I can't stop thinking about quitting nursing school.


I'm sure there are many posts on here from nursing students boohooing about how hard nursing school is and how they want to quit. I hate to add to that chorus but I've been keeping these feelings inside so long, I just need to get them out somewhere, so forgive me.

I'm in my third semester of a four semester program, and I've hit such an emotional wall. I've lost all my focus and motivation and my grades are dropping, though I can probably still make B's. This semester is peds/ob, and it doesn't help the situation that I have no interest in kids, babies or birth. But it's more than that. Clinical makes me incredibly anxious, and I feel like such an incompetant fool all day. I haven't ever had a very bad clinical experience however. I've never made a horrible mistake or been chewed out, and my clinical instructors have either given positive feedback or at least thought I was safe and performing adequately. Still I feel like I'm not independent at all in clinical, like I'm operating at a first semester level still. I'm not fully taking over care for 2 patients like I'm supposed to. Even when my anxiety levels are low I hate clinical. I think the feelings started in second semester when as students we began to have more independence and responsibility. It became more real. I push my negative feelings down until clinical is over, and then for the next few days after I reflect back on it and feel depressed and cry. I don't want to be responsible for people's health and safety. I don't want them to look to me for health advice. I don't know if I can attribute these feelings to anxiety about nursing that will eventually fade or if this is a genuine dislike of the field. I feel like I have no way to distinguish that.

There was an incident this semester where I had an emotional breakdown at the hospital. I had spent the morning in the NICU, and it was fine. All the babies were stable feeder growers and the nurse I was working with was friendly and taught me how to feed and care for them. I'm not a baby person but feeding babies is kind of fun. Then when I left the unit I accidentally set off an alarm because I forgot to swipe my ID. The unit secretary was annoyed and chewed me out a little. I apologized profusely, and as I got into the elevator tears sprung to my eyes. I knew this was silly and tried to swallow them down, but it was as if the floodgates had opened and there was nothing I could do. All my negative feelings were pouring out and I couldn't pull myself together no matter what I tried. I ended up going to clinical conference, fooling no one about the emotional state I was in. My instructor pulled me aside after, probably thinking I saw something upsetting in NICU, but of course there was no such logical reason for my breakdown. She was very kind to me about it, but didn't want me to finish the day because I couldn't be crying on the unit. It was humiliating. Nothing like that has happened to me before or since, thankfully. But it kind of illustrates where I am emotionally.

I have to finish the program at this point, so maybe there is no point to posting this. If I graduate in May like I am supposed to I will have a good degree and no debt. If I try to change my major now I will be adding over a year of school and lots of debt. There's no viable plan B, but it's just so hard to go to clinical and study for exams with this voice in the back of my head chanting that this is all wrong for me, that it was a mistake and I won't be happy. I have talked about this with nursing school friends, and they are sympathetic but no one can seem to really relate to how I'm feeling. They all really want this. I suppose I hope my preceptorship will change my mind. Do any other students feel this way? Have any nurses felt like this? Is it possible for me to feel this way now and find my way to an enjoyable nursing career? I hope so, because I don't know what else I would do. I'm sorry this is so long, but it was cathartic to write.

Specializes in Neuroscience. Has 4 years experience.

Everyone has difficult days. Don't beat yourself up over this. You're not the first, and you won't be last to accidentally set off the alarm.

I think there comes a point where you need to forgive yourself for what happened. Learn from it, move on, and you'll be fine. I'm not going to say that real life nursing isn't hard, but it is very different from nursing school. As long as you learn from your mistakes and you actively work to prevent future ones, you'll be good.


30 Posts

Thanks for the encouragement. I know I need to be a little kinder to myself. The breakdown wasn't really about the alarm, I think that one incident was just the straw that broke the camel's back, unfortunately.

CrunchRN, ADN, RN

4,475 Posts

Specializes in Clinical Research, Outpt Women's Health. Has 25 years experience.

If you hate clinical it is perfectly fine to pursue some other choice. Nursing is not for everyone and it is not a failure of any kind. Don't keep doing it if you think you will hate nursing.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

226 Articles; 27,608 Posts

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 17 years experience.
I forgot to swipe my ID. The unit secretary was annoyed and chewed me out a little. I apologized profusely, and as I got into the elevator tears sprung to my eyes.
I'll be darned if I stand there and allow a unit clerk to chew me out over an honest mistake that didn't hurt anyone. Correct me if you wish, but chewing someone out over a petty mishap is crossing a fine boundary line. I'm also not going to shed my tears over someone who won't lose any sleep over me.

It takes a smart person to consider that perhaps nursing is not for you. If your feelings of dread and anxiety are not caused by mental health issues, maybe it is time to reevaluate this career move. I'd only be making empty promises if I assured you that things would improve.

Good luck to you.


700 Posts

Specializes in Med-Surg. Has 1 years experience.

I sent you a PM- I hope you get it

springchick1, ADN, RN

1 Article; 1,769 Posts

I had a couple of weeks when I was in school where I seriously considered quitting. It was my 3rd semester. I had a lot going on at work, in my family, and I was just sick of school. I wasn't a fan of clinicals either.

I had some good friends in class who I talked through everything with. Eventually things got better. I pushed through and I am so glad I did! Keep your head up! You can do it!

allnurses Guide

llg, PhD, RN

13,469 Posts

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development. Has 46 years experience.

I considered quitting the whole time I was in clinicals. Hated them. But I liked being a nurse once I graduated. So I am proof that not liking nursing school does not guarantee that you will not like nursing. Before you make such an important decision, you need to sort out whether or not it is the experience of being a nursing student you don't like ... or whether it is the experience of doing nursing things with patients that you don't like.

If you decide that you don't like doing nursing things with patients ... then by all means, quit at the end of this semester. (Don't ruin your GPA by letting it crash this semester. You'll need a good GPA to move on to whatever you decide to do next.) Don't throw money away getting a degree you don't want.

However, don't quit school just because you don't like being a nursing student. Student status is temporary: it ends. And for you, it will end soon. So if there is a chance that you will actually be OK being a nurse, then finish the degree. You will have it forever -- and it might come in handy. You can focus your nursing career in areas that interest you -- and there are lots of nursing career paths that might work for you. For example: I knew I would hate adult med/surg. So I went into NICU and then became a specialist in Nursing Professional Development -- not at all like anything I did in school. The fact that I hated adult med/surg clinicals is totally irrelevant to my career.

Good luck with whatever you decide.


30 Posts

Thanks for your response. I was never really considering quitting. I fantasize about it constantly and it's definitely a struggle for me to get through the week, but quitting isn't really an option for me at this point. It's encouraging to hear that someone can hate nursing school and still have a fulfilling career as a nurse. I can't quit for practical and financial reasons, but another part of why I am sticking this out is that I feel like I owe it to myself to try give nursing a real try and see if I can learn to like it. I don't want to quit and spend my life wondering what might have been, especially given that there's no guarantee I would like whatever else I decided to do. I feel like I won't be able to tell if it's nursing itself that I dislike until I am actually a nurse. So I'm committed to continuing, but I feel miserable in the meantime. But nursing school is only until May, I just need to keep that in mind.

Specializes in Critical Care, Med-Surg, Psych, Geri, LTC, Tele,.

I am also in my 3rd of 4 terms. It has been brutal.

My situation is slightly different, as I worked as an LPN/LVN for a year prior to being enrolled in the 3rd term of an ADN program. I hope that makes sense.

Quitting school or at least taking a break has crossed my mind a few times, though fleetingly.

I will tell you the thing that gets me through, the one thing I know is that working as a nurse was so awesome. I enjoyed my work as a nurse. I know that at the end of this, I'll be paid even more to do a job I like.

In my school, the instructors seem to think that by being super hard on you, they are preparing you for the rigors of nursing. Because, after all, we will hold people's lives in our hands-so to speak.

Perhaps some students need this type of treatment in order to take their vocation seriously.

I know I don't. I'm an adult learner and take criticism well. But school isn't about taking criticism, it's about putting you in your place and penalties for things you would never be penalized for at work.

Back to the topic: hang in there! I will reiterate: there is a light at the end of the tunnel!


490 Posts

I'm in my 3rd semester and also graduating in May.

I'm the opposite though, I love clinical (except OB) but classes...I go home and cry very frequently. I came home crying today actually.

It's not nursing that's the issue for me. It's school. I'm tired and stressed. I'm constantly sick. I can't bottle up how frustrated I get with unclear and ever changing expectations. I can not do my job, even if my job is being a student, if I don't know what my job is.

I hear it gets better. I also know that this is temporary I have 7 months left. I keep telling myself that if I could handle 9 months of being pregnant, I can handle 7 more months of this.

CrunchRN, ADN, RN

4,475 Posts

Specializes in Clinical Research, Outpt Women's Health. Has 25 years experience.

I have done 23 years of outpatient nursing and it has worked out so I would say remember that you do not necessarily have to do hospital nursing if it is not your thing.