I was made redundant and survived – and here’s how I did it

A nurse explains how losing a senior role made her realise the value of colleagues’ support

A nurse explains how losing a senior role made her realise the value of colleagues’ support

Picture: iStock

After 30 years as a nurse, redundancy was not something I ever thought would happen to me. But just over two years ago, I was made redundant from my dream job, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

My nursing career began in 1985 when I trained at a local school of nursing. Over the years I had various roles in hospital and community settings. In more recent years as a specialist nurse, I became more focused on sharing my knowledge and passion for community nursing with others.

I’d found my dream job

In October 2015, I started my dream job – a senior role that enabled me to influence care across the organisation. The change from a clinical to managerial role was challenging at times, but I felt sure that for my final years in nursing this was where I wanted to be.

By December, however, everything had changed; my manager – my mentor and role model and someone I hugely respected – was leaving.

In January 2016, during my first meeting with my new manager, I was informed that my role may not be required, and that the organisation would be holding a management restructure and consultation over the following few months. 

‘I felt broken and distressed. I tried hard to remain calm but I broke down – I was a single parent with a very unpredictable future’

I was shocked and devastated by this. Three months into my ideal job and in one meeting it was being taken away. Over the next few months, I continued my role as best I could despite the consultation hanging over me.

It felt like this was personal, and the documents I received only reinforced this; seeing your post removed from a structure and receiving ‘at-risk’ letters is soul-destroying. 

My first one-to-one with human resources was an emotional and traumatic experience. I felt broken and distressed. I tried hard to remain calm but I broke down – I was a single parent with a very unpredictable future. 

My knowledge and skills had been overlooked

Reading through the restructure consultation document I realised I had been overlooked for an available position as, according to my manager, I did not have the knowledge or skills.

In fact, I did. I should have been given the opportunity to interview for the role, but when this was eventually offered, I declined. I had neither the strength nor the will to continue to work with a manager who clearly did not value or know me. 

I felt the only option was to accept redundancy, which would give me time to reflect and re-evaluate my career options.

I felt lost, my confidence shattered.
Picture: Getty

I became a shadow of my former confident, passionate self. I cried most days travelling to work and home again, and although I tried to maintain my professionalism at work, boy did this take its toll. 

The thing that stays with me to this day is being told that redundancy is a form of dismissal. I had done nothing wrong but was being informed that I was being dismissed, which totally shattered my confidence.

In July 2016 I walked out of my office for the last time. I still don’t know how I drove home that day.

I spent most days crying or angry

The next few weeks were a blur. I took time trying to look for a new role, but spent most days crying, or angry with the organisation. Why me?

I felt totally lost. Not only was nursing my career, it was my vocation and my passion. Family and friends tried to help and support me, but I just couldn’t ‘snap out of it’. 

I had interviews, but the feedback was always that I lacked confidence, something that I had always been praised for having in the past. I was successful in applying for a senior role but after a few weeks of deliberation, I turned it down; I lacked the confidence to believe I could be of value and felt it best that they find someone else. 

Unfortunately, my GP was unsupportive, informing me to ‘snap out of it and move on’. If only it was that simple. I was grieving for my role, my career and my life. Anyone who understands this knows that time and support are the only things that help. Being vilified because you ‘obviously are not coping’ is the last thing you need.

‘My confidence was at rock bottom, but I was encouraged by a former colleague’s faith in my abilities’

Despite multiple one-to-ones with the human resources department before leaving my role, I felt I’d received no practical information. I later found out that once I had received my final salary, I was entitled to claim jobseeker's allowance, but this came four months late.

Turning up for my first appointment at the employment centre was the lowest point in my life. I arrived early, only to find the doors locked, and when I did get in I was ten minutes late.

While I waited for my assigned assistant, two men started a brawl in front of me. They were swiftly removed but by then I was in tears. I was just about to leave when I was taken into a room by a very sympathetic woman who had been through a similar experience to me.

She was my lifesaver, encouraging me to claim jobseeker's allowance and helping me to move forward. Fortunately, this was only for a few weeks.

The opportunities started to appear

I was contacted by a former colleague and offered the chance to do bank work in palliative care, a new area of nursing for me. My confidence at rock bottom, I declined at first but was encouraged by his faith in my abilities and transferable skills. I met him and the team I would be working with and agreed to try it out.

Through other contacts, I was offered opportunities to attend meetings, interview for bursaries and give after-dinner speeches. I started a part-time role as a policy adviser for a nursing association. 

‘Being accepted by my new team made such a difference’

Although this helped improve my confidence, securing a permanent, full-time role still eluded me and life was tough. I felt unsure of myself and my abilities, and while my confidence was boosted it was still nowhere near its former level. 

However, being accepted and embraced by my new team made such a difference – they nurtured me through some of my darkest days and I will never be able to thank them enough for their support, friendship and belief that I was someone who was needed and valued.

I wasn’t ready to be a manager again

As I grew in my new role, I felt safe again, sharing my wider knowledge with the team. I began applying for jobs and although I was successful, my lack of confidence kicked in when it came to accepting new roles. Clinically I felt secure, but I wasn’t ready to be a manager again.

When a clinical nurse specialist role became available in palliative care, I was encouraged to apply. I was successful in securing the post and last September, two years after being made redundant, I started my new role.

‘Although my nightmare is behind me, it will never be forgotten’

I am now happy, settled and keen to make a difference again, something I thought I would never achieve. 

Life after redundancy felt like survival, and although my nightmare is behind me, it will never be forgotten. I felt so alone and lost, which I know will resonate with others who have lived through this experience.

What I learned from being made redundant

  • Jobseeker's allowance can be claimed from the day after your final salary is paid
  • If you are a parent claiming child benefit, your redundancy payment can affect your benefit claim. Mine tipped me over the claim bracket and I now have to pay back almost one year’s benefit
  • When you accept redundancy, some of your previous NHS service benefits are lost and bank working does not maintain them
  • Keep in touch with colleagues, they can be your saviour
  • Continue with your daily routine and don’t see redundancy as a holiday
  • Accept new challenges despite your apprehensions; they can offer many opportunities
  • Value your skills and expertise – they will be appreciated again
  • Talk to people, share your experiences and try to end each day with a positive thought
  • Time is a healer and things will get better


The value of supportive colleagues

My greatest aim now is to ensure we as a profession recognise the effects of redundancy on nurses. Sharing our experiences and offering support and advice can help others move forward with the rest of their lives, something which was not available to me.

My journey has been traumatic but it has taught me how much my career means to me – being a nurse is part of me, and no one has the right to take that away.

My passion for nursing has grown and I still want to make a difference. I now live each day as it comes and take nothing for granted, which has enabled me to move forward and begin again.

This experience has also shown me the value of supportive colleagues, and I thank every one of my colleagues in palliative care for what they have done for me. I cannot put into words my appreciation for this fantastic team, which I am privileged to work with on a daily basis.

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Debbie Quinn is a Queen’s Nurse and specialist palliative care clinical nurse specialist at Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

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