3 Signs it Might be Time to Leave Bedside Nursing

  1. Nursing got you down? It's a hard job and sometimes, it's just time to find something new. Here are 3 signs it might be time to leave your bedside job for something new.

    3 Signs it Might be Time to Leave Bedside Nursing

    When you graduated nursing school, you may have envisioned working at the bedside for thirty or forty years before hanging up your nursing shoes. But, lately, you're not sure you want to finish 2018 at the bedside, let alone a few more decades. If you're feeling this way, it's important you know that you're not alone.

    The RN Work Project, a national study of new nurses, reports that 17.9% of new nurses left the profession within 1 year of starting their first job and 60% left within 8 years of starting their first position. Nurses with more tenure leave because of staffing issues, schedules, and overall job dissatisfaction. So, how do you know if it's really time to leave or if you're just in a career slump?

    Recognizing it's Time

    If you're wondering if bedside nursing is where you should be, you're probably going through a lot of emotions. You may feel like your stuck or even regret entering the nursing profession all-together. Don't beat yourself up. A degree in nursing is more flexible today than ever before. So, before you worry that you've made the mistake of a lifetime, let's explore a few signs it's time for you think outside the box of a traditional nursing career.

    You Get Little or No Joy out of Caregiving

    Caring for others is hard. Whether it's the long shifts, schedule, or stress levels that come with a lifelong nursing career - it can make the job a bit more demanding than what you want. So, if you find yourself dreading going into work and this feeling lasts for weeks, or even months, it's probably a good indicator that you need to start considering something new.

    Your Passions and Gifts Aren't Being Used at the Bedside

    Many nurses start realizing that being at the bedside doesn't give you much ability to use other skills, such as writing, marketing, or organization. Yes, you certainly do write, market, and organize as a nurse, but if you find yourself dreaming about utilizing these skills or others on a daily basis, it may be time to look for new opportunities.

    Using your passions doesn't always mean you need to walk about from your license. It just means you need to consider a niche of nursing that lets you use both your nursing knowledge and our passion.

    You're ready to throw in the towel on nursing all together

    Many nurses find themselves in this situation. But, don't act hastily. A degree in nursing doesn't mean you have to work at the bedside. You have options - especially in a healthcare market that is continually looking for new and creative ways to deliver care cost-effectively.

    You can look into non-traditional nursing positions that let you use your knowledge, without being at the bedside, such as case manager, health coach, or utilization review - just to name a few.

    What's Next for You


    Before you take any other steps, you need a plan. Follow these tips to move in the right direction:

    Write It Out

    Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Another way to think about this is to jot down all the things you like about nursing and those tasks you despise. This will help provide some clarity for your next role. Next, make a list of your passions and start analyzing the two lists side by side. Do a little research on non-traditional roles that incorporate the tasks you like and your passions.

    Stay Positive

    It can be easy to slip into a pattern of beating yourself up over this change. But, what will that accomplish? You're right - nothing! So, don't worry about the past. Many people make career changes after a few years - or a few decades.

    Try Changing Your Mindset

    If the thought of jumping ship worries you or comes with financial consequences you can't face, try changing your mindset. You might also want to look for a new employer to see if your issues are more with the unit than with your bedside career.

    Take Your Time

    As my grandma used to say, "Don't jump out of the frying pan and into the skillet!" Give yourself plenty of time to make sure you're making the change for the right reason. The last thing you want to do is enter another role that isn't right for you.


    Have you recently left the bedside? Are you happier now or do you miss it? Let us know why you left the bedside and how your new role is working out for you.

    Last edit by tnbutterfly on Nov 18
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    Melissa is a Quality Assurance Nurse, professor, writer, and business owner. She has been a nurse for over 20 years and enjoys combining her nursing knowledge and passion for the written word. You can see more of her work at www.melissamills.net or on her blog at www.lifeafterforty.blog.

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    12 Comments

  3. by   Davey Do
    "Have you recently left the bedside? Are you happier now or do you miss it? Let us know why you left the bedside and how your new role is working out for you."

    I've left, what you could call bedside nursing, twice in my career, around 1996 and 2003. I was frustrated with my nursing jobs and wanted to pursue a fantasy career as a free lance artist.

    I extremely enjoyed working as an artist, but disliked the business end. Both times I left the nursing field, I never really totally gave nursing up and always kept my foot in the door, working for agencies and per diem.

    When I found a job that paid as much as my previous nursing and art jobs combined, I gave up the business of being an artist.

    I'm much happier making money as a nurse and using my art as pleasure. I could retire from nursing at just about any time, but I'm not ready. Working as a nurse really balances out my life- you know: the whole right brain/left brain thing. And the money is so good, it'd be a shame to give that up.

    When it's time to throw in the towel, I think I'll know.

    Great article, Prof. Melissa!
  4. by   melissa.mills1117
    Thanks Davey Do! I toggled back and forth between bedside care and management for several years. At some point, I started feeling the rustiness of my skills and decided it was time to stick with non-direct care positions. From there, I chased my dreams and writing and - well, here I am! LOL

    Melissa
  5. by   Carrie_RN
    Great article! I hear/read about nurses complaining about the nurses that find themselves far away from the bedside, but someone needs to get all of the background work done (including educating, keeping people out of the hospital, writing/enforcing policy/legislation, working with health technology, public health, etc. etc. etc.). That is the great thing about nursing - all of the opportunities!
  6. by   melissa.mills1117
    Yes, Carrie!! There are many other jobs you can do as a nurse and still use your nurse brain - just not your nurse hands. .

    Quote from Carrie_RN
    Great article! I hear/read about nurses complaining about the nurses that find themselves far away from the bedside, but someone needs to get all of the background work done (including educating, keeping people out of the hospital, writing/enforcing policy/legislation, working with health technology, public health, etc. etc. etc.). That is the great thing about nursing - all of the opportunities!
  7. by   Erindel RN
    I apply to all three of those. I am definitely burnt out at my job. I work on a medical psych unit and we have no support from management. Our unit is unsafe most of the time. we are usually getting older patients with horrible behaviors or end stage dementia. our unit is known as a dumping ground, it is not true psych. I feel like 9/10 times I am not therapeutically helping my patients. right now we have a 19 and 21 year old on our unit and half of the other patients are 70 and older with dementia and aggressive behavior. the unit is not therapeutic to the patients who actually want to come here and find recovery and get well. everytime I work I feel like I want to throw in the towel on this unit and on nursing all together. I should not be feeling this way after only 4 years of nursing.
  8. by   melissa.mills1117
    Hey Erindel RN - Thanks for sharing your struggles. That's a big first step. Have you considered non-traditional nursing positions? Before throwing in the towel, try writing creating a pros/cons list about this job and other jobs you've held to find some common things you do like. Then, look for opportunities that use those skills as primary functions of the job. There are so many ways to be a nurse - not just at the bedside. Best of luck to you!

    Melissa

    Quote from Erindel RN
    I apply to all three of those. I am definitely burnt out at my job. I work on a medical psych unit and we have no support from management. Our unit is unsafe most of the time. we are usually getting older patients with horrible behaviors or end stage dementia. our unit is known as a dumping ground, it is not true psych. I feel like 9/10 times I am not therapeutically helping my patients. right now we have a 19 and 21 year old on our unit and half of the other patients are 70 and older with dementia and aggressive behavior. the unit is not therapeutic to the patients who actually want to come here and find recovery and get well. everytime I work I feel like I want to throw in the towel on this unit and on nursing all together. I should not be feeling this way after only 4 years of nursing.
  9. by   SobreRN
    I knew it was time when I just started telling it like it is, e.g. pt asks why Foley being pulled so soon and I told them that timeframe is dictated by the CDC, not their doctor. They would ask anything to do with their pain management and I told them that was dictated by the DEA, not their doctor. They would ask why we were turning them Q2 hours when they were alert and oriented and I told them that was dictated by CMS, not their doctor.
    They would ask if anything was actually decided by their doctor and I would tell them I'd have to get back with them when I could think of something.
    Actually I was just being honest with them I know they would have preferred thinking their doctor actually made an independent decision which was doctoratient rather than doctor *insert regulatory agency* patient relationship decision but nary can I think of.
    I still feel patients deserve an honest answer.
  10. by   melissa.mills1117
    SobreRN - Yep - this is a great example. I don't think tell them "like it is" was the real reason behind this though - it sounds like your dissatisfaction with the system might have been at play. And, we certainly have all been there a time or two! So, you no longer work at the bedside?

    Thanks for taking time to share your experience!

    Melissa

    Quote from SobreRN
    I knew it was time when I just started telling it like it is, e.g. pt asks why Foley being pulled so soon and I told them that timeframe is dictated by the CDC, not their doctor. They would ask anything to do with their pain management and I told them that was dictated by the DEA, not their doctor. They would ask why we were turning them Q2 hours when they were alert and oriented and I told them that was dictated by CMS, not their doctor.
    They would ask if anything was actually decided by their doctor and I would tell them I'd have to get back with them when I could think of something.
    Actually I was just being honest with them I know they would have preferred thinking their doctor actually made an independent decision which was doctoratient rather than doctor *insert regulatory agency* patient relationship decision but nary can I think of.
    I still feel patients deserve an honest answer.
  11. by   SobreRN
    As for options I'd add occupational and corrections. Like hospital nursing jails are open 24/7 and I have found it to be safer than bedside nursing.

    Should a pt decide to take their wrath out on the nurse there may be one security guard a few floors away whose job mostly is to call the police.

    In jail the sheriff deputy is right there, if the patient gets belligerent back to the cell they go until they can be civil. If they attempt an assault it will not be good for them...
  12. by   traumaRUs
    Furthering education also gives you more options....
  13. by   AnnieOaklyRN
    I do pediatric vascular access and although it is a form of bedside nursing, it isn't the same, and allows you to see different patients without the headaches that may present when they have difficult parents etc. It has its days when I question my sanity, but overall I am adjusting and liking the job more and more, especially thinking about the fact that I don't have the normal stressors that a typical bedside nurse has! It's a 400 bed hospital that is expanding, so even if I decide I am bored with it there are plenty of different units I can try!

    There are different forms of bedside nurses, like vascular accesss, wound care, transport etc where you still have patient interaction, just not to the same level.

    Annie
  14. by   ocean.baby
    Prisons are also great places to work. You never see an inmate without at least one officer, the higher the security level of the prison the more officers are with you. There are many types of nursing jobs in prisons and it is a great career path. There are also a lot of traveling jobs which can give someone the chance to see how they like it and if they are a good fit for that type of work. They are slower paced than jails, I personally prefer them but many nurses prefer jails. Just a personal preference (and age lol).

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