New Grad considering quitting nursing

by Jacob Jacob, BSN, RN (New) New Nurse

Specializes in PCU/Tele/EP.

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to get some friendly advice from people who have possibly been in the same position as me. I am a new grad who has been working on the Progressive care/Telemetry floor for 5 months now and am considering leaving nursing altogether.

Throughout nursing school, I got to the point where I enjoyed the classes but really did not like clinical at all. I thought about quitting but couldn't stand the idea of giving up on something, especially since I was so close to graduating, but I was definitely not passionate about nursing. Then as graduation approached I was not quite sure if I wanted to work as a nurse at a hospital or just do something else. As friends in school were getting jobs I felt the pressure to also look for work and took this position at an HCA hospital (later realized that was a bad idea).

Working on this unit, I have really great coworkers that are very helpful and friendly, but still, the stress and anxiety I feel is extensive. I feel that I can't concentrate or remember details and any enthusiasm for the job has left me, speaking with the doctors generally leaves me feeling incompetent and like I don't understand the patient. I also feel incredibly unprepared to handle many of the assignments I've been given. I have been taking steps to help myself though, like creating a brain that works well for me, asking a ton of questions, and coming in early to read charts, but I feel like its just something that is draining the life and joy out of me.

It seems so early to say this too, but I feel just so burnt out of the work already. After talking with some other coworkers (most nurses on the unit have only been here for under 2 years) about if it gets better, it turns out that a large portion of the nurses who have been here for a while are about to transfer or quit, and almost all of the nurses from my cohort feel the same as I do, but are trying to wait out that HCA contract as best they can. Unfortunately, in a lot of posts I've read on AN, even experienced nurses say you just get used to it and the anxiety gets better but the job and stress are generally the same.

I know 5 months is not very long, but I feel like my feelings have been consistently deteriorating. My thought/plan is to stay till I'm at least at 6 months, then look for work part-time at a nursing home/clinic for the time being while I try to decide what else to do with my life. There are a couple of options that I am very passionate about that I just need to figure out logistically.

I think it is also important to say that I have spoken with both family and friends on advice and given it a lot of thought over around 2 months. It would just be nice to get some wise advice/experiences from some other nurses and or people who have left nursing. Thanks!

Anonymous44, BSN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care.

I'm not quite sure if I am going to be helpful, but I am in the same boat. I just graduated and worked so hard to get here and I am not sure I like it but what else can I do?

I am strongly considering switching specialities but I think you need to give it a year before you fully give up on nursing all together, or not I mean its your life. But I have heard from a lot of people that the first year is the hardest and harder that nursing school. Also, there are a lot of non clinical Nursing Jobs that you can still use your degree for! But I also understand wanting to leave nursing. I think any occupation that has an appreciation week means you are overworked and underpaid and I was shocked to find out my aunts company flies her across the country and pays for her to go out to dinner and do recreational activities. Nursing will never give you that. It just depends on what other options you have I guess.

pinkdoves, BSN

Specializes in Pediatrics. Has 2 years experience.

you sound exactly like me! I am way more book smart than "hands on" smart if that makes sense. It was very hard to go from doing really well and feeling competent, to being an utter mess. I think you should try something less stressful than inpatient. Try outpatient clinics or even take a couple months break if you need to!

The0Walrus, BSN, RN

Specializes in Psych. Has 2 years experience.

Hi, Jacob. Five months is pretty short but that may not be the unit for you at the same time. I thought psych was absolutely not for me but slowly I began to consider it more and more. I may transfer into the ICU just to see if it was for me.

I have another person that though they wanted the ER but slowly learned it's too fast paced for their personality so they will be going into home care and wound care. I have a coworker in the psych unit who told me she started in the ER but couldn't handle the fast pace of the unit as well so she got burned out and after a few decades ended up in psych which she enjoys. I have another friend who had no idea what she wanted to do but went into med surg and she says it's a living nightmare for her. I told her about psych and now she is enjoying it because she doesn't have to lift patients, doesn't deal with patients with COVID, etc.

The PCU unit may not be your place. Go to the nursing home or maybe try home care. The beauty of nursing is you have so many places you can work at to go with your personality. If you feel overwhelmed in the PCU try nursing homes or home care, or wound care, maybe case management is what will be your calling. You're so new that you can go anywhere and just find out what goes with your personality. Good luck!

Hi Jacob,

I completely resonate with your experience, throughout nursing school, I loved the challenge of nursing classes, but disliked the clinical aspect. I had a horrible experience with a clinical instructor during my final semester on a med-surg floor who was like a bully to me (She basically said she had the power to fail me or pass me). This traumatized me and really discouraged me from finishing nursing school, but I didn't want to disappoint my parents and family, and had sacrificed so much time, effort and money to this profession that I decided to stick it through. I thought that things would be better when I get into a new grad program and become more experienced.

After months of applying, I finally landed a new grad program at the VA where I have wonderful coworkers and colleagues, but I am beyond stressed and anxious when I'm at work. I think my traumatic experience left a scar on my confidence, and has caused me to struggle at work. I still struggle on some of the basic skills and feel like I don't know my patient at all when I have to give updates to the doctors. I feel so unprepared to handle a full patient load, and I am nearing the end of my orientation phase (9 weeks in). My unit educators and managers have been working with me in developing an improvement plan for me to help me get back on track to being independent, but I feel like it won't work unless I get past the trauma from nursing school that's causing me so much anxiety and stress.

I'm just feeling so depressed and burnt out from the stress and anxiety of working on my unit, and I don't know if I'm able to complete the full 13 month contract I signed. I feel like the only solution for me is to completely leave nursing and find another career, but my biggest hurdle in quitting is the large student loan debt I have. I also don't want to disappoint my parents by leaving nursing so soon, but I feel I need to prioritize my mental health.

Just wondering, what did you end up doing? Did you completely leave nursing to find another career, or did you switch to a different nursing setting?

I understand exactly how you guys feel. Because I was in the same position 2 weeks ago. I know that I was unhappy at my medical surgical job. It was making me doubt if I even wanted to be a nurse anymore. I cried multiple times feeling like I just wasted a lot of time and money getting a degree I was not going to use. 
Like a made a huge mistake. 

My friend told me about a clinic job she was working at. I took the chance and applied and I am much happier at this new position. 

Before you give up on nursing try a different unit, try a clinic, home nursing. I got my clinic job with only 3 months experience as a new nurse. So don’t let that stop you. The worse that will happen is you will get a no and you might have to keep trying for awhile  But your are gaining experience at the same time! 

But if it comes down to your mental and physical health. My advice is go down to part time and supplement your income with a way less stressful job until you can find something better  or not in nursing that will cover the bills. Because we all know them suckers still gotta get paid each month. 

Jacob, BSN, RN

Specializes in PCU/Tele/EP.

Hi everyone!

Thanks for the advice and encouragement. 

I decided to stick through as long as I could and am closing in on one year this month. As much as I hated to hear it at the time, I really do agree that persevering does help to create a better work experience. I feel like I've grown in my skill set and confidence and am able to handle much more that is thrown at me (and therefore have less anxiety). Unfortunately, I still have little to no enthusiasm or enjoyment in the job itself and am burnt out.

I've talked with many of my co-workers that have left and traveling/FEMA nurses and the consensus from ALL of them is that my hospital is just really bad on its staff. That being said, I have started to apply to other hospitals and to different units (even if I have to pay back the HCA contract). I plan on staying with nursing and trying a different specialty outside of bedside nursing for a while. I might end up leaving nursing later down the road but in the meantime, I am going to try to stay with it. 

Looking back I think that staying for the year was a good move because now I know that the reason I am leaving is not that I couldn't cut it, but instead because it is truly not the right job for me.


I am really sorry that you went through something like that. I completely understand not feeling confident, prepared, or so uneasy that it feels as if you don't know your patients. From what it sounds like though I would give you the hard advice to push through it. I can only imagine that it's treacherous to stay focused and continue working after your traumatic experience. I'd say try everything you can to prepare beforehand and then go to work with the mindset to learn something. If you're anything like me then if you leave this job based on this it will probably shoot your confidence down even more and it will be even more difficult to regain.

Often my greatest source of stress is from me looking at one thing and becoming tunnel-visioned. The truth is that while you should absolutely seek growth and improvement this one time in your life isn't the definition of who you are. If you get to the point when you feel confident in your work but you still do not like the job itself (or the stress) then look for something else, but don't let the fear chase you away!  

One thing that really helped me start feeling confident at my job is to start studying again. Every other day or so I'll spend 20-30 minutes reviewing medications, heart rhythms, procedures, or disease processes that I'm interested in or see often in the hospital. That has made a huge difference in confidence. ---Especially when another co-worker or student comes to me for information or help with something. 


I hope this helped somehow. I guess it's been about a month I'd love to hear back about what you decided to do!

Thanks for following up on your original post @Jacob. This is a really common post topic, but people often don’t post a follow-up, which from the perspective of readers makes it look like there’s no resolution (or hope).

I relate to your original post, as do many other new grads. From my experience, being about 4 months in as a brand new RN, I still do not enjoy the job and feel that sense of dread as my next shift is approaching.. but even though I’m still very much on the struggle bus, I can see it has gotten a little better compared to when I first started. I still think constantly about how much I want to get away from the bedside, but the point is that things are improving slowly.

I just take it one shift, one hour, one task at a time so I don’t get overwhelmed. I also think that I’m getting slightly better at quieting the thoughts that stress me out about work when I’m on my off days. It’s easier said than done, but we’re stressed enough at work; it makes no sense to allow ourselves to be stressed about it outside of work too.

I’m just glad to know I’m not the only one who didn’t really enjoy clinicals and still found myself shocked that I wasn’t enjoying the job when I got hired.. LOL. There’s a lot to be said for feeling like you’re not alone though! Being an RN is hard for many many reasons, but there’s always support out there if you know where to find it. I encourage anyone reading to try their best to stick it out as well, because no matter how tough it is now, we’ll come out stronger on the other end regardless of what direction we choose to go next.


Has 1 years experience.

Jacob, I wanted to thank you for coming back and posting a follow up. We share the same first name LOL - and I am also a PCU/Stepdown nurse with about 5 months of experience at this point.

I have felt mostly dread and anxiety with my job and have been HEAVILY considering quitting and looking elsewhere or leaving nursing altogether to feed my entrepreneurial drive. I have even received awards and some recognition by my management team already but I just don't feel happy with my job and lifestyle after becoming a nurse. When I was in school and before that, I had stress, but it was different and more manageable - I worked out often and got to control my schedule much easier because I owned my own small business. Transitioning into nursing full time has been a shell shock to my life and I find myself constantly stressed and anxious outside of work.

Part of me wants to keep this job for the year because that is what everyone says to do, and it will open up more doors for me in nursing - but another part of me just wants to leave and find myself and trust my gut feeling that I can succeed working for myself. 

Do you feel like staying for the year was worth it to you, even if you are considering other options now?