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RCN Careers: Dismissal

Applying for a job following a dismissal

Support for you during the application process

If you are applying for a job following an investigation, dismissal or NMC referral, we understand this can be a difficult time for you. 

The RCN Careers Service can offer advice on how to broach and manage a disclosure, and offer support when you apply for a new job.

I prepared for the interview and followed your advice. At the interview I spoke about my dismissal and showed them my reflection referring to NMC code of conduct. I also showed them the NMC outcome letter. They were very impressed with my honesty and I kept highlighting my clinical experience and practice. I'd like to share my happiness with you and tell you that they offered me the job... Thank you so very much for your support, advice and encouragement.


RCN member 2017

Applying for jobs following investigation, disciplinary, dismissal, or NMC referral

If you’ve been subject to an investigation, disciplinary, dismissal or NMC referral/case, it’s likely you’ll be concerned about how this will impact on your career or worried it will stop you from gaining future employment. 

Unless it has been specified otherwise by an official body/organisation (e.g. NMC, DBS, Home Office, etc) then there is nothing to stop you applying for jobs within healthcare. The important thing is that you are upfront and honest with any future employer about what happened.

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 under investigation, disciplined, dismissed, or referred to the NMC, so it's possible you might get turned down for roles when you make a disclosure. Try not to be disheartened and be prepared to keep trying.  

Be emotionally ready to move on  

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 telephone counselling for free as part of your membership. Call 0345 772 6100 to find out more and book an appointment. 

You can also contact organisations like The Samaritans, or access support through your GP.  

If you’re still employed

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 it's best to stay where you are. 

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 the incident, e.g. what measures have been taken, or whether there has been any repetition, 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 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 may prove even 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.

How to broach a disclosure

When making a disclosure, follow these tips: 

  • Be upfront and honest 
  • Be concise and factual 
  • Always place an emphasis on what you’ve learnt through or since 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 or self-directed learning
  • Describe how you have moved forward to address the issues raised (e.g. counselling to improve confidence, training you’ve completed, or work experience gained)
  • Identify any further actions you intend to take, or specific support you might need from your employer, whilst remaining clear that you will take ownership of your future development
  • Highlight why there would be be no likelihood of repetition
  • Highlight your previously unblemished record if you have one
  • 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 recruits who can demonstrate honesty, openness and integrity. Many employers are moving towards 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.

Disclosure at application stage

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.

Disclosure at interview stage

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 Adviser 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.

NMC conditions of practice

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 further 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.” 

Nurses working within a non-registered healthcare role

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

Problems with references

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, wish to challenge the reference, or need general advice about employment rights, please contact RCN Direct.

How the Careers Service can help you

If you're applying for jobs following an investigation, disciplinary, dismissal or NMC referral, the RCN Careers Service can: 

  • Provide feedback on CVs and covering letters
  • Provide feedback on the supporting statement part of your job application
  • Offer you interview coaching and practice

To make an appointment, please call RCN Direct.



RCN advice: dismissal

This guide advises RCN members facing dismissal.

RCN advice: workplace investigations

A guide for RCN members on workplace investigations.
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Careers advice

RCN members can make an appointment with a careers adviser. Contact the RCN on 0345 772 6100. You can call us from 8.30am to 8.30pm, seven days a week.

RCN Direct