8 Reasons Nurses Get Fired

by Tera Tuten on November 17, 2011

Donald Trump might have turned the words “You’re fired!” into a pop culture phrase, but the reality is no one likes to hear those words; not even nurses. Over the years, interest in nursing careers has almost doubled, due to the health sector creating over 500,000 new jobs every year.

Despite the huge demand for trained individuals, nurses still find themselves facing the chopping block. Whether considering a career in nursing, or you are currently employed as a nurse, learning the common reasons nurses get fired can help you avoid a day of judgment.

1. Giving into Temptation—Abuse of Prescription Drugs

A recent study of nurses discovered that 2-5% of those who worked as an RN, or registered nurse, admitted to having a prescription drug addiction, and another 5-10% confessed to having tried patient medication at some point in their career.

2. Demand for Perfection—Making Too Many Mistakes

Some career choices give you the luxury to make mistakes and learn from them. With a career as a nurse, there isn’t the opportunity to make a mistake while on the job. One wrong choice or error as a nurse could have fatal consequences for the patient.

3. Cyberspace Collides With Reality — Facebook Usage & Information

Nurses follow a strict code of conduct, and vow to keep the privacy of a patient. However, some nurses develop blabbermouth, or in this case, blabber-fingers on the Internet and break these codes by sharing anything and everything on Facebook. No matter how vague the reference, if you violate job responsibilities you’ll find more time for Facebook, as you’ll be out of a job.

4. Put On a Happy Face—Grumpy or Negative Attitude

Part of the job description for a nurse is to be a comfort for. In fact, studies have shown that positive nursing can lead to a speedy and complete recovery. Everyone has bad days where you feel like moping around and taking it out on the world. However, nurses are required to push those days aside and put on a happy face for the patients in their care.

5. Obtain Proper Licensing—Failure to Renew or Receive Nursing License

Nurses all over the country are required to obtain a current and valid nursing license. While the process for gaining a nursing license is different in every state, the consequence for not obtaining the license is similar across the board. Failure to renew or obtain a nursing license result in automatic termination and could prevent you from gaining a job in nursing in other states.

6. Patient Treatment—Abuse of Patients

It can be hard to believe that someone who devotes so much time to learn how to care and treat ill patients could abuse them, but 6% of all hospitals and nursing homes were cited for cases of patient abuse. Patient abuse ranges from neglect, physical roughness, verbal abuse, and failure to administer recommended medical treatment. Employers take patient abuse seriously and after an investigation will terminate anyone caught engaging in such an activity.

7. The Disappearing Act—Too Many Absences

Every job hates having to find a replacement when someone calls in sick or takes off of work. However, with the lack of nurses and knowledge required to perform the job, finding a replacement nurse at the last minute can be tough. Nurses who have too many absences, whether excused or unexcused, could find themselves getting more than their desired time off.

8. Inner Politics—Proper Handling of Management

Nurses need to learn how to address concerns and problems they may have with their work environment in a respectful and politically correct manner that won’t attract the attention of upper management or those in charge. Too much attention drawn on you from upper management could result in having all aspects of your job placed under a microscope and examined until they find grounds for termination.

Avoid Hearing “You’re fired!”

With so many people worried about losing their jobs due to the economy, why would you want to place your nursing career on the line by committing some of these popular reasons for termination. After all, unless you are being fired by Donald Trump himself, hearing the words “you’re fired” isn’t all that thrilling or exciting.


{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan Pitt RN BSN 12.19.11 at 10:33 pm

I would just like to comment on the statement regarding the increase in nurses graduating and entering the job field. I have been a nurse for 17 years, and have worked in just about all fields available. The problem is the hospitals, health facilities, etc, are cutting back on staff and adding more patient load to nurse ratio which is a big contributer to medical errors, and nurse burn out. The other change going on in health care is the fact that health care is a profit business and not so much the non-profit organizations that used to exist. Administration and nurses do not walk in each others shoes, which leads to lack of trust in an institution for fear of getting fired. I know a little about what administration has to do, but I would like to know more so that I would better understand the rationale of why, what, who, when, and where, if you know what I am talking about. I realize that costs have to be cut and watched daily, due to our society and government issues. On the other hand I know that someone other than myself and other nurses are not getting paid as nice as the top brass. I am eager to learn more and hope this gets read by the right person that maybe can answer some of the questions we need to hear.


Susan Pitt RN BSN

Andi Switzer 10.15.12 at 9:19 am

Very good topic. I have had 2 friends, when I was younger, who were nurses and got fired. One 4 drug abuse and 1 for arrogance toward doctors, being cold 2 patients, and just a lack of common decency and smarts. I am sure however that administrative cut back decisions are affecting nurses with burnout. It’s a very serious profession held to extreme high standards…..one I have always known I could not do. I admire anyone who gets into it.

lyn brown 11.08.12 at 3:33 pm

nurse for 31 yrs working shifts didnt get on with colleuge who climbed the ladder she got promoted and went for me unfortunatley she caught in a bad place reported me and i got sacked

lyn brown 01.01.13 at 8:16 pm

i was a good nurse

Gena 04.04.13 at 10:08 pm

my hat goes off to ANY nurse whether they’re brand new or been a nurse for 55 years…..They put up with a lot and back in the day $15-$18 per hour seemed like a lot of money for nurses but NOW they need to be paid ALOT MORE than $18-$20 per hour ….especially all the things they have to learn in school, they do a lot more than charting and passing medicine…They smell our funky butts, change diapers, pads and everything else…. deal with our rude attitudes and behaviors, listen to us whine and cry for morphine all night, and cater to us as we ring the bell every 2 minutes for a cup of ice or to tie our shoes….they are underpaid for what they do and what they put up with…..I dont care if the economy is bad or not right now…..thats no excuse for not paying them what they deserve adn worked hard for…We need medical care and they provide it….we can go with little food and water, but health is priority we need to keep our bodies in check and these Nurses are bursting their butts making sure that we have what we need to keep our health in good shape….PAY THEM!!!!!!

Tracey 05.06.13 at 5:39 pm

I have been a nurse for 20 years. It is a good profession. It has allowed me to travel all around the US and now I reside in Hawaii. I make a very respectable wage and only work 36 hours a week. Yes, there are a lot of demands on nurses, more every time I clock in. But, there are a lot of demands being placed on hospitals, hospital administrators and doctors. Healthcare is changing. Treat others as you wish to be treated. Always be willing to learn new things and count your blessings. I believe practicing nursing in this manner is the secret to a long career in nursing. Happy nurse’s week.

Barb 06.02.13 at 10:07 pm

As I sit reading these comments, I sit waiting the decision of management of a well known southern NJ Hospice. I gave a Dulcolax suppository to a constipated patient in her home with her consent and good results were had. I did not call the doctor for the order until later. LPN (who was angry over a personal ) who was with me for some reason I do not understand reported me to my manager. I was told by management that it was ok to give an enema because that is in my “care kit” but not a dulcolax suppository. I may be fired on Monday because of this. They state I cannot be trusted in the field. I have letters of commendation from patients in my file. I have been a nurse for 20 years. This sounds so stupid and unbelievable but it is true. Management is a collection of nearsighted degreed individuals kept in a secure environment where they usually cannot do much damage except when they decide they need to a stand. So I may lose my job over a dulcolax suppository. Asinine.

David 06.05.13 at 4:00 am

I don’t like the politics in nursing homes. First of all, it is impossible to do the job of a LPN or even a CNA 100% correctly is this setting. Second of all, I can’t stand facilities where nobody gets along and every little detail of what you say or do is reported to management. Finally, If you’re not a hetrosexual white female everyone just assumes you are not fit for the job and make your job impossible at every turn… I don’t think that is very appropriate and I will change that.

Amy Swisher 10.30.13 at 6:26 pm

I was “terminated” over the phone by the day shift Supervisor (I am a night shift nurse) due to not giving a pt his Lactulose. He was asleep when I came in to administer the medication and his wife told me to let him sleep. As the night went on, I inquired different times to the CNA’s on the pt’s well being and if he was still resting. Everything was fine. Well, apparently in my haste throughout the night, the medication got marked off of the MAR that it had been given. Also when cleaning off my cart, the unopened lactulose was found in the trash along with all of my other “trash” from the night. I was called at home that next afternoon and terminated. I was also denied unemployment.

outof work LPN 04.23.14 at 2:39 am

I was fired for not intervening in a resident to resident altercation which resulted in injury- I was administering medication and making sure the resident would not fall; advanced age, Parkinson like tremors, and uses a walker-I was awarded unemployment-terminations such as this is why nursing has become a nasty job.

Hate Nursing 06.04.14 at 3:36 am

They fire you for whatever they want. Especially, when you woke for an agency they can make up stories.

LVN 07.02.14 at 3:19 pm

To out of work LVN I to was fired from a job just for saying the wrong thing to my patient. I was just wondering have you found a job yet?

Guest 07.15.14 at 8:37 am

I would not recommend this profession to anyone, right now. There is actually an over abundance of nurses thanks to the economy, grants, visas, etc. If you get fired, you may never work again. This profession is not worth the investment.

Chase Adrian 07.24.14 at 3:49 am

I think it is very funny that as a CNA I see what nurses actually do in a long term care facility. I must admit I have found a few hardworking and compassionate nurses but a good majority of them are lazy and nasty individuals who think that they are better than everyone below them and treat the people they ” supervise” as trash and unworthy of the respect and dignity that they deserve as the caregivers who actually care for these patients. I don’t understand how as a registered nurse most can say they give quality and compassionate care to the residents when they can’t even treat a fellow coworker as a human being

Angel Lynn 10.29.14 at 3:53 am

Chase, I couldnt have said it any better. I am a PCT. aka Nurse Tech, PST, the new LPN… blah blah. I currently work as a CNA and I can say there are very few RNs that actually do any hands on care. All that personal care is done by the CNA. In my facility all the RNs do is medpass and chart. Theyre too good to answer a call light right next to them. Recently I was written up by this RN bc she was soo busy with medpass to help me with 2 of the required 5 neurocheck vitals from a patient fall. Thats ok while your at the desk sitting on your fat ass I can do 3 patient baths and change and assist 13 people AND do neurochecks every 15 mins bc Im good like that. You just sit there and put pills in a cup.

Bertha 12.11.14 at 10:52 am

As a new nurse, whose best job offer came from a LTC facility, I expected to work hard and learn on the job. Within days of my 7 days of training I realized I needed to do what the other nurses did to survive. The med passes are at least 2.5 hours long and that is if you have a good night. Report is 20 min, narcotic count at least 10, that is 5.5 hours. Calling and waiting for a response from the doctor and tying in the order and implementing it can take some time. If I had a phone less than 25 feet from my cart/computer it would save time. The cart is in the hallway so when the two aides are in patient rooms or out for a cigarette (by the way they always get their breaks as they should but don’t always tell me they are going as they should) I become the CNA. It is impossible to give someone pills or change a bandage or put on prescription creams to a BM covered ass. Once the CNA comes back, and doesn’t let me know again, she’s on to her own schedule and doesn’t give a crap about the fact that lights have been on for a half hour. GOOD ATTITIDE. You can be good at what you do in some ways but playing games and compromising patients in other ways negate any good you do. Communication shouldn’t be an option. And, I have found out it isn’t. I have the power to write her up, don’t want to necessarily, but will because it’s my job on the line. Stop playing games CNA’s just because you know it is harder for the RN. I already spoke to the higher ups and even if she is good when she does her job, the attitude isn’t good for the patients, other workers, and ultimately her. I worked as a CNA too BTW, just not for life. I always tried to be helpful—and I was respectful when asked to do something within my scope. The bad attitudes shown by most of the CNA’s comes from low pay and way too many patients. NOT MY FAULT. Remember that!

Hannah 01.12.15 at 12:51 pm

Hi all! I am a nurse with a BSN that has been out of school for 2 years and tried everything from Neuro ICU and med surg to home health and hospice. Nothing seems to work. What I struggle most with is medication error prevention, time management, and organization. I am VERY discouraged right now and am considering leaving the profession. Do you have any suggestions? I’ve asked other people before and nothing seems to help.

Lori 01.19.15 at 9:41 pm

How to keep your job:
1. NEVER complain about anything, especially about other staff even if you ‘re in the right. It looks SO bad when you go to upper management and “vent” or “complain” because they want you to address it and fix it yourself. The more you
complain the more at risk you put yourself- as soon as you know it they will target you to be terminated by looking for anything to write you up. When they give you the ax they will either force you (in duress, I think) to resign or they fire you and it will happen when you least expect it. Pretty much bend over & take it up the a$$ is my advice. If they invite you to come to them and feel free to “vent” , don’t do it-it’s a trap. You can do it on surveys -just change your demographics. Upper management can turn things around and accuse you of “creating a hostile environment” when it’s really them
2. Do what you’re told
3. Be helpful
4. Participate in unit committees as much as possible. If you don’t you may be seen as apathetic or negative
5. Do not trust anyone
6. Come to work on time and don’t call out-you can get into an accident and have your leg cut off and upper management won’t care. It still counts as an occurrence.
7. HR won’t help you
8. Be prepared to get another job if you go above the nurse manager’s head
9. There will always be cliques and favoritism-upper management can pick and choose who to promote no matter how long you’ve been there or how many good deeds you’ve done, you may still be viewed as a “bottom feeder” . Even after all the contributions I’ve made for my unit, a supervisor told me “there’s some people with seniority that aren’t worth $h$t”, and I always thought of myself as a good nurse and took pride in my job
10. Try to do a good job everyday
11. Smile and look happy, try to get along with your coworkers as best as you can

Nursing in general just sucks-if you’re doing it because you have dreams of marrying a doctor then you are in it for the wrong reason. You don’t get much of a raise anymore for working like a dog and showing on your annual review how much of a super nurse you are, and due to budget constraints OT is rare. Furthermore, it’s just a bunch of mental abuse and no real thanks except by your patient. Upper management likes to shut you up with food in the break room. In my next life I will help animals, not people. So if you’re thinking about going into nursing, I’d think long and hard about it and consider another profession, especially if you want your sleep and to enjoy your weekends and holidays.

R u N Sane 01.30.15 at 11:11 pm

Lori you said it the best. There’s an expression, ” Nurses eat their young”! If we as Nurses devoted as much time to ensuring the work environment was productive, following the Golden Rule and treating ourselves, our coworkers and our Patients and their Families with respect, dignity and courtesy, as we do complaining about the work, fermenting descent among our colleagues, disrespectful and unconstructive dialogue, Nursing and the places we work would be very rewarding. Anyone can complain, but often we miss opportunity because it’s covered in dirt , wears overalls and looks like work!

I get it! some organizations culture

R u N Sane 01.30.15 at 11:18 pm

Are less than desirable then have the courage to leave and find one that suits your values and convictions. Staying with the organization and adding to the misery is a race towards the bottom of the barrel of unfulfilled expectations.

Just another nurse 02.23.15 at 4:30 am

Run while you still can. It’s a horrible profession to be in, especially right now. For many reasons, over worked, under appreciated, and abused physically and mentally on a daily basis. The only good part of the job is the reward you get from helping people get better. The politics of nursing is another story..

Tasmin Wake 02.25.15 at 12:12 am

Try reading this book. It’s all about how to use your nursing skills to get into another totally unrelated career. helped me.


sharon goodrow 03.08.15 at 12:42 am

I agree…I became a nurse 20 years ago to take care of my patients…now it has became a battle between nurses…who is the best nurse…who is the smartest… which pt loves which nurse more..

CA Nurse 03.10.15 at 9:39 pm

You can get fired for anything. Nurses in hospitals now have too much work assigned to them and endless charting – but it all better be done on time because otherwise you’re disorganized. Been an ICU RN for over 20 years and the job has only gotten worse. Nurses are often scapegoated if something goes wrong with the patient. I still love patient care, but the job is becoming impossible.

MER 03.21.15 at 1:22 pm

Hi folks. I became an LPN, then RN 10 years ago. It’s been quite a ride. At times, I’ve had some very decent paying jobs with benefits…but staying and keeping them has been the trick. Sorry to hear Chase & Angela had such bad experiences with RNs. The sad truth is, when an RN does pitch in and try to help the aides more with hands-on care…it leads to other problems. I used to run out of time, couldn’t get my charting done, or miss an important lab result, or not see new orders until the shift was almost over…or worse yet, sometimes the aides learn which RNs will answer more call lights, and back off & be nowhere to be found, as they beep away. Sometimes other nurses resent it if you work too hard, so attitudes develop. Management loves hard workers, and will keep pushing staff harder if they can get more work out of you. And then, when you are running, ‘like a chicken with their head chopped off’, missing breaks, lunches…and then comes the inevitable med error. It doesn’t matter how hard you worked, how much you helped your CENAs, you will be on the chopping block. I need the income, still enjoy helping patients, but wish there was a different way to help people, & still pay the bills. PS…10 yrs and I still owe most of my nel-net loans.

Shoegirl 03.25.15 at 2:09 pm

I’m on suspension right now. I trained a new nurse who made up untruthful things. She passed the meds and I did vitals. Yet she told management I did all kinds of things. I am on suspension pending investigation for grossly poor nursing care. My word against hers. I have been there for 2.5 years as an lpn at a LTC facility in Michigan. If fired can you get unemployment for poor nursing care? She is friends with administration. I obviously am not.

Mary 04.05.15 at 11:50 am

There is a nurse in the cancer center that has depressed my husband so much by telling him her problems that now all he does is stay in bed and he acts as if he has given up, she was not there the first time he took chemo and he was doing so good, now he has totally given up because she has depressed him so much.who do I see to get this to stop?

Rose 05.24.15 at 4:22 pm

Yes I would definitely say it is without a doubt a bottom barrel job.Not only do you have 30 to 1ratio ,your expected to care and do treatments for them…impossible to follow all whats expected and the administrative teams wont lighten the load in any way …..the bottom of the barrel no its way Below the bottom ..

wendy 06.01.15 at 7:13 pm

I have been a nurse for 25 yrs and have HATED almost EVERY minute of it. Kept trying to hang in there, and there have been some enjoyable/great/ proud moments through the years, but too few to say I like my career choice I regret it SO much I cant explain it, and now that I’m too old to be able to start at entry level in a new career field, I am screwed and will live the rest of my working days in misery. WHAT a horrifying career choice- thankless and nasty.

Mark 09.01.15 at 2:37 pm

I have a question my wife is a nurse and she gave a coworker a Xanax he has a prescription for them just left them at home had a break down at work and she got fired for it….now her mother told my wifes doctor about it now she has to go in front of the nursing board any help please I do not know what to do and neither does she

RNatnotgreatplace 09.22.15 at 1:54 pm

You can be fired for any dang thing your manager wants. You can be perfect, but make one mistake and if your manager doesn’t like you and everyone at some point with the amount of care you have to provide and the multi-tasking makes a mistake. HR will then make your life so miserable that you want to resign before they fire you. Hospitals usually pay for years of nursing, so the longer you’ve been a nurse, the more money you make. Which is great except when managers want to fix their budgets so that they get their bonuses – who do you think they look at to get rid of? The older nurse. Then you can’t transfer out to another department because they can get a cheaper nurse.

If you’re going to be an RN, do it with a plan in mind on how to get out – RNA, NP and so on. Because it’s no longer a career profession unless you’re very lucky. I don’t care how nice you are, you will never be perfect.

Sharon 10.13.15 at 10:23 pm

Hannah, I’m discouraged and struggling as well with the same things you mentioned. Have you been able to get any good advice, or have you left the profession?

Prettysaddayforanurse 11.15.15 at 8:06 pm

Not knocking female nurses because I am one..but I would rather work with all male nurses because they are focused and go into work with a plan to get the job done, not to be backstabbing, jealous and hurtful people. I know that there are great female nurses but just not that many. Many that I have worked with are downright nasty. The nursing career is one of the most abusive fields to work in..you get abuse from the patients, which I can usually understand but plus you get it from your co-workers. I will be honest because I worked in a mental institution, it isn’t uncommon for nurses to be admitted their. Watch your mental state if you choose this field, do yoga and meditate so you don’t go to work and snap on someone.

G. Hamm 11.27.15 at 1:12 am

I dislike the way some of these points are made. In some cases it appears that I should be “greatful” that I have a job and should not ever have an unhappy face……give me a f*ing break! I have been a nurse for twenty years and it is getting really old. No breaks, late lunch, etc. same ol same ol. Lets squeeze the nurse a little harder.

kelly 01.02.16 at 7:24 pm

I had a second cousin that worked as a nurse in one of the ERs and she had me court ordered because we had an argument in the family so she did this out of spite and trying to show how important she was. My doctor was telling me things my cousin was doing and how she knew information about me so I called the er and asked to speak to who was in charge. A lady and a man came up to talk to me, they were investigators and I said How does my cousin know all of my information. the lady said who told you I said my doctor did. She said we will investigate this, the lady called me the next day and said they had sent it to the higher up of the hospital. Long story short, after we went to court, she texted me and said I caused her to be fired. she had been there 15 years. I didn’t cause her to get fired she caused her ownself to be fired.

Annie 01.03.16 at 4:34 am

I’ve seen nurses — even good ones — get fired for so many unfair things. Usually, they had the misfortune of being scapegoated. After 20+ years, I left on my own terms. I didn’t want to spend another year dealing with the headaches of this increasingly neurotic profession. Farewell, nightengales and nightendudes! I wish you luck — sincerely I do.

I have nothing left to offer fellow nurses or future patients except an upcoming book which I think the majority of nurse will find extremely relatable.

Diana 02.04.16 at 1:31 pm

I worked in behavioral health and was wrongfully and unfairly terminated because I was unable to care for three ill clients at the same time as well as being under the microscope as every move I made or word I said was reported to management. In addition, my registered nurse position has been immediately filled by the 3rd shift LPN, so much for a bachelor’s degree in nursing.


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