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Are You Wanting to Leave Your Nursing Job? Feel Guilty? What Should You Do?

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage healthcare systems, nurses are being forced to endure higher workload demands and pick up slack as a result of the ongoing nursing shortage. Inevitably, this continuous cycle leads to nursing burnout. Are you a nurse who is feeling the wrath of burnout, and you are now considering whether or not to leave the profession? You are not alone.

by Nursing CE Central Nursing CE Central (Trusted Brand)

Specializes in Nursing CEU Provider.

Are you feeling guilty? You're not alone.

Are You Wanting to Leave Your Nursing Job? Feel Guilty? What Should You Do?

Written by Morgan Curry, BSN, RN for Nursing CE Central

Now more than ever, I hear this question asked just about every day. When I entered the nursing profession, people were excited to work and care for patients.  Yes, you had some nurses who had been in the game for a while and were tired, but in general, people loved nursing and the impact they had. 

Today, that's just not the case.  

Nurses are exhausted. They are burnt out. With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to worsen the state of our healthcare system, it is causing nurses left and right to leave the profession. 

From increased workload demands to incredibly low staffing rates, many nurses find themselves asking the question, 'Should I leave my job?' Or 'Maybe I should just change careers altogether.'  As a nurse myself, this deeply saddens me. However, I cannot lie and say that I haven’t shared the same thoughts.  

Burnout is more prevalent now than it has ever been before. It not only applies to the healthcare profession, but to many other career paths as well. 

Are you feeling guilty for wanting to leave the nursing profession due to feelings of burnout? You are not alone. 

Increased Workload and Exhaustion  

We have all seen the news headlines of the continuously growing nursing shortage; there are many contributing factors to this. However, the true question is, what is your contributing factor? Why do you want to leave? 

I want you to sit back and reflect on that for a second.  

Is it one factor, or is it ten? Are you tired of the heavy workload or the mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion you feel after every shift?  

Through this pandemic, have you developed some mental health issues related to your work? Is it carrying over into your personal life? 

You are not alone. 

Did you know that 2.7 million nurses and counting in the US reported feeling burnout? Burnout is the number one cause of nurses leaving the profession.  

It's a never-ending cycle. Let’s break it down. 

It begins with low staffing, which leads to higher workload demand. As a result of these demands, emotional and physical exhaustion increases which then turns into feelings of burnout and leaving the profession.   

If you are a nurse who can relate to this cycle but do not want to leave the profession, what other options are there? 

What Can I Do Away From The Bedside? 

If you find yourself asking that question, you are burnt out and over it. However, try to remember the core reason why you became a nurse in the first place.  

Was it to help people? To make a difference? Because you love healthcare?  

Whatever the case may be, there are so many options that allow you to not only leave the bedside but also to continue to follow the core values of why you became a nurse.  

For example, you can use your nursing expertise to begin consulting, or even opening your own business! 

Nursing CE Central is founded by nurses who were burnt out from the bedside but wanted to make a difference – the sky is truly the limit for you!  

As a nurse, you have so much knowledge, experience, and skill that can be used in so many ways. 

Reflection 

You should not feel guilty about wanting to leave. You are human. You have your limits, and you can only do and take so much.  

Before you leave, try to frame your thinking positively. Ask yourself why you became a nurse.  

Take those answers, and see if they were fulfilled in your current role? How could you make those answers fulfilled in a different nursing role, perhaps one away from the bedside that doesn't cause as much stress in your personal life? 

I encourage you to sit back and reflect on all your thoughts and experiences, both positive and negative. Talk to your peers, co-workers, and friends on social media that you have met through previous nursing jobs, school, or life. 


Your feelings of burnout and overwhelming stress are valid. We hear you. We see you. Do not feel guilty. Working up the courage to leave your current job is a big one to make.  

Whatever you end up doing, just make sure the decision is made with your best interest in mind. 

Morgan serves as the Course Curriculum Executive Editor and Content Manager at Nursing CE Central. Her extensive background in a Level I Trauma Hospital setting provides vast clinical insight into high octane clinical care, along with a deep understanding of specialized areas of nursing such as heart and lung transplants, ECMO, and cardiac surgery recovery. Morgan’s professional versatility also extends into the highly sought-after field of aesthetic nursing, with comprehensive experience in the plastic surgery field; including nurse leadership in PACU, PERI-OP, and OR departments.

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4 Comment(s)

morelostthanfound, BSN

Specializes in CVOR/General Surgery. Has 29 years experience.

     In my long nursing career, I have known many nurses that wanted either to leave their current jobs or leave the profession entirely.  Of these nurses, none that I recall, expressed a modicum of guilt.  At best, Nursing is a mediocre profession with mediocre pay that is totally out of step with the amount of responsibility most nurses assume.  Add to that, exposure to potentially infectious body waste, critical/dangerous staffing, onerous charting, nights/weekends/holidays, and the general lack of respect that I've witnessed from administrators, managers, physicians, and even PAs/NPs.  Like many seasoned nurses, I've long forgot the motivating factors that drew me to Nursing, but as neither I nor my family could afford a university education, nursing became a relatively quick and cheap career path.  Thirty years later, I find myself stuck in a career that I dislike and rueing my decision all those years' ago.  Bitter? perhaps, Jaded? maybe, Realistic? YES

Edited by morelostthanfound

Leonardo Del Toro, RN

Specializes in "Wound care - geriatric care. Has 11 years experience.

9 hours ago, morelostthanfound said:

     In my long nursing career, I have known many nurses that wanted either to leave their current jobs or leave the profession entirely.  Of these nurses, none that I recall, expressed a modicum of guilt.  At best, Nursing is a mediocre profession with mediocre pay that is totally out of step with the amount of responsibility most nurses assume.  Add to that, exposure to potentially infectious body waste, critical/dangerous staffing, onerous charting, nights/weekends/holidays, and the general lack of respect that I've witnessed from administrators, managers, physicians, and even PAs/NPs.  Like many seasoned nurses, I've long forgot the motivating factors that drew me to Nursing, but as neither I nor my family could afford a university education, nursing became a relatively quick and cheap career path.  Thirty years later, I find myself stuck in a career that I dislike and rueing my decision all those years' ago.  Bitter? perhaps, Jaded? maybe, Realistic? YES

I was going to respond to this post. But why? You have responded for me word by word and I couldn't say it better. Thank you

Emergent, RN

Specializes in ER. Has 28 years experience.

The seems like the patronizing article, as if nurses are all called to serve humanity and will feel guilty if they leave jobs that totally stress them out.

We are the handmaidens of healthcare, they purport. But in fact, the ones who should feel guilty are those who continually hammer away at nurses, trying to squeeze their last drop of blood and their first born child out for profit and their own career advancement.

Leonardo Del Toro, RN

Specializes in "Wound care - geriatric care. Has 11 years experience.

24 minutes ago, Emergent said:

The seems like the patronizing article, as if nurses are all called to serve humanity and will feel guilty if they leave jobs that totally stress them out.

We are the handmaidens of healthcare, they purport. But in fact, the ones who should feel guilty are those who continually hammer away at nurses, trying to squeeze their last drop of blood and their first born child out for profit and their own career advancement.

This whole thing about nurses are heroes is such pile of BS. Imagine how great it would be for all corporations to have this little racket.