Nursing Job Change: Jump Ship or Sit Tight? 5 Things to Consider

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    Changing jobs in nursing has positives and negatives. Here are 5 things to think about if you are considering a job change.

    Nursing Job Change: Jump Ship or Sit Tight? 5 Things to Consider

    As we walked around the track together, my friend shared some of her nursing job frustrations with me. She had been in her current position for a little over 2 years. Long enough, she felt, to know whether it would be a long term good fit. "It's getting harder and harder to give my patients the care that I want to give them." She went on to vent about some other more minor concerns and then said, "But there is a job that looks good on another unit. Do you think I should consider switching?"

    A recently published study sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows that "an estimated 17.5 percent of newly-licensed RNs leave their first nursing job within the first year, and one in three (33.5%) leave within two years." (Nearly One in Five New Nurses Leaves First Job Within a Year, According to Survey of Newly-Licensed Registered Nurses - RWJF). High turnovers are hard on the hospitals and hard on the nurses. Although stressful for all involved, job changes within the profession seem to be a very common occurrence.

    So, if you are not currently satisfied with your job, is it time to jump ship or should you just sit tight? The answer is, of course, it depends. Here are some things to think about; questions to ask yourself as you consider.


    1. The grass is always going to be greener.


    It is simply human nature to feel like we are missing out on something wonderful, just down the hall, on that other team, or maybe across town at the fancy, new hospital. Most of us struggle to be content in other areas of our lives, as well. We want things that are just out of reach: the better car, the bigger home, more stuff from our etsy-fueled dreams. However, if we are honest with ourselves and with others, we soon realize that sometimes our desire for change and newness is simply that: restlessness for the elusive perfection-that job where everything will be good and we will be fulfilled as nurses. Bottom line: sometimes we are the ones that need to change, not the job.



    2. Toxicity varies, but most jobs have stuff we strongly dislike.

    I can remember struggling to adjust to my first nurse manager and her style. She was abrupt and often came across as unfeeling. Many times, I cried after my shift. But gradually I came to realize that her military training occasionally clashed with civilian life and my 20 something tender heart. Over time, I came to respect her vast knowledge and value her judgment. In a case like that, staying the course paid off huge dividends. I learned a lot. But environments that support bullying, that allow verbal abuse, that condone rudeness, should not be tolerated. Out of self-respect, it is important to be able to identify unprofessional behavior and draw the line, leaving that work behind and washing your scrubs in extra hot water before heading to a new position. Bottom line: know how to identify a truly toxic job.



    3. Boredom is not a good reason to go.

    I cringe when I hear someone say, "This work just isn't challenging enough for me." It is painful to hear because every job out there-if it involves nursing-can be challenging. There is always room to go above and beyond; to be and do more than is expected; to learn and create improvements. Every patient has something to teach us-people are a never-ending story and we have much to learn from one another. The daily practice of being a great listener can renew our flagging energies. When we get discouraged, we can listen more carefully to those around us and find new reasons for curiosity and gratitude. I remember meeting an older gentleman who was caring for his wife in the nursing home. She was our primary focus and the center of our conversation. I didn't really get to know him until years later, after she had passed and he became the patient. His stories of being injured in the Pacific during WW2 shook me because I thought about how I almost missed knowing him, and hearing all he had done. Bottom line: Boredom says more about us than about the job.



    4. Some of the long-term job satisfaction comes from long-term work
    .

    Developing relationships and becoming an expert in the field can both contribute greatly to job satisfaction. Working relationships with other nurses, physicians on staff, ancillary providers and environmental workers can take years to develop. Those relationships tend to build and progress through experiences together, bonding the team even as expertise develops. It is an earned recognition that makes someone "the best stick" on the floor or the "go to" person for wound care or "the best diabetes teacher ever." This potential source of professional satisfaction suffers when we change jobs. While we can still be an expert, it takes time for people to learn to trust us and for those working relationships to develop-again. Bottom line: Life is all about relationships.



    5. Change happens.

    If a position was good and things got bad, then chances are it will circle back around-eventually-and be good again. Meanwhile,we can all be agents for change, helping to make difficult situations better. We can influence the culture of our floor or unit or office for the good. We can work has the superior professionals that we are, holding ourselves and others to a higher standard, working always to provide the most excellent patient care. Bottom line: Change is the only constant.



    My friend ended up staying with her job-for now. What about you? As you consider your options or talk with other nurses, what are some of the things you think are important to consider? What is your bottom line?
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    About jeastridge

    Joy is a nurse with 30+ years of experience. She currently works as a Faith Community Nurse at her local church.

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    21 Comments

  3. by   The Lady Kate
    I disagree with the boredom point. I was a med-surg nurse on nights at a community hospital and for sure was bored. I transferred to ER and never looked back!
  4. by   Daisy Joyce
    Do your research and actually talk to employees (not recruiters) at the place you want to change to. What will you do if you jump ship and wind up in a worse place?

    I changed my last job when the workload became simply unbearable. The place I am now, came highly recommended. I've been here a long time and it was the best choice to make. The job I left behind has only gotten worse (some of my current coworkers came from the same place!).

    I disagree with #5 Change Happens. Or more precisely, the implications that things will get better at a job.
    Jobs never change for the better. Never. Ever.
  5. by   xoemmylouox
    I agree it isn't good to job hop over and over again. However, peace of mind does count for something. If you are truly miserable, look elsewhere.

    Life is waaay too short to be unhappy somewhere you spend so much time at. No job is perfect, but that doesn't mean that things aren't better elsewhere.
  6. by   Monkey Nurse
    Sometimes change is necessary- for me it was the right time to leave my other job but I loved our team and the comfortableness of being on the senior side of things. I needed to move though so I left it behind.
    That being said- I hate hate my new job. I tried an entirely new field and style of working and its painful. I don't intend to stay but I don't give up easily so Ill do my best for long as I can and then I'll take my leave.
  7. by   jeastridge
    Quote from The Lady Kate
    I disagree with the boredom point. I was a med-surg nurse on nights at a community hospital and for sure was bored. I transferred to ER and never looked back!
    Thanks for sharing. So glad you are happy in your new position! Joy
  8. by   jeastridge
    Quote from Daisy Joyce
    Do your research and actually talk to employees (not recruiters) at the place you want to change to. What will you do if you jump ship and wind up in a worse place?

    I changed my last job when the workload became simply unbearable. The place I am now, came highly recommended. I've been here a long time and it was the best choice to make. The job I left behind has only gotten worse (some of my current coworkers came from the same place!).

    I disagree with #5 Change Happens. Or more precisely, the implications that things will get better at a job.
    Jobs never change for the better. Never. Ever.
    Thank you for your comment. I like your suggestion of talking to potential co-workers and not just recruiters as part of your research for a new position. Great idea! Joy
  9. by   traumaRUs
    I'm in the process of changing jobs - this job I've had 11.5 years and last job (which was my absolute favorite nursing job in the entire world) lasted 10 years.

    I'm anxious to get it started. My reasons for changing jobs:

    1. Just needed a change
    2. Wanted to go back to a hospital where I would have more variety

    Pay was not a factor as I'm well compensated now and with new job will be even more well compensated.
  10. by   Kathy Pearce
    Agree with not changing too soon, but believe change and diversity increases an RNs value in the workplace. Read long ago that changing positions every 5 yrs or so allows for becoming an expert in your field but decreases the chance for burnout. Have seen many a burned out RN longing to break out, but unable to due to lack of a diverse nursing background. Very dangerous place to be in my opinion. Have enjoyed varied roles in my 25 yr nursing career, from the OR, to Charge to Case mgr,etc.. Easy, no, required going back to school at age 50 and re-learning many skills along with extensive testing to land my current role as a CDS. This role allows me to apply all my nursing skills/knowledge reviewing documentation and provide physician education. Did I mention, I work from home, and found the job that will carry me to retirement? Never would have landed it without a diverse nursing background.
  11. by   jeastridge
    Quote from Kathy Pearce
    Agree with not changing too soon, but believe change and diversity increases an RNs value in the workplace. Read long ago that changing positions every 5 yrs or so allows for becoming an expert in your field but decreases the chance for burnout. Have seen many a burned out RN longing to break out, but unable to due to lack of a diverse nursing background. Very dangerous place to be in my opinion. Have enjoyed varied roles in my 25 yr nursing career, from the OR, to Charge to Case mgr,etc.. Easy, no, required going back to school at age 50 and re-learning many skills along with extensive testing to land my current role as a CDS. This role allows me to apply all my nursing skills/knowledge reviewing documentation and provide physician education. Did I mention, I work from home, and found the job that will carry me to retirement? Never would have landed it without a diverse nursing background.
    Thanks for sharing! What a great life story about the value of a variety of experiences. Joy
  12. by   GaleSRN
    I had many positions in the 40+ years I have been a nurse. Heart Transplants, ER, OR, ICU, CCU, Research, Management, dialysis. Each change was done with great thought and soul searching. I have never left on bad terms. I moved to other areas because an opportunity came up for me to learn something new. I always became certified in the speciality.
    When you change jobs do it for the love of where you are going. Do it because it will give you opportunity to learn and to enrich you as a nurse. Make sure it is what you want to do. Most importantly, never leave on bad terms from any job, no matter how much you hated it.
  13. by   Britt-RN
    I was at my first nursing job for two years, and I loved my unit, the type of nursing I was doing, and my coworkers, but we worked frequently with very limited resources, making the overall job very stressful and unsafe. The patient to nurse ratio was always greater than it was supposed to be, which is very scary especially considering it was an ICU. I tried to wait it out and see if it would get any better, but I agree with Daisy that it will never ever get better. It never did. It got to the point where I dreaded every day I had to go to work, and on my days off, I worried about going back to work. It started ruining me mentally. I left that hospital and started working at another hospital, similar type of unit, and I am so thankful I did. It was scary leaving my amazing team behind to go to a place where I knew no one, but it had to be done. I now am able to go to work and actually enjoy being there, and when I go home, I don't think about work. Overall, work and life in general are now much better. I have been there 2 years now and no plans to leave any time soon! Sometimes it is better to leave. Don't let fear of the unknown stick you in a rut. Take that leap. It can better your life.
  14. by   jeastridge
    Quote from GaleSRN
    I had many positions in the 40+ years I have been a nurse. Heart Transplants, ER, OR, ICU, CCU, Research, Management, dialysis. Each change was done with great thought and soul searching. I have never left on bad terms. I moved to other areas because an opportunity came up for me to learn something new. I always became certified in the speciality.
    When you change jobs do it for the love of where you are going. Do it because it will give you opportunity to learn and to enrich you as a nurse. Make sure it is what you want to do. Most importantly, never leave on bad terms from any job, no matter how much you hated it.
    Thank you, GaleSRN, for sharing! You make some excellent points--wonderful words of wisdom and insight. Joy

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