Applying for a job following investigation, sanction or dismissal
If you're applying for a job following an investigation, sanction, dismissal, or NMC referral, we understand this can be a difficult time for you. You may feel concerned about how this will impact on your career, or worry it will stop you from gaining future employment.
Applying for jobs in these circumstances is undoubtedly more challenging than usual, but not impossible. On the contrary, many healthcare professionals are able to find new jobs and move forward with their careers following a successful disclosure.
Some employers might feel nervous about hiring a person who’s been investigated, sanctioned or referred to the NMC, so it's possible you might get turned down for roles when you disclose what happened. Try not to be disheartened and be prepared to keep trying.
Investigations, sanctions and NMC referrals can be a stressful and potentially devastating ordeal, which can easily cause loss of confidence in clinical abilities, impact on self-esteem and affect emotional wellbeing.
It’s important to put your emotional health first and deal with any negative emotions before you move on. This will ensure you’re in the right frame of mind when you’re going for jobs and that your prospective employer will see the best of you. It will also mean you'll be giving off the right vibes when attending interviews or recruitment days.
You may find it helpful to talk things through with someone like a counsellor. If you're an RCN member, you can access free telephone counselling as part of your membership.
Other possible sources of support include:
- Your GP
- Your employer's Occupational Health services, or Employee Assistance Scheme
- The Samaritans
- Breathing Space (Scotland only)
- Canopi (Wales only)
- Private counselling
- Fitness to Practice Careline -
- Nurse Lifeline - creating space for healthcare staff to offload and chat with someone who "gets it."
It’s possible that you were investigated, sanctioned or referred to the NMC, but weren’t dismissed by your employer. Often, resigning in order to move on elsewhere and start afresh can seem like an attractive prospect, but you should consider carefully whether or not it's in your interest to stay where you are in the interim.
Remaining in your current job might mean you can:
- Remedy any shortfalls
- Undergo further training
- Make the most of any ongoing support, coaching or supervision, and
- Build up a period of time following the incident.
Prospective employers will be more willing to hire a candidate if they can get a picture of how the candidate has acted since any incident, e.g. what measures have been taken, whether there has been any repetition, any positive feedback or evidence of improvement, etc.
If you are still in the middle of an ongoing investigation, disciplinary or NMC referral, you should be aware that resigning from your job will not counteract or stop this, and you would still have to disclose the details of any incident to a prospective employer when you next go for a job. Finding employment in these circumstances can prove more difficult, as most employers will want to know the outcome of your case before deciding whether to employ you.
If you do decide you want to leave your employer following an incident, try not to resign without having another job to go to, and an unconditional offer of employment.
If you are being supported by the RCN with your case, you should always talk things through with your RCN rep or officer before making any decisions. If you don't have a rep, you can contact RCN Direct for advice.
When making a disclosure, follow these tips:
- Be upfront and honest
- Be concise and factual
- Always place an emphasis on what you’ve learnt following the incident
- Demonstrate insight and reflection wherever possible
- Describe any formal or informal learning you have completed (e.g. study days, workshops, work based competencies, e-learning, self-directed learning)
- Describe how you have moved forward to address any issues raised (e.g. counselling to improve confidence, training or refresher training, work experience gained)
- Identify any further actions you intend to take or specific support you might need from the employer, whilst remaining clear that you will take ownership of your future development
- Highlight the reasons why you think there's no likelihood of repetition
- Highlight your previously unblemished record, if applicable
- Sell yourself - focus on all the things you can offer and what you makes you a good healthcare professional
Be concise about the incident you're disclosing. Some candidates end up giving lots of detail and information about all the various factors involved in the incident, either because they're nervous, because they're trying to be upfront, or because they're emotional. This approach is seldom successful. Instead, give a succinct account and stick to the facts, placing the emphasis on what you've learnt and what you've done since the incident.
You should also try to avoid being negative about your previous employer or blaming others, even if you have good reason to do so. For example, if you believe poor systems contributed to you making mistakes, outline the facts about the systems in place without passing judgement, and state what you would do if you were in this situation again. This approach will demonstrate professionalism, insight and reflection.
Although you may feel nervous about raising these issues, remember that most employers are seeking candidates who can demonstrate honesty, openness and integrity. The majority of employers use Values Based Recruitment and will be assessing candidates to check that they have these qualities. A recruitment panel will usually respect you for taking the difficult step of talking about your situation and showing how you are trying to move forward with your career.
Some application forms will ask you directly if you have been dismissed, investigated, sanctioned or referred to the NMC/DBS, etc. You must answer honestly.
If you don’t disclose something when you’ve been directly asked to do so, this can lead to withdrawal of a job offer. If you’re a nurse or midwife, you will also be considered in breach of the NMC Code for being dishonest, and may be subsequently be referred to the NMC.
If the application doesn’t directly ask for this information, you can choose to:
- Disclose it somewhere within your application anyway (e.g. covering letter, supporting statement, additional information)
- Wait to see if you get shortlisted, and then contact the employer to disclose it
- Disclose it at interview stage
Remember, your application should ultimately be about how you have the skills and qualities to do the job, so put the focus on this rather than focusing on the incident.
You may prefer to disclose an incident at the interview stage. You could do this at the start of the interview to get it out of the way. Alternatively you may feel you want to bring it up at the end of the interview after you’ve had time to make an impression. It will be a matter of personal preference and judgment.
Practice what you’re going to say and rehearse it several times. If you’d like interview coaching or help with interview techniques, including how to present a disclosure, you can book an appointment with an RCN Careers Coach by calling RCN Direct on 0345 772 6100.
Remember, the interview should be a chance to show how you have the skills and experience required to do the job, rather than focusing on the incident.
If a nurse or midwife is referred to the NMC, the NMC might decide to put a ‘conditions of practice order’ in place. This order will specify circumstances or restrictions under which a nurse or midwife can practice.
Each case is different, but common examples of conditions include:
- Being restricted from working in a particular setting
- Being restricted from carrying out some aspects of the job, such as medicines administration without supervision
- Being directed to undertake retraining
- Having regular meetings with a mentor or manager
If you have conditions of practice in place, there is nothing to stop you from applying for healthcare jobs but you’ll have to be up front and honest with any employer. In addition, the employer would need to be made aware of any support or measures needed to satisfy the conditions.
The NMC has recently published new guidance on Conditions of Practice.
As the NMC states, “It is inevitable that conditions may have the effect of making it more difficult to obtain employment, but this does not mean that the conditions are unworkable.”
Sometimes the NMC may highlight areas of concern regarding your practice such as medicines management, communication, record keeping, or teamwork. It's recommended that you take a proactive approach to address any such concerns or show that you're willing to improve on your practice.
You may want to see our pages on CPD and searching for courses and examples of free courses for some ideas, as well as the advice below on "courses, e-learning, and professional activities to demonstrate awareness."
It's possible for nurses or midwives to work within non registered healthcare roles such as Healthcare Assistant, Clinical Support Worker or Assistant Practitioner. If you’re finding it impossible to gain employment because of your disclosure, working in a non-registered healthcare role may be a good stepping stone in the short term as it could enable you to:
- Prove how you’ve moved on since the incident
- Demonstrate commitment to working within the healthcare profession
- Rebuild your confidence and self esteem
- Get a foot in the door
- Obtain a further employment reference and/or character reference
When applying for support roles, you’ll still need to be honest with employers about anything that's previously happened, and should also consider the following:
- You will still be accountable to the NMC
- You must still adhere to the NMC code and any other NMC guidelines and standards (e.g. NMC Standards for Medicines Management)
- If you have NMC conditions of practice put in place, you may not be able satisfy all of them
- You will need to be aware of any role boundaries
- Any hours worked within a non registered role will not count towards your revalidation requirements, as you will not be working within your scope as a nurse or midwife
If you are concerned about information which you know will be disclosed in a reference, again we advise you to follow the guidance above.
If you think your reference is unfair, false or inaccurate, you may wish to challenge it. For advice about this and your legal rights, please see the RCN's online advice about references.
How the Careers Service can help you
Applying for jobs
If you need to apply for jobs, the RCN Careers Service has online advice on producing a successful CV, covering letter, or supporting statement including tips, samples, templates and tutorials. We also offer tailored feedback and advice via e-mail. We cannot help you find a job, but we can offer guidance on how to make sure any application you submit is as strong as possible, and offer tips on maximising your employability. See the career coaching page for more details.
If you have been offered an interview, you may decide to book in for interview coaching to help you prepare. The interview coaching could include how you will manage any anxiety around disclosing your situation at the interview stage, and/or rehearsing how you will disclose to the employer.
If you are thinking about changing direction in your career (this could be within healthcare or outside healthcare) or leaving nursing, you may want to explore our career crossroads resources on the career coaching page. You may also consider booking a career coaching appointment.
Career Coaches cannot tell you which path you should take, which jobs would be suitable for you, or which employers would be likely to hire you, but they can listen to your ideas, help you reflect on what's important to you, and give you a safe space to explore any emotions you might be feeling, such as shame, loss of confidence, anxiety, fear, etc.
If emotions such as loss of confidence, anxiety, shame, fear, etc. are hindering your progress or blocking you from moving forward, you may want to consider career coaching. Career coaches will never try and "fix" you, or tell you what to do, but they can offer you a safe space to explore these emotions and reflect upon your situation, encourage you to move forward, and empower you to come up with your own solutions.
You may also want to consider counselling with the RCN.
We can't change what happened, but we can offer you support to make sure you've got the best chance possible of getting another job.
You'll also be able to access Member Support Services such as Counselling, Welfare, and Peer Support.