3 Reasons Why Nurses Quit

3 Reasons Why Nurses Quit

Why do nurses quit the profession?

Nursing is the most trusted profession in America and has been considered so for decades.   Yet, nurses are burning out at a rate unparalleled to any other profession.

Turns out that nurses may not be getting the same respect and care that they give to their patients and employers.   As a result, many nurses are looking for alternative ways to practice nursing or are even leaving the nursing professional altogether.

I became a nurse as a second career.  Nursing called to me because I genuinely wanted to help people and I thought that a nurse’s schedule would work better for me as a mom.  Now, 7 years into my nursing career, my passion for nursing is still high.

Yet I, like many other nurses, struggle with burnout.  I have even started looking outside of patient care for alternative ways that I can practicing nursing to deal with my struggle.

Sad and tired nurse (This post may contain affiliate links.  You can find my disclosure page here.)

Reasons Why Nurses Quit

#1.  Not having control over work schedules

Hospital nurses are expected to work all hours of the day and night, holidays, and weekends.  And on top of that many nurses don’t even have control of their schedules (unless they work per diem – which has been a game changer for me). I can’t tell you how many times I have missed Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Years parties, Easter Sunday, Fourth of July weekend and so many other special events with my family.

Now that I have my own children, missing these events is so much harder for me, especially if I have to work on one of their birthdays.  This past Christmas I was lucky enough to NOT work on Christmas Day, but I worked the entire 2 weekends before, the 2 days before Christmas and the day after Christmas, so I missed several Christmas parties and I was so tired on Christmas day that I could barely keep my eyes open.

Thankfully I am not working graveyard shifts anymore, but if I did I would have quit being a nurse a long time ago.  Working night shifts literally made me feel like I was going to explode.  I felt sick all the time, I was in a constant fog and I even started to get a little depressed.

Here is an idea that can help:  Work per diem or switch to another nursing position that requires a more regular 9 to 5 work schedule such as occupational health or the Cath lab.

#2.  Bullying in the workplace

You have probably heard the phrase “nurses eat their young.”  That is just a clever way of saying that there are many experienced and burned out older nurses bullying less experienced nurses.  It’s also a main culprit as to why nurses quit working in patient care.

I remember one of my own experiences with bullying very clearly. When I was a new nurse grad a nurse I gave report to at shift change would question everything I had done for my patients that day, and drill me about why I didn’t do things differently.  Her attitude was awful and I could tell she hated her job and being on the unit.  She had been there for many years and she treated several other new nurses the same way.

There were days where my shift had gone great up until I had to deal with her at the very end.  Then I left the hospital feeling defeated and inadequate just because of some unhappy, grumpy nurse. I did my best to hold my ground and keep my reports as simple as possible.

Eventually, (and thankfully) she quit and we never had to deal with her again.  Things got better for me, but unfortunately there are still nurses “eating their young” who are lurking within the hospital.

Here is an idea that may help: I took a course called “Crucial Conversations” during my second year as a nurse and it was so helpful for me.  It taught me how to deal with difficult situations with other co-workers. Sometimes addressing a bully head on or finding a way to avoid them entirely is the best way to handle the situation.

#3.  Abusive patients and/or family members

By and large, most patients and family members in the hospital treat the medical staff respectfully.  However, that is not always the case.

In my 7 years career as a nurse I have been kicked, swung at (thankfully never hit head on!), had a full urinal thrown at me, been cussed out, and told I should “kill myself.” And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  There are patients who, despite having full capability to execute all activities of daily living by themselves, take advantage of nurses and other medical staff by asking that everything be done for them.  It’s as if we have nothing to do all day except be a personal butler.  At least it can feel that way sometimes. I’d rather not be a character from Downton Abbey though!

Often when people are in the hospital it is because they are sick and need to be there.  Nurses are happy to bend over backwards to give the best patient care we can for those patients.  Unfortunately, there are people who take advantage of the caregivers and, over time, it leads to decreased morale and ultimately, burnout. This is another big reason why nurses quit the profession.

Here is an idea that can help: Nurse abuse is never okay and can be traumatizing for nurses.  Communicate with management any time a patient or family member is being abusive.  Ask for help.  Call security if you feel threatened.   Ask for another assignment or take turns with other nurses giving care to extremely difficult patients.   Talk to staff, family and friends to help talk out your experience. All of these things can help make dealing with difficult patients and their family a little easier.

HEY NURSES!  Remember to sign up for your FREE COPY of “The Nurse’s Guide To Health & Self Care” E-book in the sign up box below! (scroll down)

If you are considering leaving the nursing profession altogether here are a few ideas to help rekindle your nursing career:

Are you a nurse struggling with burnout and considering leaving the nursing profession?  What experiences lead you there.  Please leave a comment!

Additional Recommending Reading:

Simple Stress Management For Nurses

Simple Stress Management For Nurses

(This post about simple stress management for nurses may contain affiliate links. See our disclosure page for more information.)

Nurses are more stressed out then ever.

It is no surprise that prolonged stress damages the body.  Yet many nurses are dealing with unchecked chronic stress for years or even decades.  Still, the passion that many nurses have for helping others drives them to continue forward in their nursing careers.  But who is helping nurses?

The unfortunate truth is that nurses themselves are the one who must take care of themselves first.   Nurse safety and well-being is not being taken seriously by the very own hospitals where we work so hard and strive to give only the very best patient care.   Nationwide, it appears that hospital administrators main priority is making money for the hospital, and the health and well-being of their own nurses doesn’t even make the list.

Nurse Stress Relief And Coping Tips

Do some hospitals see nurses as indispensable?

For some nurses, it may feel like it.  Even I have felt that despite my own dependability, clinical knowledge and positive attitude that it wouldn’t matter in the slightest if I left.    The feeling is disheartening.

For example, I became a per diem nurse after the birth of my first child because a unit director stated that they were “unable” to give me consistent scheduling so I could plan day care for my child.  Per diem nursing gives me flexibility to schedule my days to fit my childcare situation, however, now I have no benefits, no disability, no retirement and no maternity leave – and I had another baby this year!  Needless to say, it was a hyper expensive year for us and caused a lot of stress for me.

But, they knew another nurse would come along and fill my spot.  So why be flexible with my schedule so that I could stay?

I still have a passion for nursing, despite the stress.

Workplace stress in nursing is common.  I am not leaving the profession soon because my children are still very small I still do have a strong desire and passion to help others.  So in the meantime I make stress management a huge priority in my life.

If you are a nurse who feels like me, keep an eye out for nurse burnout symptoms that could be wrecking havoc on your overall health and happiness.  And start taking simple steps to help keep stress in check so you don’t end up as a patient yourself.  Nurses shouldn’t be creating unhealthy habits to cope with their stressful nursing careers.  And if it becomes too much where your health is seriously being effected in a negative way, then consider other nursing options away from the bedside.  Nurse, you need to take care of yourself first!

Simple Stress Management Techniques For Nurses:

1.  Watch a funny movie

When was the last time you had a good laugh?  Do you even remember how good it feels to laugh out loud?  Watching a funny movie is a great way to passively  tune out and focus on something more light-hearted.  Especially for nurses who deal with immense stress in the workplace.

Studies show that laughter is so good for your health.  A good laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.  In addition, laughter increases your immune system by decreasing stress hormones and increasing immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies thus improving your resistance to disease.

Laughter makes people feel good, which is exactly what stressed out nurses need.   It releases endorphines, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Studies show that laughter has the power to promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

Woman watching a funny movie and laughing

2.  Get moving:  endorphins are natural stress reducers

Get your heart rate up on your days off!  The benefits of exercise have been well documented is is essential for nurse self care.  It is no secret that regular exercise helps control weight, boosts overall energy, improves your mood and helps decrease stress levels.  Not only does exercise benefit the nurse personally, but it also helps nurses have the stamina to give better care to patients as well.

Need to blow off some steam after a stressful day? A brisk 30-minute walk can help. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed.  Which, in turn will help manage caregiver burden and help you feel your best.

3.  Yoga:  learn the art of how to relax

Yoga is great stress management for nurses. Compassion fatigue can be overwhelming for nurses and learning how to use yoga for relaxation can help.

study published in Workplace Health & Safety on yoga for self-care and burnout prevention of nurses found that yoga participants “reported significantly higher self-care as well as less emotional exhaustion upon completion of an 8-week yoga intervention.” While the control group demonstrated no change throughout the course of the study, the yoga group showed a significant improvement in scores for self-care, mindfulness, and emotional exhaustion outcomes.

Nurse self care in the form of yoga is scientifically proven to be beneficial:

  • Stress management.  A study published in the National Institute of Biotechnology Information investigated the effects of yoga on stress coping strategies of ICU nurses. After only 8 weeks of yoga the results showed that the participating ICU nurses had significantly better focus coping strategies and a major reduction in perceived mental pressure.  (If that is what can happen after only 8 weeks, imagine the impact a regular, permanent yoga practice could have on stress management levels!).
  • Prevent or eliminate chronic low back pain.  Chronic back pain in the nursing population is a common ailment. An evidenced based review at the Texas Women’s University reported that estimates of chronic low back pain among nurses range from 50%-80%.  Yoga not only increases flexibly, but increases muscle strength and prevents injuries such as chronic lower back pain.
  • Prevent burnout and compassion fatigue:  study published in Workplace Health & Safety on yoga for self-care and burnout prevention of nurses found that yoga participants “reported significantly higher self-care as well as less emotional exhaustion upon completion of an 8-week yoga intervention.”

Woman doing child's pose.

4.  Have a social life

Good friends can help you manage chronic stress.  It is important to find balance when you work as a nurse, and that includes making time for friendships and a social life outside of the hospital.

Nurses with strong social support have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index.  Talking with other nurses who are struggling with the same stressers you are can help provide support when you need it most.

Having a good social support group can help in many other ways:

  • Increase your sense of belonging and purpose as a nurse
  • Boost your happiness and reduce your stress
  • Improve your self-confidence and self-worth
  • Help you cope with traumatic situations in the workplace, such as patient deaths and abusive or combative patient situations
  • Supportive friendships can encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise

5.  Meditate

Meditation is the practice of focusing your mind on a particular thought or activity to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state.  It is claimed to reduce stress, anxiety and burnout, and enhance resilience.  And stressed out nurses working long, arduous shifts with often changing schedules need this more then anyone.

A few benefits of meditation:

  • Decreased burnout
  • Better focus and ability to ignore distractions
  • Boost compassion
  • Better sleep
  • Stress relief
  • Happier state of mind



Headspace is an app for your phone that has many different meditations each lasting 1o to 60 minutes. If you can find 10 minutes in your day then you have no excuse not to meditate!  Meditation is attainable for even the busiest of nurses!

Like yoga, meditation is a practice. There is no good or bad. It is just what it is at the time. You can keep practicing to train your mind to do better the next time. And then eventually your brain is rewired by the habitual repetition of meditation and it becomes easier.

It is not uncommon for hospitals to have a space for spiritual prayer or meditation for patients and their families.  However, nurses should also be offered a meditative space to clear their heads, and have a quiet moment to themselves.  This would help nurses return to their work environments with renewed energy and focus to give better patient care.

Women meditating on bed

6.  Eat nutritious foods

Nurse break rooms are notorious for having sugary snacks like donuts, cookies, or other unhealthy junk food all within an arms reach.  Sweets are so tempting to nibble on when you are tired and need a little extra energy.  But then a few moments later you crash and are even more tired.   On another note, eating nutritious and easy snacks will keep you energized during a 12 hour shift. 

Pack snacks like these in your lunch bag to help keep your blood sugar levels balanced during your shift:

  • Baby carrots, broccoli or other veggies & hummus
  • Celery and almond butter
  • Strawberries, blueberries
  • Granola and yogurt
  • Almonds or cashews
  • Avocado toast
  • Sliced apples and peanut butter
  • Cottage cheese with pineapple or banana
  • Trail mix

Tips for nurses to make healthy meals fast:  Try making a big batch of quinoa, brown rice or black bean pasta to have handy in the fridge.  These are a few great staples that you can build a nourishing meal around.  When you get hungry you can mix in a protein, veggies, nuts or seeds, dried fruits, or even just enjoy them with a little olive oil and sea salt.   The key is to have healthy food that is easy to prepare BEFORE you get super hungry.

P.S.  HEY NURSES!  Remember to grab your FREE E-Book “The Nurse’s Guide To Health & Self Care” below! (scroll down)

Additional Recommended Reading:

Nurse Burnout Symptoms To Watch Out For

Nurse Burnout Symptoms To Watch Out For

(This post about nurse burnout symptoms may contain affiliate links.  You can find my disclosure page here.)

The nursing profession tends to attract the most compassionate and empathetic people alive.  For that reason, nurses are also the most susceptible to experiencing “burnout.”  Eventually, chronic overwork and stress can lead to nurse burnout symptoms such as exhaustion, anxiety, physical injury or even depression.  If you have been a nurse for a while then you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

Nurse burnout symptoms don’t start right away.

A novice nurse is so fresh.  The happiness to be done with nursing school combined with the excitement of having the title RN after your name moves the new nurse optimistically through each 12 hour shift.

Yet, many nurses find themselves experiencing nurse burnout symptoms, sometimes after only a year or two in the profession.  Still, they continue working with the same rigor and determination without taking good care of themselves.

A tired nurse holding her head down with nurse burnout and compassion fatigue

Here are a few nurse burnout symptoms to look out for:

1.  Chronic exhaustion

Have you ever gotten 8 hours of sleep yet still felt exhausted when you woke up?  Or, are you so tired that you can’t imagine how you are going to make it through another 12 hour shift?  If so, you may be experiencing chronic exhaustion.

Many nurses aren’t just tired, they are worn out.  Not only do nurses work long 12 hour shifts, but many nurses are working mid shifts, night shifts and overtime. In fact, studies show that the longer the shifts for hospital nurses, the higher the levels of burnout and patient dissatisfaction.

2.  Compassion Fatigue

Nursing is a caring profession and compassion is one of the most important elements of patient care.  However, constantly caring for others’ needs before your own can lead to compassion fatigue.  Symptoms of compassion fatigue include emotional exhaustion, irritability, and poor job satisfaction.  You simply cannot be a good nurse if you begin to dislike your job.

If you find yourself feeling like you are losing compassion for your patients because you are experiencing this nurse burnout symptom, then you owe it to your patients and yourself to take a break.  Go on a vacation, play a round of golf, take a yoga class or find a way to get some quality alone time to recharge your batteries.

3.  Losing your passion

When many nurses are asked why they decided to go into the nursing profession they say it was because they had a “passion” for helping humankind.  Passion is exactly what drives us to do good work.  So, if you feel you are losing your passion then it may be a good time to find it again.

Stagnation is the killer of passion.  Do you feel like you are no longer learning within your specialty? Perhaps it is time to become certified within your specialty or even find a new specialty altogether.  Nursing is a career for lifelong learners.  Learning keeps us educated and it can also help you find your passion for nursing again.  It’s a win-win!

Nurse burnout symptoms to watch out for.

More is expected of nurses than ever before.

Nurses need to find a work life balance more than ever.  Heavier patient loads and the physical demands that come with working arduous 12 hour shifts are killing the spirit of many RN’s.  To top it off, it seems as if hospitals are trying to save money in any way they can and unfortunately that usually translates into less and less resources for nurses.

The bottom line is this:  when nurses are able to take care of themselves they are able to give the best possible care to their patients.  This scenario is a win-win for everyone involved:  nurses, patients, and the business people who are managing healthcare.

As nurses, we simply cannot continue to burn the candle at both ends and expect a good outcome.

If you are experiencing nurse burnout, there is hope!  You can beat nurse burnout and even rediscover your passion for nursing.  A result of my own nurse burnout was that I became a nurse blogger to vent my frustrations and help find solutions for my own burnout.  However, it is your responsibility to figure out why you are unhappy within your career and find your nursing passion once again.  You too can beat nurse burnout!

P.S.  Sign up to receive your FREE COPY of “The Nurse’s Guide To Health And Self Care” at the bottom of this post!

Additional Recommended Reading:  

Nurses Nurturing Nurses Interview With Jessica Smith, RN

Nurses Nurturing Nurses Interview With Jessica Smith, RN

In case you missed it, last week I was interviewed by the amazing Nurse Coach Jessica Smith and we talked about bouncing back from burnout.

Well, guess what?  I got ANOTHER chance to talk with Jessica this week about a topic that is near and dear to my heart:  nurses nurturing nurses!  (I had so much fun the first time, what can I say?!)

Our ‘Nurses Nurturing Nurses‘YouTube interview can be found HERE!

During the interview, we discussed:

  • Strategies you can use to attain a work-life balance with a busy nursing schedule;
  • How you can design your life around how you want to feel;
  • How doing simple things each day can make a BIG impact on your overall health and well-being;

I’d love for you to listen in – and even better – leave a comment!

Again, the link to listen in can be found here!

Take care,

Sarah

Additional Recommended Reading:
7 Ways To Beat Nurse Burnout
Nurse Burnout:  How Administration Can Help
How To Achieve A Work-Life Balance As A Nurse
Nurse Health:  Self- Care For 12 Hours Shifts

Bouncing Back From Burnout Interview With Jessica Smith, RN

Bouncing Back From Burnout Interview With Jessica Smith, RN

Nurse burnout sucks.  I’ve totally been there. 

So, it may seem odd at first to hear that I also LOVE talking about nurse burnout. In fact, I think every nurse experiences burnout at some point in their career (if you haven’t please email me back and let me know your secret!). 

Here’s the kicker.  Once you admit you have an issue with nursing burnout you open yourself to the idea of potential solutions.  But if you just pull your hoodie over your eyes and continue to suffer in silence then nothing ever changes.  And your burnout gets even worse.

So, let’s talk about solutions for nurse burnout!  (Solving problems is always better than complaining anyway). 

Bouncing back from nurse burnout
Last week I had an amazing opportunity to interview with nurse coach and fellow ER nurse, Jessica Smith about bouncing back from burnout!

Our Bouncing Back From Burnout YouTube interview can be found here

During the interview, we discussed:

  • How you can find a work-life balance with a busy nursing schedule;
  • Why nurses need to make their own health a #1 priority;
  • How getting to the “why” in your burnout can help you find patterns that contribute to your burnout;
  • And why you should always surround yourself with positive support!

I’d love for you to listen in – and even better – leave a comment or share it with your fellow nurse friends!  

Again, the link to listen in can be found here!

I can’t wait for you to check it out!

P.S.  If you are a nurse struggling with finding ways to take better care of yourself, here is a FREE E-BOOK .  It’s called Nurse, Take Care Of Yourself First.  Because nurses work really, really hard.  And we need to be taking better care of ourselves.  It includes tips for nurses on how to stay healthy during 12 hour shifts, ideas for better self care at home and suggestions for finding a better work-life balance.  

Additional Recommended Reading:

7 Ways To Beat Nurse Burnout
Nurse Burnout:  How Administration Can Help
How To Achieve A Work-Life Balance As A Nurse
Nurse Health:  Self- Care For 12 Hours Shift

Nurse Burnout: How Hospital Administration Can Help

Nurse Burnout: How Hospital Administration Can Help

Nurse burnout is common.

As a second career RN with 7 years of experience as a med/surg, telemetry, emergency room and resource nurse I have struggled tremendously with nurse burnout.  In fact, I often wonder how long I can continue working as a nurse when I often feel so spent.  The caregiver burden is real.

Nurse burnout is often described as the physical, mental and emotional exhaustion of nurses.  Causes for nurse burnout include working arduous 12 hour shifts, working in high stress environments, dealing with sickness and death and constantly having to put the needs of others before one’s own.

Like most nurses, I am very passionate about my profession. It is a privilege and an honor to advocate for and serve my patients during some of the most difficult points of their lives.  But there has to be a better way to help nurses find a better balance between patient care and self-care.

The nurse burnout problem is not going away.

Left unchecked, nurse burnout can lead to exhaustion, physical injuries, and even depression. Furthermore, disengagement caused by nurse burnout can negatively impact patient care, increase the risk of medical errors and lower overall patient satisfaction.

In addition, nurse health must be taken more seriously.  Too many nurses are on their way to becoming patients themselves due to overwork.

Nursing burnout: How administration can help

Nursing burnout: administration can help.

Hospital administration can help.

Here are a few ideas that hospitals should consider to help nurses create more balance and achieve some self care during work hours.

1.  Create a meditative space for nurses away from patients and visitors

Caregiver burden is an issue for nurses.  It is not uncommon for hospitals to have a space for spiritual prayer or meditation for patients and their families.  However, nurses should also be offered a meditative space to clear their heads, and have a quiet moment to themselves.  This would help nurses return to their work environments with renewed energy and focus to give better patient care.

2. Offer yoga and meditation classes

Offering yoga and meditation classes during the nurse’s lunch breaks would be beneficial.  Studies show that yoga and meditation can greatly improve quality of life for nurses by reducing stress levels.  In turn, nurses are able to give better patient care.

study published in the National Institute of Biotechnology Information investigated the effects of yoga on stress coping strategies of ICU nurses. After only 8 weeks of yoga the results showed that the participating ICU nurses had significantly better focus coping strategies and reduced mental stress.

Yoga at work could also help many nurses manage the chronic back pain they have developed as a result of nursing.  An evidenced based review at the Texas Women’s University reported that estimates of chronic low back pain among nurses range from 50%-80%.  A 30 minute gentle yoga class during a nurse’s lunch break could help nurses manage this issue.  Yoga stretching not only increases flexibility, but also increases muscle strength and prevents injuries such as chronic lower back pain.

3.  Make sure nurses get adequate breaks

Working for 6, 8 or even 12 hours without eating or sitting would make anyone become resentful after a while.  Patient loads can often feel so overwhelming that sometimes nurses will work right through a break without even realizing it.  Exhaustion from not eating or drinking enough water and being on your feet for grueling 12 hour shifts will eventually lead to nursing burnout.

4. Recognize nurses for their hard work

This should be a given, but for some reason it isn’t in many facilities.  A “thank you” goes a long way. It is very much appreciated by nurses who work extraordinarily hard to keep patients healthy and safe.

Too many hospitals put little to no effort into helping nurses celebrate for nurses week every year.  This sends a very strong message to nurses that management does not care about the hard work and dedication they put into caring for their patients.

5. Involve management in nurse bullying and cliques

Unfortunately, too many facilities allow bullying in their workplace.  According to a 2017 survey by RN network, 45% of nurses have been verbally harassed or bullied by other nurses at work.  Some forms of nurse bullying are obvious.  However, many times the bullying is much more subtle, such as a nurse talking down to another nurse in front of a patient.

Building a supportive working environment is important to the health and well-being of nurses.  Bullying should never be considered acceptable behavior and hospital management should be more involved in helping to prevent it.

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Additional recommended reading: