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Leave Your Job (But Stay in Nursing)

Apr 22, 2020
Catherine Burger, BSN, MSOL, RN, NEA-BC

How many times this month have you thought of leaving your nursing job (given the current struggle against COVID-19, maybe it was more than usual)? Perhaps it was even a thought today as you made the 40-minute trek from off-site parking to your facility, or maybe it was when Staffing denied the time off for your wedding. 

Remember when you finished nursing school and could not imagine leaving the bedside, let alone the profession, as you worked so hard to call yourself an RN? What if I told you that you can have an exciting and satisfying career as a nurse and still leave your current job? 

Too many studies have shown that new nurses are leaving the profession of nursing entirely within the first two years of getting their license. This is an epidemic that organizations such as Trusted are tirelessly working on screening, treating, and curing. 

Simply put, the profession of nursing cannot afford to lose nurses so soon after they've filled one of the precious few spots in nursing school. So, rather than leave nursing altogether, leave your job. 

Yep, I said it, and that's precisely what I did – many times. Let me explain. 

Leaving Nursing (Well, Kind Of)

Nursing was a backup plan for me in college. I started pre-med and, after a year of college, decided I didn't want to be in school for another thousand years (here I go, being dramatic). My sister was an RN, so I followed her footsteps and completed an ADN at Pacific Union College. I loved cardiac and ICU, so naturally, I was given a job in Labor & Delivery when there were no ICU jobs after my residency (queue sarcasm). 

What I learned from over two years in a job that I hated was this: I could leave my job but stay in nursing. So, that's exactly what I've done for 30 years, and I've had an incredible career!

Every three-four years, I sought a new role within the large organization where I worked. After 20 years with the company, I “retired” from there to pursue more entrepreneurial ventures in nursing. Leaving my steady paycheck and many kudos from the departments I oversaw was terrifying. 

Leaving Nursing to Start Your Own Company

One of the hardest parts of running my own business was the slow start where I suddenly had so much time on my hands. I was used to going 100mph at work and then racing home to help with our five kids. Now, with one kid at home and my own business off to a slow start, I found myself making sure the lines in the carpet were straight as I vacuumed each day. Talk about a huge lifestyle change! But the business grew quickly, and my nursing time-management skills kicked in to allow me to run at top speed once again.

If leaving your job to pursue another career in nursing can be scary, then leaving your profession for an entirely different career path must be terrifying. For me, I found there were so many roles within the field of nursing that I could somehow relate most jobs to the nursing process. 

Rather than leave nursing altogether, consider these tips, tricks, and suggestions in finding another passion within nursing:

Get curious

Ever wonder how the EMR works? Become an informatics nurse. Like to implement change and teach others? Look into clinical education. 

Expose yourself

Volunteer to be on committees in your organization to not only get yourself known to other departments and leaders but to learn what different roles are held by nurses in your organization.

Think beyond the box

Catie Harris, with NursePreneurs, was a professional student-turned-NP-turned-entrepreneur who coaches nurses on their business ventures. Do you have a nurse-related business you're considering? Leap and get out of the box.

Find Support

I am very blessed to have a spouse, who is my biggest fan, cheerleader, and supporter. Having the ability to walk away from corporate nursing to pursue freelance writing and create the Nurse Leader Mastermind was a dream that would have struggled without his backing and health insurance. Having structural support of insurance and a backup income is a serious consideration when launching off the block; be strategic. 

bottom of slide at park jungle gym leave your job nursing

View your career as a jungle gym vs. a ladder

Let go of the need to chase titles; pursue the roles that are interesting to you and where you believe you will add value. I have known nurses to achieve the highest level in their organization at a young age and then feel "stuck" in the role for many years. If that's your desire – go for it! Yet, if you're looking for adventure in nursing, doing the same thing over and over, year after year, may not be your definition of an exciting undertaking!

Get over yourself

You know you've thought about it a hundred times: travel nursing. You just need to get over yourself that you have to be “Rambo Nurse” to be a traveler. You can be a sweet “Nancy Nurse” and have excellent travel experience. New people, new places, new processes – is it really that great? Yes, according to many nurses and travelers! You also get many perks that no one even mentions, like additional tax write-offs. What!? 

I know that bedside nursing is tough. I also know that, despite being the most trusted profession, nurses are still struggling with being an influential force in healthcare. This position can lead to feelings of being a victim in the organization or the notion "no one cares" how nurses are treated in an organization. 

You can leave... or you can try a new area of nursing, a new town as a traveler, or you can create something that adds value to those around you in your own nursing venture. All I ask is that you dig a little deeper and try new things before you give up on your nursing dream. The profession of nursing needs you – just maybe not in the job you're in now. Take the leap and see where your shiny clogs land! 

Ready to give traveling a try? You can create a profile, set your preferences, and see jobs matching your interests in only a few minutes.