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Orientation burnout, should I change units?


Specializes in NICU/L&D, Hospice. Has 8 years experience.

My family and I moved after graduation to a new state. I accepted an offer in NICU with a two-year committment. I really, really wanted to work in PP, but was nervous about moving without a job. Well, of course it has now bitten me in the butt. The committment comes with a $5,000 payback if I leave before two years of work in the unit. I have since found out that they just instituted this after they had hired 12 new nurses and 10 of them left right after orientation. I think I would be the first one to test the "penalty" for not staying. I have been honest with my director and she knows my situation. I was put with a preceptor that had already told the director she was burned out on precepting, but they made her do it again and I became the "victim". Not that she went out of her way to be mean, she wasn't. She didn't go out of her way to do anything. I was pretty much left on my own. She would answer questions a few times a shift, wouldn't stop personal conversations with other people so I could ask questions, and only gave me negative feedback about things (even when I was doing exactly what she told me to do). Well, this really burned me out for the unit. I hated going to work and had no idea how I could possibly learn what I needed to. Well, they immediately put me on nights with a new preceptor. It went much better, but I still can't shake the feelings of dislike for the unit. I have now had 6 different preceptors (that's the way they scheduled it) and they put me on two more weeks of orientation. Now I found out next week they scheduled me wrong and I may run the risk of working with yet another person for one day.

So, here's where my dillema is. I like the hospital, although in their attempts to "help" me change to a new unit, are telling me there really isn't much available. I have even decided I would do med/surg, which is where I really didn't want to go. But, they have no med/surg avail. Only telemetry and clinical support unit (which is MORE orientation than I can stand). They are the biggest employer of the region, but there are many other places to work. I just don't see how they can force me to pay $5000 for training/education when that was the issue to begin with. I am very willing to pay some of that. They did give classroom education and I know that costs them money. But, as a contract, I don't see MY benefit. It seems that they can give me whatever they want to, but I'm the one who would have to pay the price if their program wasn't working.

I just worry about leaving so soon (4 months), but can't stand to be there another day. It was my 4th choice of units that I wanted my app sent to, I just didn't realize that it would be like this.

Also, when doing my resume again, what do you put when you've only worked somewhere through orientation? It's actually embarrassing to "quit", but I didn't go through the struggles of nursing school to do a job that I really dislike. Plus, life is sooo short. I'm only here once and I want to enjoy the time I have left on this earth.

Heck, I don't even know what I'm asking you guys. My hubby just mentioned today "have you asked allnurses what you should do?". So, I'm throwing my situation out there for you all. So, in a nutshell, I don't like my unit, totally burned out to the idea of working NICU, irked that I have to pay them for this misery (but I will), embarrassed that I'm even in this position, don't know how to put this on my resume, oh, and I will NEVER sign another committment to a hospital unless I've worked there for years, have no plans on leaving and can shadow a few days first.

Any advice would be helpful.

i am always leery of hospitals that make you sign a contract, but then again..i say as hard as it is stick it out. if you really want pp i think NICU would help given not all PP women have babies that go right home, some end up in NICU. there you would have seen both sides of that coin.

also if you really want PP do NOT take telemetry or m/s unless you really have a commitment to getting some solid bedisde experience. PP and tele--two different worlds! i am a big advocate for tele but i think it takes a special kinda somethin' to survive!

it may get better. it may not. yes life is short, but if you are the kind of person that really really wants PP i think you may have a tough time adjusting to m/s or tele. or you may find you really like it. just my two cents.


Specializes in NICU. Has 6 years experience.

I can only speak from advice I have heard from other wiser, more seasoned nurses because I love my first job, and it is in neonatal, the specialty you have had such a rough experience with. But, I have been told that the orientation to your first position and adjusting to the world of nursing can be brutal at times, and that it is good to tell yourself to stick out your first job on your first unit for one year. They say that is a fair amount of time to the employer (forgetting about your contract) and also enough time to really know the unit and get past the frustrations of being brand new. I have talked to several nurses who HATED their orientation and early time after that but by one year either a) were glad that they stuck it out or b) loved their job. They also said that at one year you really truly know the unit, hospital, and specialty and can make a solid decision. All that said, if you feel like staying in your current position is unhealthy for you, take care of yourself first! Leave! I would look around for post-partum positions and actually get a job before quitting your current position. If they ask about your brief NICU stint, don't badmouth your current unit, but be honest and explain that you didn't feel the orientation process and specialty were a good fit for you. Absolutely don't "settle" for med-surg or tele because you are not going to be happy there in the long-run either. The orientation process might go smoother, but in the end you will realize that once again you aren't working in an area you are passionate about. Your current "misery" at least offers you related experience. Whatever you do, stick with nursing because when you find a job that you're passionate about, you will find there are many rewards for all the challenges. :)

Do you like the NICU itself? Do you think that once you are off orientation you may come to like the unit well enough to stick out your contract?

I agree with the other poster that I would definitely line up other work before you leave this job. I would probably try to stick it out myself, but if you hate the work in addition to hating the orientation you have been given, you have to do what is best for your mental health too!

Good luck. I hope a PP job comes your way soon! Hang in there and keep us posted.

I would try to stick it out, but then again I am usually so hard-headed that I will stay in bad situations way to long just to try to prove to myself that I can do it. Was the $5,000 a sign on bonus or what? I have never heard of someone having to repay money for leaving early for the time the company invested in you. That is part of the cost of doing business. Hospitals need to realize that it is much cheaper keeping current employees happy than having to hire and train new employees.

Race Mom, ASN, RN

Specializes in NICU/L&D, Hospice. Has 8 years experience.

Thank you to all of you that gave me some words of advice. It is a really hard decision to make. I feel like a failure in some sense, thinking about leaving. I still enjoy being a nurse, so I won't leave that. I also found out that they forgot to write in my $5K obligation :)

Well, yesterday my director and I had a very, very serious talk. They decided to take me off orientation, which was like having a ton of bricks lifted off my shoulders. So, I went to work today, took care of my kiddos, was on time with EVERYTHING and all was fantastic! I finally felt like the culmination of my education had come to an end and I was finally able to do what I want to do. I still don't know if this is the unit for me, but with days like today...

I think they oriented me to death.

Life is good today!


Specializes in NICU, School Nursing, & Community Health. Has 8 years experience.

I'm glad you are feeling better=)

I have a similar story. I started NICU as a new grad. I was so excited but it quickly turned to dread. I was hired for nights along with all the other new grads and then told we would have to go to days or lose our jobs. Unbeknowst, to me 20 staff members had just left the unit which is why new staff was needed on days. So, I switched to days. It's a big unit- over 50 beds and most of the kiddos are very, very sick. My preceptor and I would be given assignments that we're almost impossible to teach with as it would take her doing half the work while I did the other half to make it through the shift. We wouldn't leave till almost 10 pm every night. My preceptor was wonderful and I still miss her. She would beg the admin to give us better assignments but since they were so shorthanded it was impossible. It's common place to have a HFOV baby and two other babies at the same time. If you work level 2, you get a 5 baby assignment. And these kids could still have TPN/lipids, which is a sterile change if it's a central line.

I was told that they would work with my schedule. Instead, I had to work 4 12's in a row. I was exhausted. I had a brand new baby at home and I was bf during the night.

When I came off orientation I would get level 2 type babies for a few months. Instead, my first week off orientation I was given a 24 weeker, a Trisomy baby with hour long feeds, and a baby with an unkown blood disorder (turned out he was in DIC). The other nurses would try to help but they all had assignments just as tough. I would cry when I went home because I was so scared of hurting a baby. I could not handle the assignments I was given. I felt like a failure and thought I made a mistake in becoming a nurse.

I started looking for a new job. I was hired as a school nurse, which is what I'm doing now. I like my job alot. The kids love me and I love them too. However, I do get sad at times because I really loved NICU nursing. I felt like I could have been good at it if I would have had a better unit. I think about those babies alot. Plus, I miss many of the nurses. School nursing can be really isolating at times.

Good luck to you!

RainDreamer, BSN, RN

Specializes in NICU. Has 16 years experience.

Good news that you don't have to pay the 5K if you do decide to leave. Any decent hospital that doesn't have trouble retaining nurses, doesn't need to wrestle people into a contract. Good to remember.

I had 3 months of orientation in the NICU and I was definitely ready to be "on my own". I was ready for my own assignments, but I knew I still had support when I needed it.

Feel it out and see how it works out for you. But definitely don't stay in the NICU if you don't really like the patient population and/or the work (for your sake and the sake of the babies and the parents). But I think you know that already :)

And if it's not the right unit for you, then you can walk away saying you gave it a shot. There is NO harm in leaving a unit that you don't feel is a good fit for you. I left my first nursing job after 5 months and had NO problem getting another job .... a job that was a perfect fit for me. You will find your niche. Good luck to you!

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