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,