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Nursing Job Change: Jump Ship or Sit Tight? 5 Things to Consider

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jeastridge jeastridge, BSN, RN (Trusted Brand)

Specializes in Faith Community Nurse (FCN).

Changing jobs in nursing has positives and negatives. Here are 5 things to think about if you are considering a job change.

Nursing Job Change: Jump Ship or Sit Tight? 5 Things to Consider

As we walked around the track together, my friend shared some of her nursing job frustrations with me. She had been in her current position for a little over 2 years. Long enough, she felt, to know whether it would be a long term good fit. "It's getting harder and harder to give my patients the care that I want to give them." She went on to vent about some other more minor concerns and then said, "But there is a job that looks good on another unit. Do you think I should consider switching?"

A recently published study sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows that "an estimated 17.5 percent of newly-licensed RNs leave their first nursing job within the first year, and one in three (33.5%) leave within two years." (Nearly One in Five New Nurses Leaves First Job Within a Year, According to Survey of Newly-Licensed Registered Nurses - RWJF). High turnovers are hard on the hospitals and hard on the nurses. Although stressful for all involved, job changes within the profession seem to be a very common occurrence.

So, if you are not currently satisfied with your job, is it time to jump ship or should you just sit tight? The answer is, of course, it depends. Here are some things to think about; questions to ask yourself as you consider.

The grass is always going to be greener

It is simply human nature to feel like we are missing out on something wonderful, just down the hall, on that other team, or maybe across town at the fancy, new hospital. Most of us struggle to be content in other areas of our lives, as well. We want things that are just out of reach: the better car, the bigger home, more stuff from our etsy-fueled dreams. However, if we are honest with ourselves and with others, we soon realize that sometimes our desire for change and newness is simply that: restlessness for the elusive perfection-that job where everything will be good and we will be fulfilled as nurses. Bottom line: sometimes we are the ones that need to change, not the job.

Toxicity varies, but most jobs have stuff we strongly dislike

I can remember struggling to adjust to my first nurse manager and her style. She was abrupt and often came across as unfeeling. Many times, I cried after my shift. But gradually I came to realize that her military training occasionally clashed with civilian life and my 20 something tender heart. Over time, I came to respect her vast knowledge and value her judgment. In a case like that, staying the course paid off huge dividends. I learned a lot. But environments that support bullying, that allow verbal abuse, that condone rudeness, should not be tolerated. Out of self-respect, it is important to be able to identify unprofessional behavior and draw the line, leaving that work behind and washing your scrubs in extra hot water before heading to a new position. Bottom line: know how to identify a truly toxic job.

Boredom is not a good reason to go

I cringe when I hear someone say, "This work just isn't challenging enough for me." It is painful to hear because every job out there-if it involves nursing-can be challenging. There is always room to go above and beyond; to be and do more than is expected; to learn and create improvements. Every patient has something to teach us-people are a never-ending story and we have much to learn from one another. The daily practice of being a great listener can renew our flagging energies. When we get discouraged, we can listen more carefully to those around us and find new reasons for curiosity and gratitude. I remember meeting an older gentleman who was caring for his wife in the nursing home. She was our primary focus and the center of our conversation. I didn't really get to know him until years later, after she had passed and he became the patient. His stories of being injured in the Pacific during WW2 shook me because I thought about how I almost missed knowing him, and hearing all he had done. Bottom line: Boredom says more about us than about the job.

Some of the long-term job satisfaction comes from long-term work

Developing relationships and becoming an expert in the field can both contribute greatly to job satisfaction. Working relationships with other nurses, physicians on staff, ancillary providers and environmental workers can take years to develop. Those relationships tend to build and progress through experiences together, bonding the team even as expertise develops. It is an earned recognition that makes someone "the best stick" on the floor or the "go to" person for wound care or "the best diabetes teacher ever." This potential source of professional satisfaction suffers when we change jobs. While we can still be an expert, it takes time for people to learn to trust us and for those working relationships to develop-again. Bottom line: Life is all about relationships.

Change happens

If a position was good and things got bad, then chances are it will circle back around-eventually-and be good again. Meanwhile,we can all be agents for change, helping to make difficult situations better. We can influence the culture of our floor or unit or office for the good. We can work has the superior professionals that we are, holding ourselves and others to a higher standard, working always to provide the most excellent patient care. Bottom line: Change is the only constant.

My friend ended up staying with her job-for now. What about you? As you consider your options or talk with other nurses, what are some of the things you think are important to consider? What is your bottom line?

Joy has been a nurse for 35 years, practicing in a variety of settings. Currently, she is a Faith Community Nurse. She enjoys her grandchildren, cooking for crowds and taking long walks.

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23 Comment(s)

The Lady Kate

Specializes in Tele/Med Surg/Psych.

I disagree with the boredom point. I was a med-surg nurse on nights at a community hospital and for sure was bored. I transferred to ER and never looked back!

Do your research and actually talk to employees (not recruiters) at the place you want to change to. What will you do if you jump ship and wind up in a worse place?

I changed my last job when the workload became simply unbearable. The place I am now, came highly recommended. I've been here a long time and it was the best choice to make. The job I left behind has only gotten worse (some of my current coworkers came from the same place!).

I disagree with #5 Change Happens. Or more precisely, the implications that things will get better at a job.

Jobs never change for the better. Never. Ever.

xoemmylouox, ASN, RN

Has 13 years experience.

I agree it isn't good to job hop over and over again. However, peace of mind does count for something. If you are truly miserable, look elsewhere.

Life is waaay too short to be unhappy somewhere you spend so much time at. No job is perfect, but that doesn't mean that things aren't better elsewhere.

Sometimes change is necessary- for me it was the right time to leave my other job but I loved our team and the comfortableness of being on the senior side of things. I needed to move though so I left it behind.

That being said- I hate hate my new job. I tried an entirely new field and style of working and its painful. I don't intend to stay but I don't give up easily so Ill do my best for long as I can and then I'll take my leave.

jeastridge, BSN, RN

Specializes in Faith Community Nurse (FCN).

I disagree with the boredom point. I was a med-surg nurse on nights at a community hospital and for sure was bored. I transferred to ER and never looked back!

Thanks for sharing. So glad you are happy in your new position! Joy

jeastridge, BSN, RN

Specializes in Faith Community Nurse (FCN).

Do your research and actually talk to employees (not recruiters) at the place you want to change to. What will you do if you jump ship and wind up in a worse place?

I changed my last job when the workload became simply unbearable. The place I am now, came highly recommended. I've been here a long time and it was the best choice to make. The job I left behind has only gotten worse (some of my current coworkers came from the same place!).

I disagree with #5 Change Happens. Or more precisely, the implications that things will get better at a job.

Jobs never change for the better. Never. Ever.

Thank you for your comment. I like your suggestion of talking to potential co-workers and not just recruiters as part of your research for a new position. Great idea! Joy

traumaRUs, MSN, APRN, CNS

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU. Has 27 years experience.

I'm in the process of changing jobs - this job I've had 11.5 years and last job (which was my absolute favorite nursing job in the entire world) lasted 10 years.

I'm anxious to get it started. My reasons for changing jobs:

1. Just needed a change

2. Wanted to go back to a hospital where I would have more variety

Pay was not a factor as I'm well compensated now and with new job will be even more well compensated.

Agree with not changing too soon, but believe change and diversity increases an RNs value in the workplace. Read long ago that changing positions every 5 yrs or so allows for becoming an expert in your field but decreases the chance for burnout. Have seen many a burned out RN longing to break out, but unable to due to lack of a diverse nursing background. Very dangerous place to be in my opinion. Have enjoyed varied roles in my 25 yr nursing career, from the OR, to Charge to Case mgr,etc.. Easy, no, required going back to school at age 50 and re-learning many skills along with extensive testing to land my current role as a CDS. This role allows me to apply all my nursing skills/knowledge reviewing documentation and provide physician education. Did I mention, I work from home, and found the job that will carry me to retirement? Never would have landed it without a diverse nursing background.

jeastridge, BSN, RN

Specializes in Faith Community Nurse (FCN).

Agree with not changing too soon, but believe change and diversity increases an RNs value in the workplace. Read long ago that changing positions every 5 yrs or so allows for becoming an expert in your field but decreases the chance for burnout. Have seen many a burned out RN longing to break out, but unable to due to lack of a diverse nursing background. Very dangerous place to be in my opinion. Have enjoyed varied roles in my 25 yr nursing career, from the OR, to Charge to Case mgr,etc.. Easy, no, required going back to school at age 50 and re-learning many skills along with extensive testing to land my current role as a CDS. This role allows me to apply all my nursing skills/knowledge reviewing documentation and provide physician education. Did I mention, I work from home, and found the job that will carry me to retirement? Never would have landed it without a diverse nursing background.

Thanks for sharing! What a great life story about the value of a variety of experiences. Joy

I had many positions in the 40+ years I have been a nurse. Heart Transplants, ER, OR, ICU, CCU, Research, Management, dialysis. Each change was done with great thought and soul searching. I have never left on bad terms. I moved to other areas because an opportunity came up for me to learn something new. I always became certified in the speciality.

When you change jobs do it for the love of where you are going. Do it because it will give you opportunity to learn and to enrich you as a nurse. Make sure it is what you want to do. Most importantly, never leave on bad terms from any job, no matter how much you hated it.

I was at my first nursing job for two years, and I loved my unit, the type of nursing I was doing, and my coworkers, but we worked frequently with very limited resources, making the overall job very stressful and unsafe. The patient to nurse ratio was always greater than it was supposed to be, which is very scary especially considering it was an ICU. I tried to wait it out and see if it would get any better, but I agree with Daisy that it will never ever get better. It never did. It got to the point where I dreaded every day I had to go to work, and on my days off, I worried about going back to work. It started ruining me mentally. I left that hospital and started working at another hospital, similar type of unit, and I am so thankful I did. It was scary leaving my amazing team behind to go to a place where I knew no one, but it had to be done. I now am able to go to work and actually enjoy being there, and when I go home, I don't think about work. Overall, work and life in general are now much better. I have been there 2 years now and no plans to leave any time soon! Sometimes it is better to leave. Don't let fear of the unknown stick you in a rut. Take that leap. It can better your life.

jeastridge, BSN, RN

Specializes in Faith Community Nurse (FCN).

I had many positions in the 40+ years I have been a nurse. Heart Transplants, ER, OR, ICU, CCU, Research, Management, dialysis. Each change was done with great thought and soul searching. I have never left on bad terms. I moved to other areas because an opportunity came up for me to learn something new. I always became certified in the speciality.

When you change jobs do it for the love of where you are going. Do it because it will give you opportunity to learn and to enrich you as a nurse. Make sure it is what you want to do. Most importantly, never leave on bad terms from any job, no matter how much you hated it.

Thank you, GaleSRN, for sharing! You make some excellent points--wonderful words of wisdom and insight. Joy

jeastridge, BSN, RN

Specializes in Faith Community Nurse (FCN).

I was at my first nursing job for two years, and I loved my unit, the type of nursing I was doing, and my coworkers, but we worked frequently with very limited resources, making the overall job very stressful and unsafe. The patient to nurse ratio was always greater than it was supposed to be, which is very scary especially considering it was an ICU. I tried to wait it out and see if it would get any better, but I agree with Daisy that it will never ever get better. It never did. It got to the point where I dreaded every day I had to go to work, and on my days off, I worried about going back to work. It started ruining me mentally. I left that hospital and started working at another hospital, similar type of unit, and I am so thankful I did. It was scary leaving my amazing team behind to go to a place where I knew no one, but it had to be done. I now am able to go to work and actually enjoy being there, and when I go home, I don't think about work. Overall, work and life in general are now much better. I have been there 2 years now and no plans to leave any time soon! Sometimes it is better to leave. Don't let fear of the unknown stick you in a rut. Take that leap. It can better your life.

Thank you for sharing your story. You will certainly guide others that find themselves in a similar situation. I'm so glad that you are content in your new position. Joy

changing jobs.......could mean saving your mental and physical health. I worked mostly in nursing homes for the last 20 years, then the last place broke me. They are all the same. People basically come in and want to do as little work as possible, try to dump their work off on others, especially new admits. Most places you have to pass meds the whole time when not getting diverted to take a phone call or do this or do that. Taking a 30 minute break means you will have to stay over that amount of time and when you leave exhausted, sore. and tired you still don't have all your work done. Management people are lazy and refuse to row with the rest of us slaves and work the floor. In my humble opinion, they should be mandated by law to work the floor so they can actually know what is going on in their buildings. I keep that opinion to myself at work, as that is one of 2 ways to get yourself fired, the first being if you suggest that management vultures help out and the other sure fire way to get fired is to ask to be treated fairly. The management slave drivers know loathe working the floor, they get that cushy office job or they pop a video into a player once a week and get paid to be some 'inservice director' and do nothing all day long but yet have shame in writing you up for work that they full well know they can't do and could not handle. Threats and intimidation, non stop. So you leave that nightmare scenario for a few years and take a huge pay cut to get into homecare. You will eat cheese sandwiches and take turns getting your cell phone, internet, and electricity shut off because the pay sucks but you don't feel like gargling razor blades at the thought of going into work. But here's the catch 22 about changing jobs. Apparently in my state the government decided to butt its nose into private industry, essentially siding with management over labor by requiring that you have to have 2 positive letters of reference from previous abusive, sadistic slave drivers. So that means that all that time they harass, threaten, and torture you to the point of having stroke level blood pressure and peptic ulcers you have to sit back with a smile and take it. If you reach a breaking point and just decide not to get out of bed because your back is blown out and your legs, knees, and hips are slowly being destroyed by running up and down hard floors for 8-12 hours then they like to get even with you, because that usually means someone in management has to take the cart. So keep that in mind when you can't take the antics of the lazy, sadistic slave drivers, they will fire you if you suggest they help out and you are toast if you are the reason they have to take the cart and actually do some work for once. The most important thing to consider when you are changing jobs.

jeastridge, BSN, RN

Specializes in Faith Community Nurse (FCN).

changing jobs.......could mean saving your mental and physical health. I worked mostly in nursing homes for the last 20 years, then the last place broke me. They are all the same. People basically come in and want to do as little work as possible, try to dump their work off on others, especially new admits. Most places you have to pass meds the whole time when not getting diverted to take a phone call or do this or do that. Taking a 30 minute break means you will have to stay over that amount of time and when you leave exhausted, sore. and tired you still don't have all your work done. Management people are lazy and refuse to row with the rest of us slaves and work the floor. In my humble opinion, they should be mandated by law to work the floor so they can actually know what is going on in their buildings. I keep that opinion to myself at work, as that is one of 2 ways to get yourself fired, the first being if you suggest that management vultures help out and the other sure fire way to get fired is to ask to be treated fairly. The management slave drivers know loathe working the floor, they get that cushy office job or they pop a video into a player once a week and get paid to be some 'inservice director' and do nothing all day long but yet have shame in writing you up for work that they full well know they can't do and could not handle. Threats and intimidation, non stop. So you leave that nightmare scenario for a few years and take a huge pay cut to get into homecare. You will eat cheese sandwiches and take turns getting your cell phone, internet, and electricity shut off because the pay sucks but you don't feel like gargling razor blades at the thought of going into work. But here's the catch 22 about changing jobs. Apparently in my state the government decided to butt its nose into private industry, essentially siding with management over labor by requiring that you have to have 2 positive letters of reference from previous abusive, sadistic slave drivers. So that means that all that time they harass, threaten, and torture you to the point of having stroke level blood pressure and peptic ulcers you have to sit back with a smile and take it. If you reach a breaking point and just decide not to get out of bed because your back is blown out and your legs, knees, and hips are slowly being destroyed by running up and down hard floors for 8-12 hours then they like to get even with you, because that usually means someone in management has to take the cart. So keep that in mind when you can't take the antics of the lazy, sadistic slave drivers, they will fire you if you suggest they help out and you are toast if you are the reason they have to take the cart and actually do some work for once. The most important thing to consider when you are changing jobs.

Dear Truthbetold, I'm sorry things have been so rough for you. This sounds incredibly hard. Prayers and good thoughts to you. Joy

I am a recent new graduate nurse (May) that started on a med/surg unit at the end of August. I have always known that I do not want to do med/surg nursing but felt like many of the nurses I've talked to over the years encouraged that was the best place to start as a new nurse. I do like the hospital I am at and the people that I work with. I feel supported and comfortable asking questions, however, I get extremely anxious about going to work and worried about something going wrong, missing something, or not knowing what to do. I want to explore my options in other nursing areas but feel like every job I look at requires at least 1-2 years experience. I am worried leaving my job after only working 4-5 months would make it very difficult to find work elsewhere but also fear staying at my job now will burn me out. Help!

jeastridge, BSN, RN

Specializes in Faith Community Nurse (FCN).

I am a recent new graduate nurse (May) that started on a med/surg unit at the end of August. I have always known that I do not want to do med/surg nursing but felt like many of the nurses I've talked to over the years encouraged that was the best place to start as a new nurse. I do like the hospital I am at and the people that I work with. I feel supported and comfortable asking questions, however, I get extremely anxious about going to work and worried about something going wrong, missing something, or not knowing what to do. I want to explore my options in other nursing areas but feel like every job I look at requires at least 1-2 years experience. I am worried leaving my job after only working 4-5 months would make it very difficult to find work elsewhere but also fear staying at my job now will burn me out. Help!

Dear samm11, It sounds like you have landed in a pretty good starting place for your career. The way I am reading it, the anxiety you are experiencing will diminish over time as you gain mastery, but it will never go away because, as a nurse, no matter what field you are in, you are always at risk for making a mistake. This risk goes with our profession and with many others. The treatment is to recognize that we are not infallible, do the best job that we possibly can, and continually offer ourselves and others the grace of forgiveness. You might consider staying where you are a bit longer to give yourself time to overcome the high stress level that comes with every new job and to get to a place where you can focus better and feel less overwhelmed. Once you have been there a few more months, if the anxiety persists, then it might be time to look elsewhere. I hope this helps! Bless you, Joy