Career Pathways & Education

Feel Stuck as Nurse? Now What?

Sarah Gray, RN
July 2, 2018
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At some point, I chose to be a nurse. It was a deliberate decision and something I was sure of. I then knocked out the trio of nursing school, the NCLEX, and navigating the new grad job market. Now, it’s a couple years later, and I’m wondering what else is out there.

Sound familiar? That’s a good thing. As we grow and become better and more knowledgeable nurses, the more we potentially need. Knowing your options is the first step and essential in career and personal growth.

Feeling Stuck as a Nurse

I love what I do and what I "am." I can honestly look myself in the mirror and affirm that I love being a nurse. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of days that make that doing that more difficult and oftentimes that I don’t feel appreciated for what I do. But there are all of the little moments in-between that make it all so satisfying.

Yet, I’ve reached a point in my career where I feel what I assume people mean when they say “burned-out.” I find work days far more difficult to be so openly giving of myself – my time, energy, emotions, body, brain, and heart. There can be a disconnect between how I want to feel and how I actually do feel. I worry that I won’t ever enjoy what I currently do the way I used to and start to worry about the trajectory my of career.

Because for me, this is my career, not just a job.

After a lot of introspection and reading, I’ve come to the conclusion that it isn’t true burn-out and that there are various contributing factors. Perhaps lots of differential diagnoses. I’ve concluded that this is stagnation.

Stagnating as a Nurse

When we don’t feel challenged or like we’re continuously learning, we lose our flow. The flame needs to be re-ignited. We feel stagnant, stuck, and it becomes somewhat of a despondent cycle. We want to enjoy what we do, we convince ourselves of it, but then don’t actually feel that way. Then we feel guilty, sad, and hopeless because now what? We’re not supposed to feel this way.

The answer?: What do you want? More challenge? Control? Flexibility? Variety? Unpredictability? Change one variable, or change multiple.

Don’t be resigned to doing the same thing and making yourself feel badly for it because you think you’re supposed to like it. It’s okay, and normal, to grow out of positions, roles, companies, and relationships. We are ever-changing and often underestimate how transformative we are.

As we grow and become better and more knowledgeable, the more we potentially need. And that’s a good thing! So fuel that hunger and explore what else is out there. You never know unless you try. Sure, it’s not easy to leave what is comfortable and feels normal to pursue what is uncertain. But it’s the first step and essential in career and personal growth.

Growth is what happens as soon as you get out of your comfort zone. Because it’s much more likely that you’ll regret what you didn’t do.

So what are your options? Do you want to go back to school? How about switch specialties? Step away from the bedside? Try your hand in management? Pursue a passion and see where you can take it?

All I know is that it’s okay if you don’t know. You’re not supposed to. And I know is that you can’t sit around and wait until you do.

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