiring manager is going to be concerned why I've been gone so long and if I'm going to end up leaving job again. Felt really wrong because she wouldn't give it up. How would you handle that?

Second, I was told most likely going to have to go to night shift to 'relearn' everything. I absolutely can't work night shift it makes me so emotionally unstable.

Im wondering if anyone has ever been gone bedside for less than 5 years? What was it like getting back into the hospital? Do I most likely have to start on night shift again?

Also getting very concerned bc I keep checking job posts and the hospital I want to work at everything cardiac critical care has been night shift jobs, no day shift jobs posted. Is it getting harder to find day shift jobs these days??

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Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development.

Dear Concerned,

How to address the employment gap and personal issues

  • Be honest but concise about your reasons for leaving the hospital. You can mention that you faced unique challenges, including the impact of working in a COVID ICU, and took some time to prioritize your well-being.
  • Emphasize the positive steps you've taken while away, such as seeking therapy and gaining valuable experience in a wellness setting. This demonstrates personal and professional growth.
  • Express Readiness. Assure the interviewer that you have used this time to regain focus and are fully prepared and enthusiastic about returning to the hospital setting.

Addressing Shift Concerns

Landing a day shift position can be more challenging than landing a night shift position, depending on the facility and the unit—some facilities award day shift positions by seniority. 

During discussions about shift preferences, be clear about your limitations regarding night shifts due to health concerns.

If you are unable to work night shifts due to mental health reasons, it may limit your job opportunities as hospitals operate 24/7. Consider clinics or urgent care centers where the night shift is not an issue. 

Stay Informed. Keep monitoring job postings, and consider contacting the hospital's HR or nursing recruitment department for information on potential day shift opportunities.

Returning to Bedside Nursing After an Absence

  • Take a refresher course to update your nursing knowledge.
  • Seek transitional support. Inquire about any transitional support or orientation programs the hospital may offer for nurses returning to the bedside after a period of absence. This could help ease the reintegration process.
  • Connect with former colleagues. Reach out to former colleagues or mentors in the nursing field for advice and insights. They may have valuable suggestions or be aware of opportunities within the hospital.

Be Flexible

While your preference is cardiac critical care, consider being open to related units initially. Once you're back in a hospital setting, it may be easier to transition to your preferred unit or shift.

Remember that every situation is unique, and flexibility in your approach can be essential. It's not uncommon for nurses to face challenges when re-entering the workforce, but with persistence, effective communication, and a positive attitude, you can navigate these obstacles. Best of luck on your journey back into the hospital setting!

Nurse Beth