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Abandoning Ship


I'm coming to realize that I am not cut out for this profession (54 yo, licensed for 12 months). We are faced with this crisis and I am not up to the task. I've been sick with URI 3 times in 11 weeks--I'm catching everything. Cancer tx ended 17 months ago and it's taken its' toll. I'm dealing with some GI issues and I'm terribly out of shape. I am also very concerned about catching this virus. I feel that if I catch it, it will be the end for me. I have asthma and am prone to pneumonia.

It's hard to accept this reality. Of course I'm feeling awful about leaving my fellow nurses behind. I'm just off orientation feel a sense of loyalty to them but I'm just not ready to die. They are mostly much younger and from what I can tell, much healthier.

I will be jobless and poor but hopefully alive and if I can recover from the sense of guilt for failing and abandoning my coworkers, I hope to resume private duty cases and sub school nursing.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Sounds like you put some serious thought into this. Unfortunate that this is occurring during the time when you are attempting to acclimate to all the infectious exposure. I know what you are talking about with the three URI's in 11 weeks. I had a persistent cough for more than a year after leaving a home care patient that was persistently in and out of the hospital with his respiratory illnesses that he passed on to me. Hopefully, you can find a stable home care patient(s) that will keep you gainfully employed for a long time. It won't be as career enhancing as the job you are leaving but work is work and some pay is better than no pay. Your health is most important to you at this time. Best wishes.

Thank you.

TriciaJ, RN

Specializes in Psych, Corrections, Med-Surg, Ambulatory. Has 40 years experience.

The most important thing you have to learn as a nurse is to "put your own oxygen mask on first". Lose the guilt. Recent history of cancer; recurrent URIs - I call that the writing on the wall.

You aren't abandoning your coworkers any more than you'd be abandoning them if you died. Everyone's first job is to stay alive. Get out of the trenches and figure out your next move.

Wishing you all the best.

Thank you. I really needed to hear that.

motherofcats, ADN

Specializes in sub-acute/rehab; acute psych. Has 2 years experience.

I am going through a similar situation. Just started an acute care job, on orientation still, but am concerned about my health hx and the impending COVID patients to my unit. The family is pleading for me to back out and start fresh when things are safer. I'm mid 30's and would otherwise not be worried. I feel like a failure, and weak, and like maybe I'm being selfish. I think you did the right thing though given the history you shared with us.

Trampledunderfoot, LPN

Specializes in Corrections, Dementia/Alzheimer's. Has 3 years experience.

What about family members?

I am currently caring for my great aunt with a compromised immune system who is in her 90's and another family member who is older with asthma.

They are of the group that have been ordered to stay home and not expose themselves, while I work at a prison, currently with no COVID-19 cases, but with the potential of a very nasty outbreak.

I care for these family members, and we are pretty much all of our family that is left. I cannot live else where, and have no one else to care for them.

I hate the thought of going without work and income, and since I am young and very healthy, hate the thought of "abandoning ship" when there are nurses like OP out there who shouldn't have to be exposed.

But what about my family?

If they are ordered not to be exposed and go out, while I am bringing hordes of germs home to them and must do things like cook their dinner, how do I make this work?

If I quit, or cut back my hours, will I never be able to find a job again because of my history of taking off when the healthcare system needed me most? On the other hand, how can I live with myself if the only family I have left dies because of me?

I completely understand.

Due to the virus, the time is right to try other areas of nursing that aren’t direct patient care and your risk for infection is lowered. It’s something to think about.

namaste111, BSN, RN

Specializes in Rehabilitation, Liver/Kidney Transplant.

Understandably this is a very emotional time for you and physically painful. During moments like these, sometimes people make drastic decisions that they otherwise wouldn't do. Before you throw in the towel on nursing as a profession, why don't you concentrate on your health and family, wait out the storm, no matter how long it takes, and then regroup. I got my BSN at 47, and I wouldn't want to dismiss all that sacrifice. But if it's what you feel is best for your, by all means, you know yourself better than any of us. Good luck and God Speed.


Has 12 years experience.

I think you alive and caring for yourself and loved ones is more important than the guilt you feel at leaving your unit. When all this is over there will be other types of nursing that you could consider that will not put you in a vulnerable position where you have to choose your career or your life. I just finished my MSN at 52 and there were lots of others my age who are trying to get out from the bedside and 12 hour shifts. It's not that nursing is not for you, maybe just not hospital nursing. At the very least you will have time to think and plan if you do decide to put in your resignation. Stay safe.

headofcurls, BSN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care. Has 5 years experience.

Protect yourself! We will hold down the fort for you!

Telehealth, case management, school nurse, etc. leverage your license in another related field. No shame in looking out for your own health.