When is the Right Time to Leave First Job - Should I Stay or Should I Go?

  1. Dear Nurse Beth,

    I have worked in a specialized adult ICU for a little over a year. I do not enjoy my job and desire for a career change. I feel that the PICU would be a good fit. While I do not love the content of my work, I do love my patients and taking care of the critically ill. I have always wanted to work in pediatrics. However, after graduating nursing school, I took the first job I was offered (which was this one; I just graduated in December 2015). I feel that it would be unprofessional to leave after just a year at my current job. On top of that, the staff I work with have been wonderful and my boss and management is so great where I currently work, so I feel that I owe my current unit more time, as a courtesy for investing in me as a brand new nurse. At what point is it professional and appropriate to leave a job that has treated you well, but just is not what you dreamed of?



    Dear Should I Stay or Should I Go?,

    The classical answer to your question in the working world is: One year.
    But in the nursing world, it's more like two years.

    Onboarding a new nurse is an investment and even more so in the specialty areas. If you convert the "one year" adage to "one year of being independent"...then it's closer to two years than one year.

    This is why some hospitals require new grads to sign a contract saying they’ll commit to two and even three years of employment. (I’m not a fan of these contracts but I do understand the underlying problem, and that’s a different post!)

    Exceptions for leaving at one year:

    • For another job in the same facility (seen as transferring and not job hopping)
    • Because of bad or unsafe working conditions
    • Due to unavoidable family or personal situations

    Leaving after one year will not necessarily look bad on your resume, but that is not what you asked. You asked if it’s appropriate and professional. It comes down to a values question, which only you can decide.

    If you leave at one year, your colleagues will be dismayed, frustrated, and maybe even feel that you are ungrateful.
    If you leave at two years, your colleagues will be sad, but understand.

    My feelings are that you do owe your manager, your preceptors and your coworkers a certain amount of loyalty. Your manager took a chance on you over other new hires. Your preceptors put their hearts and souls into your professional development (the good ones did). Your co workers accepted you and supported you.

    Think about making this same decision in a few months at the two year mark. Do you feel the same inner conflict as you are experiencing now?

    Best wishes in your decision,

    Nurse Beth

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  2. 9 Comments

  3. by   CrunchRN
    2 years will look much better on the resume and show respect for those that have helped you through the tough 1st year.
  4. by   Wolf at the Door
    why you care so much about what others think? go to the picu right away if you get an offer.
  5. by   aflahe00
    Leave when you feel that you've gotten all that you wanted from your experiences there.
  6. by   WowzersRN
    Wow, this question completely and totally encompasses the situation that I'm currently having. I have a pending PICU interview and if I get it I'm definitely going to leave my current job. I feel bad because I like the people that I work with but I don't like the culture of the unit. Management is always threatening to suspend/fire us for whatever reason. I don't want to feel like I'm staying somewhere because I have to. I want to work somewhere I feel happy and enjoy going to every day.
  7. by   UmmIbrahim
    Id agree...2 years looks betterand gives you a chance to move beyond the new novice RN role into a more natural, somewhat seasoned Nurse. ICUs invest quite a bit in new Nurses as do specialized step downs and floors like Cardiology or Neurology. Its very unprofessional looking to leave after a year or less. I understand its different if its a unique specialization with few openings and you luck out but overall its better and reflects better to wait a bit longer. We've had Nurses whove been on our floor 2-3 years who always said they wanted to try ICU or ED and who after 2-3-4 years made the change and its sad for us but u expect it... its part of ones career development unless one is hired into their dream job and love it...but its kinda annoying and looks a bit unprofessional for a new hire at 6m to 1yr to up and move...they aren't generally really competent yet as Nurses being so new anyway. I dunno...id wait 2 years, esp if ur departmentis fairly tolerable n coworkers, management are decent!
  8. by   MrsK62
    You were very lucky to find such a supportive group of nurses at your first job. Many if not most are not so lucky as I'm sure you've read. Make sure your skills are rock solid before you leave for another position.
  9. by   GingerKid1984
    I am wondering something similar as I recently took a position on Neuro and am not sure about staying on once my contract is up. I accepted a one-year temporary full time position and people often ask if I like the area and want to stay, but with a temporary job this may not even be an option.

    I agree that at least two years in an area allows those of us who are new nurses to gain some competence and is a matter of courtesy for how much is invested in us. But am I expected to apply for another position on this floor or to stay on casual following the end-date of my position? Or is being temporary a sort of get-out-of-jail-free card if you aren't happy in an area? Thoughts?
  10. by   MrsK62
    If you are on a temporary contract you are not obligated to stay once the year is up.. You have fulfilled your contract after one year.
  11. by   Quickbeam
    I'd say take the job if offered. You need to look out after you. My first job out of school was on a pediatrics floor starting January 1. We ended up having to move to another state December of that year for my husband's job. My last day was 12/20. I literally had people telling me "I owed them Christmas"; I was also told this would so harm my career no one would hire me. I had 5 job offers my first week. No one ever cared that I worked 11 months and 3 weeks at my first job. 30 years later, it's just a laugh to me.

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