Why do nurses quit the profession?
It 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, seven 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.
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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 Year’s parties, Easter Sunday, Fourth of July weekend, and so many other special events with my family.
Now that I have my own kids, 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 two weekends before, the two days before Christmas, and the day after Christmas. 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 primary culprit as to why nurses quit working inpatient 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 – 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 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 seven 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 is 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 backward to give the best patient care we can for those patients. Unfortunately, some people 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 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 families a little easier.
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If you are considering leaving the nursing profession altogether, here are a few ideas to help rekindle your nursing career:
- Look into different types of nursing and nursing specialties
- Consider per diem nursing
- Find new ways to beat nurse burnout
- Look into alternative nursing careers
- Put your health and well being first by starting new healthy habits
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:
- 7 Ways To Beat Nurse Burnout
- Nurse Burnout Symptoms To Watch For
- Nurse Burnout: How Hospital Administration Can Help
- Different Types Of Nursing Specialties
- 4 Helpful Nurse Burnout Prevention Products
- Nurse Health: Self Care For 12 Hour Shifts