Tips on Going Back to a Former Employer

Images of wooden sign with one arrow pointing left, and one pointing right, that read "old job" and "new job" respectively.
When you combine all the job opportunities for RTs out there today with the fact that there really are only a limited number of facilities that hire RTs in any given community, it is only natural that some therapists will end up going back to a former employer at some point during their careers.

What’s the best way to step out of your current work situation so that you can successfully step back into it several years later if that ends up being what’s best for your career? Four members of the AARC Specialty Sections who have lived through the experience weigh in.

Get back easily

Bency Mathew, RRT, was working two jobs a few years ago — PRN at one facility and part-time at another. Sometimes the part-time facility would call her to take on additional hours, but she would turn them down because she had already committed to the PRN facility. But about 75% of the time, the PRN facility would call her off at the last minute due to a low census.

Being left with no work at all so much of the time just wasn’t sustainable, and she knew she had to make a change.

“So I talked to the manager about it,” she said, acknowledging that she knew it wasn’t in his control to call her off. The manager understood her situation, and she left on good terms with her teammates and the doctors and nurses she worked with. “It was bittersweet, but I had no choice,” she said.

About five years later, she applied for a full-time night position back at this same hospital and found that she was welcomed back with open arms.

“If you leave a place with a good reputation, good work ethics, and as a good team player, you can easily get back with no other issues,” she said.

Don’t burn bridges

Elizabeth Barriteau, MS, RRT, AE-C, agrees. When she left one employer due to family issues and then wanted to return a few years later when those issues were resolved, she says she was welcomed back as if she never left.

Her best advice to her fellow RTs who are considering leaving their current employer is to make sure they don’t burn any bridges. You don’t know if you might one day want to return – or just need a good reference from that employer or another favor that could be important to your career.

When you do walk back into a door you’ve previously walked out of, she says it’s also important to come back with an open mind and a willingness to adapt because some things may have changed while you were gone. And it would be wise to be judicious when talking about the employer you just left as well.

“Be willing to share things you learned from your previous employment that may be a benefit, but do it graciously and in due time,” Barriteau said. “You do not want to appear as a ‘know it all,’ boastful, or like your previous employer does things better than your present employer.”

Yes, you can do it more than once

How many times can you leave and come back? For Rena Laliberte, BS, RRT, three was not too many.

The first time she decided to make a move, it was because another facility offered her slightly higher pay and a nice sign-on bonus. In addition, she was working at the only hospital she’d ever worked at (including as a student in clinical rotations) and wanted to see what else was out there.

“I discussed this with my director, and he was supportive of me investigating the possibility of life being greener somewhere else,” she said. It turns out that life was not greener, and after a mere two weeks, she asked for her old job back. He was happy to have her.

The second time she left, it was due to personal reasons. The night shift she was on no longer worked for her lifestyle, and she moved to a facility outside of the hospital system that could offer her the day shift. Unfortunately, that proved unworkable as well, and once again, she sought out her old employer and was welcomed back.

“The final time I left for a diagnostic/pulmonary rehab director position at a hospital in our system,” said Laliberte. “After seven years there, there was mention of closing the facility.”

She contacted her former director and discussed the possibility of transferring back before she found herself scrambling for a new job.

“I was welcomed back, and the facility did close,” she said.

She credits all these easy returns to her former employer to her work ethic, honesty, and dedication to the system, plus all the friends and connections she made at the facility over the years.

“Be of value,” she said. “I always give 100% of myself. Facilities will go on after you leave, but you want to leave just a tiny scar that people miss you, your work ethic, and your level of knowledge. If you need to return, your friends will be happy to see you and your director knows your worth.”

Honesty is the best policy

Angela Lorenzo, MS, RRT, RRT-NPS, RPFT, left a previous job at one point in her career to take another position that would allow her to be closer to her mother, who was showing signs of dementia.

“I feared I would get a phone call telling me my mother was found wandering the streets, not knowing how to get home,” she said.

Thankfully, her mom never did develop dementia, and after she passed away, Lorenzo found that the exact same job she had left to be closer to her mom was once again open. The retirement benefits and job security were better there, and she wasted no time applying.

She, too, was welcomed right back into the fold.

Lorenzo believes people who leave a job need to make sure they depart on good terms and take the time to thank those they worked with for the opportunities they had while they were there.

It’s also a good idea to keep in touch because you never know if you might want to come back. And if you do come back, be completely honest about why you are interested in returning.

“The profession is small,” she noted, “and word gets around.”

Keep it positive

Leaving a job is always a little traumatic, even if you are really ready to get out the door. But, as these therapists show, departing on a positive note is always the way to go. That way, if you need that door to open back up for you in the future, there is more chance that it will swing wide and let you in.

Heading to the New Era

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