How to Handle Layoffs

By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA

No matter what your profession or who your employer is, lay-offs have become part of the American landscape. In healthcare, we find ourselves in the midst of hospital and healthcare facility closings, downsizing, and reorganization. And while getting laid-off can be a shock to your system and your bank account, if you use the five strategies below, you’ll be able to maintain your financial stability and your sanity while you work to recover.

Take Stock

Check with the human resources department to see what you are entitled to regarding severance (if applicable) and any extended healthcare benefits. If your employer had been providing health benefits for you, you and your covered dependents may be eligible for temporary continuation of healthcare coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) at group rates. Be aware that you must pay the entire premium, and it may be costly. But you don’t want to drop your coverage, especially if you or someone in your family has a pre-existing condition. You can also look into healthcare coverage on your own by contacting insurance companies or working with an independent insurance agent. You may even be eligible for unemployment benefits. Take advantage of whatever is available to you.

Create a Budget

Look at your monthly expenditures and determine what you need to live on and what backup resources you have (savings, secondary income, etc.). Think of ways you can modify your lifestyle to reduce spending. You’d be amazed at how little you can live on when you put your mind to it.

Activate Your Network

Systematically contact everyone you know both in and out of healthcare. Let them know what your status is and what kind of job you are ideally looking for (even in general terms). Ask for their help as appropriate (e.g., introductions, additional contacts). Go to Nursing Spectrum/NurseWeek Career Fairs, professional association meetings, recruitment events, nursing conventions and conferences, and other networking venues. Networking is a powerful way to find and get a job. Be sure to save your receipts, too, because your job-hunting expenses may be tax deductible. Check with your accountant.

Work While You Look

Consider signing up with an agency to do part-time or temporary work while you look for something full-time or more regular. Most nursing agencies have a variety of offerings. And many general employment agencies offer nontraditional options for nurses.

Take Care of Yourself

Although getting laid off and being unemployed is stressful, it is important to remain level headed and focused. Part of that includes taking advantage of the time off to be with friends and family, get a massage, and do something enjoyable you previously didn’t have the time to do. It may be prudent to cancel a ski trip, but don’t crawl into a hole. Stay positive and take time to de-stress.

Change is never easy — especially forced change. But sometimes things happen for a reason, even if that reason is not immediately evident, and even bigger and better things can happen. As Helen Keller once said, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened to us.” Shift your focus, and move forward.

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