August 18, 2023

Firing Your Employer: Taking Control of Your Nursing Career

Firing Your Employer: Taking Control of Your Nursing Career

In this episode of the Ask Nurse Alice podcast, host Alice Benjamin shares her personal experience with “firing” her employer. She discusses the process of getting a job in healthcare and the importance of recognizing when it's time to take control of your own career and make the difficult decision to leave a job.

This content used under license from "Ask Nurse Alice."

Starting a new job as a nurse is a very involved process. From applying, to interviewing, to negotiating and orientation, nurses go through a lot to actually start working independently for a new employer. 

Nurse Alice notes that going through all of these steps is an investment, saying, “It's an investment of your time, your resources, and it's also an investment for the hospital or the group, as well, because they're spending money on all of these things.”

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Many employers have a probationary period, usually around 90 days long, in which employers assess whether newly-hired nurses truly have the skills and characteristics they desire in an employee.

“It’s very, very, very important to be super hypervigilant in your probationary period,” Nurse Alice advises in the episode.

The reason? Nurse Alice explains that during the 90-day probationary period, if the employer feels that you do not have the necessary qualities they want in an employee, they can let you go without notice. This is true in most states, where employment is considered “at-will”.

“So my question here is, if the organization has so many criteria in which they are critiquing you to deem that you deserve to be here or you should be here, that they should continue to pay you as if you're the end all be all, why are we not doing the same?” Alice asks.

Onboarding red flags

Nurse Alice goes on to explain a time recently when she was onboarding somewhere that she really wanted to work as a nurse practitioner. Unfortunately, she started seeing red flags almost immediately.

“I should have seen the red flags once I submitted the application and started going through the HR process. Because everywhere from the HR process to the administrative leadership process to then the interaction with clinical staff being on the other end now, the provider, it was like way different. And I was seeing red flags. And the orientation process was like fumble after fumble after fumble after fumble,” she explains.

She goes on to say that, despite the red flags, she felt somewhat trapped, since she has arranged her schedule to commit to this new job. 

“And I was also saying, like, you know what? It's new. Give it a shot, Alice. Don't be so close-minded. You know, roll with the punches. Be a team player. And I did all that. And I let myself down because during the orientation process, like I mentioned, there was a lot of miscommunication,” she says in the episode.

After constantly dealing with miscommunication, lack of preparation and equipment, and poor guidance during orientation, Nurse Alice quickly realized this employer was not going to be a good fit for her.

“When the work conditions and the work environment became mentally and physically and spiritually and emotionally taxing, I couldn't do it. The value of what I was getting paid compared to how I was leaving and how it's physically making me feel. It wasn't for me,” she explains.

Although it may feel strange or “wrong” to leave a job during the probationary period, Nurse Alice believes it is actually the best time to do it.

“Learn it early on. So we're not wasting money in the long run. We're not wasting time in the long run. Let's cut our losses early on,” she reasons. “Life is too short. And there's no reason why we should be staying anywhere where we are not celebrated and appreciated and feeling like we are draining ourselves versus filling our cups. So the sooner you can identify that an employer is not for you, the sooner you can fire them and the sooner you can get to the next job, which hopefully is a place where you can flourish, you can be happy and do all the things that you want to do in an environment that's going to be conducive to your growth.”

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Always have a plan in place

Although Nurse Alice encourages nurses to leave a job if they are unhappy, she also emphasizes the importance of being smart about leaving. It is imperative that you consider your personal obligations and ensure you have a backup plan in place prior to quitting.

She recommends doing these five things prior to firing your employer:

1. Document your incidents and concerns

2. Exhaust communication and conflict resolution efforts

3. Leave your feelings and ego at the door

4. Financial planning 

5. Start looking for other jobs prior to quitting

Nurse Alice breaks down each one of these things and their importance in detail during the podcast. Overall, she encourages nurses to have multiple plans in place, consider every scenario, and not put all of their eggs into one basket.

“Because I had other things to fall back on, I didn't feel as bad. I didn't feel like I had to stay in a toxic environment for much longer than I had to because I identified it was not the place for me. And that's okay. It is okay. There's nothing to be ashamed about. There's nothing to feel bad about. For some people, that is the best place in the world to work. But for me, it wasn't. It doesn't mean that they're the worst place to work and doesn't mean that I'm a bad nurse practitioner or a bad nurse. Not at all. It just means it wasn't a good fit,” she explains in the episode.

Consider potential employers carefully

Nurse Alice wanted to create this podcast episode as a tool to help nurses realize how important it is to evaluate their potential employers carefully before agreeing to work for them. 

As Nurse Alice says in the episode, “I don't think that we evaluate our employers with the same scrutiny that they evaluate us. And we should. And I think that if we were more proactive in the area and did that, we'd be better at finding out if a place is for us or isn't for us. And once we've identified it's not for us, we can get going on to the next step. Like, okay, if not this place, let me go on to the next place. And until we find a place where we're thriving and we are loving our job and we are loving what we do, and that's where we should work. That's really where you should work.”

Alice encourages nurses to really consider their mental health and the way their employer makes them feel while they are working. Feeling miserable or full of dread is not normal, and it could be a sign that it’s time to fire your employer and move on to something else more fulfilling and more aligned with your career goals. 

“I'm going to encourage you to find the environment where you're going to do your best and do your best and thrive and grow and become like all you can be…I want you to understand your value, understand your worth. You are very valuable. You have so much to offer,” she says. 

Listen to the full podcast episode for Nurse Alice’s complete insight on this valuable topic!

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