Is Your Nursing Career in a Rut?

  1. Sometimes it may seem like we’re constantly reaching for the next step in our career ladder, but what happens when we reach the top? Or when the destination we’ve been striving for no longer looks enticing? Taking the time to slow down and assess if we’re going in the right direction, or to determine why our career seems to have stalled, might help us determine if we’re stuck in a career rut and how to get out of it.

    Is Your Nursing Career in a Rut?

    After years of nursing school, and then choosing what seemed like the perfect job, sometimes it's hard to consider that your job may have lost its luster and that it might be time for a change. That change could be as drastic as a new job, or perhaps as little as joining a committee, taking a class, or looking for a transfer.

    We all have days when we're feeling bored or unmotivated, but if you're feeling like this often, and a few days off doesn't alleviate that feeling, perhaps your nursing career is in a rut. Most people find comfort in familiarity, and may hope that something will change, but often we must make a change to put the passion back in our career.

    Check for Signs of a Rut

    Does it seem like you're going to the same job, with the same people, doing the same tasks all the time? It might be hard to pinpoint why you feel unhappy. Perhaps it's just a phase, or a work project that has you feeling this way. Reflect on the source of your dissatisfaction or lack of fulfillment. You might be in a rut if:

    • You get a sick feeling Monday morning, or the day before
    • Jealousy stirs when others are excited about their job
    • You've lost your pride in your work
    • When people ask about your job you change the subject
    • You feel angry and as if you're stuck in your job
    • You secretly browse job listings, but have no idea what you're looking for
    • Company events or trainings that you used to look forward to now feel like an obligation

    If this sounds like you, your work may start to suffer as you become more disengaged. If you're not committing time or energy to tasks and just go through the motions, it can be physically and mentally exhausting. Most of us want to be challenged and learn, but if we're feeling tired and lethargic then we might believe it's not worth the effort.

    Determine the Source of Dissatisfaction

    Even if it's a great job, and you're successful with what you do, you might have lost that loving feeling somewhere along your career path. Before jumping at the first available opportunity, examine what is dissatisfying to avoid getting stuck in another position that may quickly become unfulfilling. Identify what you like and dislike about your job such as:

    • Are you happy with your schedule, or do you feel run ragged, or as if you lack time off?
    • What is your favorite part of the day, or the tasks that bring you the most enjoyment?
    • Are there opportunities to learn, or do you feel bored, or unchallenged?
    • Is the work environment, or culture, unsatisfactory?
    • Do you feel like you're suffering from burnout, or compassion fatigue?

    Do You Have an Itch to Switch Jobs?

    If you're ready to move on and find a job you're passionate about, begin by taking time to clean up your personal and professional brand. If your unhappiness has leaked onto social media you don't want a potential employer gaining a bad impression if they stumble across your complaints or blatant unhappiness. Then consider what you're looking for in a job and how it aligns with your strengths and weaknesses.

    • Consider if a hobby, or other passion, can be incorporated to create a more satisfying position
    • Update your resume and LinkedIn profile with new accomplishments and have your cover letter ready to go
    • Consider if you need additional education for the role you desire, it may be as little as taking online classes, or listening to Podcasts, to gaining a new certification or degree
    • Attend available networking events
    • Let friends, family, and colleagues know you're looking for opportunities

    Can You Rediscover Your Love?

    Maybe you're unhappy in your job, but perhaps there are ways to put excitement back in your position so it doesn't feel like a grind. Challenge the status quo by shifting your mindset. Pretend you're new to your job and ask questions and make suggestions instead of accepting how things have always been done. Other ways to inject passion, and change your role into something you enjoy more, including creating your own opportunities by:

    • Looking for a mentor, or volunteering to be one
    • Getting to know colleagues better
    • Finding a better fit with a position transfer
    • Asking for more responsibility
    • Discovering interests outside of work to stimulate your mind

    Get Unstuck from Your Rut

    Most of us spend a large part of our day, and our lives, at work so it's important to find something that doesn't make us miserable. Each of us has different things that bring us joy. Only we can determine what makes us happy, or unhappy, in our job. Sometimes it takes devoting time to consider just what drew us to the position in the first place, and what's driving us away now.
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    About Maureen Bonatch MSN, BSN, RN

    Maureen Bonatch MSN, RN draws from years of experience in nursing administration, leadership and psychiatric nursing to write healthcare content. Her experience as a fiction author helps her to craft engaging and creative content. Learn more about her freelance writing at and her fiction books at

    Joined: Mar '05; Posts: 57; Likes: 236
    from PA , US
    Specialty: 20 year(s) of experience in Leadership|Psychiatric Nursing|Education

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  3. by   traumaRUs
    Great article. I found myself in a rut a few years ago. I changed some things up, went back to school and now with more opportunities, I'm in a better place both professionally and personally.

  4. by   Maureen Bonatch MSN
    I'm glad that you were able to get out of a rut and that it has worked out well for you. That's wonderful!