Advice for breaking nurse residency contract

  1. I'm a first year nurse. I'm also in my early twenties. Right out of school, I accepted a job in a nurse residency that offered training for a 2 yr contract and monetary agreement. I could not find another job, and was naive about accepting this job. I was never advised that with contracted jobs -- the hospital might have a retention problem. The program was extremely hyped up, and I felt like I needed the education. Fast forward to now, I work on my own on a surgical floor. I feel like things are not safe and I'm risking my license a lot of times. I've also realized that this floor is in general not a good fit for me. I go home after work in tears, unhappy and scared for my license and my mental health. Without getting into too much detail, I've talked to coworkers and they too think the floor is not a good fit for me. The only thing that keeps me pushing is the contract and my coworkers. I accept full responsibility for picking this job, even though now when I reflect, it seems to look like a trap for new grads. So my question is: Should I seek transfer (not sure they will let me)? Should I break my contract?
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  2. 9 Comments

  3. by   llg
    What does your contract say? Are you allowed to transfer within the terms of the contract? What is the penalty for breaking your contract? Can you afford to pay that penalty? How much longer do you have on the contract a full year? a year and a half? etc.

    These are the questions that you need to ask (and answer) before you can make the decision as to what to do now. If you are allowed to transfer, I would encourage you to seek a transfer as the hospital might want to retain you as an employee and be willing to grant that. With a transfer, you might improve your situation without having to pay a big penalty.
  4. by   heron
    I think your first step should be to talk to an attorney. I agree with llg that finding a way to survive without breaking the contract is a smart first move.

    We are not allowed nor are we competent to give legal advice. (TOS dontcha know!) If you choose to try to void the contract, you really should be talking to a lawyer. You will undoubtedly read posts from people who were able to walk away from such a contract with minimal or no consequences, but your mileage will definitely vary, here. Go carefully. A civil court won't care about your stress level, your license or how much you cry at work. It will only consider whether you met or breached the conditions of the contract you signed.

    Stay strong and good luck.
  5. by   HayRayRN
    Quote from llg
    What does your contract say? Are you allowed to transfer within the terms of the contract? What is the penalty for breaking your contract? Can you afford to pay that penalty? How much longer do you have on the contract a full year? a year and a half? etc.

    These are the questions that you need to ask (and answer) before you can make the decision as to what to do now. If you are allowed to transfer, I would encourage you to seek a transfer as the hospital might want to retain you as an employee and be willing to grant that. With a transfer, you might improve your situation without having to pay a big penalty.
    My contract is very vague.. It's valued at 10k. The contract says nothing about transfers, in fact it does not specify the job I have on my floor, just informs me about my training and the facility I will work at. I have about a year and a half left. I'm prepared to pay if they come after me.
  6. by   heron
    Quote from HayRayRN
    My contract is very vague.. It's valued at 10k. The contract says nothing about transfers, in fact it does not specify the job I have on my floor, just informs me about my training and the facility I will work at. I have about a year and a half left. I'm prepared to pay if they come after me.
    Devil's advocate, here: it's not just about the money. If the contract can't be voided legally, violating it might call your professional ethics into question, too. Nursing's a very small world. You don't necessarily want to trash your professional reputation right out of the career gate.

    Lack of due diligence, especially assessing possible negative consequences, got you into this situation. You don't want to make the same mistake twice. Walking away might be the right thing to do ... but it shouldn't be a snap decision. Call a lawyer!
  7. by   Ruby Vee
    Quote from HayRayRN
    I'm a first year nurse. I'm also in my early twenties. Right out of school, I accepted a job in a nurse residency that offered training for a 2 yr contract and monetary agreement. I could not find another job, and was naive about accepting this job. I was never advised that with contracted jobs -- the hospital might have a retention problem. The program was extremely hyped up, and I felt like I needed the education. Fast forward to now, I work on my own on a surgical floor. I feel like things are not safe and I'm risking my license a lot of times. I've also realized that this floor is in general not a good fit for me. I go home after work in tears, unhappy and scared for my license and my mental health. Without getting into too much detail, I've talked to coworkers and they too think the floor is not a good fit for me. The only thing that keeps me pushing is the contract and my coworkers. I accept full responsibility for picking this job, even though now when I reflect, it seems to look like a trap for new grads. So my question is: Should I seek transfer (not sure they will let me)? Should I break my contract?
    You're a first year nurse in your early 20s -- the first year of nursing is extremely difficult. Many, if not most new grads believe that things are not safe, that they're risking their licenses and/or their mental health and that their job is not a good fit for them. Sometime around the one year mark, something just "clicks" and most realize that they've got this, they can do this job. Many come to love their jobs and their colleagues. I suggest you wait to even consider breaking your contract until you're at that one year mark. Things may feel very different then.

    If your colleagues believe that the floor isn't a good fit for you, are they unhappy enough with your work to take it to the manager? If the manager genuinely feels that you aren't a good fit for the unit (which may be different from the unit not being a good fit for you), she may be able to arrange a transfer to another unit. If that happens, you'd be advised to stay for the length of your contract no matter how much you hate it.

    Breaking a contract is about a lot more than not liking your job. If you break a contract, you announce that you are the type of person who does not keep her word. That is going to have consequences that may follow you around. Nursing is a small world. I've worked with the same nurse at the University of (Random midwest state) and the University of (gorgeous west coast state). I worked with a classmate at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston (which shows how long I've been out of school!) and a student of mine (on the east coast) was hired by a friend of mine (on the west coast). In fact, in every single hospital I've worked, I have worked with at least one person I had worked with elsewhere, including my very first hospital job where one of the interns had flipped burgers where I was a server. Even if HR isn't allowed to give anything more than start and end dates and eligibilty for rehire, people talk. If they talk about you, make sure they're saying something nice.
  8. by   ProperlySeasoned
    I really would not worry about your licesne. If the stress is causing you to say, divert narcotics, then yes, your license could be an issue. Nurses have their licesense revoked for things like fraud, substance abuse, patient privacy issues. They do not loose their licenses for things like unit chaos or not always being able to give the best possilbe care.
  9. by   not.done.yet
    New nurses post here alllllllllllllllllllll the time in their first year about worrying they will lose their license. I have come to see this as a classic sign of reality shock. There is nothing in nursing school that prepares new nurses for the reality of nursing in real life. It is all idealism, perfect practice, best form. Very little is experienced regarding real staffing problems, documentation requirements and demanding families. Everything you are reporting feeling is typical for the first year of nursing. What you will get if you leave is simply starting all over again in a new specialty, which brings the same adjustment shock problems, only from square one all over again. I am not poo-pooing your emotions nor your observations. However, I do suspect things are simply typical rather than shockingly bad.

    Offering a two year contract commitment to nurses accepted into a residency program is definitely NOT a sign of retention problems. This is, actually, standard practice in most major hospitals due to the expense of training a new nurse and the fact that the school world of nursing no longer churns out nurses able to hit the ground running, but in fact who still need yet further practical education. It is estimated to take about two years for the hospital to recoup that cost, but new nurses tend to jump ship (case in point) within the first six months to one year. This contract is intended to protect the hospital's investment in you. The practice that has been one to be wary of for staffing problems is those who offer a hiring bonus. Those have gone the way of the Do-Do bird for the most part, unless there is a problem. But new grad contracts? Nope. That is industry standard.

    I strongly encourage you to stick it out. Your anxiety may need help from a mentor to whom you can seek advice and answers that don't involve validating your desire to quit, but rather help you think through time management, critical thinking, delegation skills and processes that will build a strong foundation for your future as an RN. One year is usually the time when the anxiety starts to get a bit better. Once the next set of new grads start you will begin to see how far you have come, but until then you have a huge learning curve to muddle through. It IS hard. But....if you have five to six patients, a tech split among four or five nurses with 14 patients to deal with, you are not out of the norm and you won't find greener pastures elsewhere.

    Jilting your contract will be expensive to you in more ways than one. In fact, the money will be the least of it. Hang in there.
  10. by   cyc0sys
    So, you're 20 something, first year nurse, and 6 months into a job you don't like?

    Lets, start again.
    Young career-minded individual, begins working as skilled medical professional on a 2 year contract guarantee of employment and paid on the job training.

    Alternately.
    New nurse, without experience, seeking a new job; after abruptly leaving the only one she could find.
  11. by   vampiregirl
    Ugh. It's no fun to work somewhere where you aren't a "good fit". Been there, done that. Learned a lot which has helped me in future jobs.

    Have you checked into the resources available? Is there a nurse whom you respect in your unit who can give you feedback? Is there a hospital education department? Does your hospital offer EAP services? Any (or all) of these resources may benefit you.

    Another thing that helped me in when I was working in a job where I wasn't a "good fit" in that unit was to find myself a niche. One area that I could make a positive difference - that benefitted both me and the unit (which has benefits). I'm a total nerd, love EBP and am great at IV starts.

    Unfortunately, no job is "perfect" but hopefully you will find one that you find fulfilling and enjoy MOST days. As your nursing experience lengthens you will hopefully get more comfortable and that also makes it easier to fit in and enjoy a job. It took me a while to find my "dream" job and it was in an area of nursing I never imagined myself in or loving. Who knows... if you choose to stay you might even start to enjoy your current position.

    Good luck!

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