My mental health is plummeting from my job

Updated:   Published

  • Columnist
    Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development, Freelance Writer. Has 30 years experience.

Dear Nurse Beth,

Oh man, where do I start... I'm having a bit of a career/ existential crisis. I have been a nurse for 3.5 years and recently started my third job. My first job was night shift in an adult surgical ICU, which turned into a COVID ICU about 6 months into me working there. It was terrible and I was at such a horrible place mentally.

After a year, I relocated cities with my husband for his job. I took a job in outpatient pediatric neurology, as I had originally desired to work with kiddos. This was great for a time- normal M-F schedule, less stress than inpatient nursing (though still stressful in different ways), and I had great relationships with my coworkers. I had always desired to venture back inpatient (I was drawn to the increased pay, more time off using my skills, etc), and considered this job as some sort of bridge.

When I felt like I was being called away from that job, I took a job on the inpatient side in pedi hematology/ oncology. I've been there almost 4 months now, and I am #struggling. I liked it just fine for the first month. Although at the time, I was on orientation and on day shift. Also, I feel like the unit may have been slower as a whole at that time.

Since starting night shift and being off orientation, my mental and physical health have taken a plummet. A large part of this is due to night shift. I see my husband less, I unintentionally lose weight, and I have serious FOMO. I have sooo much anxiety when I'm at work and I often feel overwhelmed.

I break down and cry before my first shift of the week, and often in between shifts. I have cried at work a few times too. I think switching to day shift would help a lot with my personal life/ physical health. However, day shift is busier and historically overwhelming. I'm not sure that I could handle it if I can barely handle my job on night shift.

Also, I currently don't have the opportunity to switch to days. I will give this job some time, obviously, before jumping ship. I know there is an adjustment period, and I will gain confidence with time. But I can't help but think, if my job makes me feel like this, brings me this much anxiety, and affects my mental/physical health, is it the job for me??

I certainly need to continue therapy and talk with my psychiatrist about adjusting medication, but I don't like how the job makes me feel. I don't see how I can sustain this. BUT I also don't want to be a quitter when things get hard and continue job hopping indefinitely.

I have struggled to find my passion/ niche in nursing. Nothing grabs my attention. Overall, it's not a career I'm passionate about. It's a job that pays the bills, and gives me occasional fulfillment that comes from serving others. Do I stay here and endure? Do I find a low stress nursing job (if those exist) with a better schedule, even though pay would be less? Do I leave the profession entirely?? I've talked about this with my husband, but he's not a nurse so can't fully understand. If I could go back and do it all over again, I probably would not have chosen nursing...

Dear Struggling,

Maybe you should not wait, but quit right now.

Some people can't tolerate night shift at all. Working nights can adversely affect your health if you're one of those people. You have some serious symptoms- weight loss and anxiety, feelings of dread, and being overwhelmed.

It's alarming to read how badly you're feeling.

You like your jobs when you are on day shift, but your mental health plummets when you're on night shift.

You're not a quitter and you're not job-hopping. You're suffering and trying to stick it out, but you can't persevere your way to better health.

Please get some help and consider getting off nights ASAP. Anything has to be better than what you're experiencing.

Please take care,

Nurse Beth


Specializes in Administration. Has 47 years experience.

You've had 3 Nursing Jobs in 3 years, albeit once was because of husband's transfer. Maybe you should leave nursing for a time & do something that interests you & you'd enjoy. You can always return to nursing. Your health & happiness is of the utmost importance. Just make sure you have a job before quitting & keep in mind if you go a certain amount of time not in nursing and want to return you'll probably have to take a reentry program which is time consuming & not free. 

Specializes in LPN. Has 8 years experience.

It sounds like you already have the answer to your question.  You said working night shift has you seeing your husband less, losing weight, etc... If that's the case, then a day shift job may be a better fit for you. 

You're just 3.5 years in to your nursing career. So you're still figuring out your niche.  The good thing about nursing is that there are several directions you can go in and there's always a need for nurses. Take some time and think about what really interests you and then pursue it. 

You seemed to have a good environment that worked for you in the previous outpatient peds job. Perhaps returning there is an option for you?