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5 Signs It's Time for a Nursing Career Change

While the 2019 AMN Healthcare Survey of Registered Nurses found 81% of respondents were satisfied with their career choice, that's not especially consoling if you fall within the 19% of nurses who aren't happy. Let's look at some of the most common reasons RNs experience job dissatisfaction to help you pinpoint what's getting in the way of you and professional fulfillment. If you identify with one or more of the following statements, it might be time to consider a nursing career change.

1. You Wonder, "What's A Work-Life Balance?"

If your monthly calendar is all work and no life, you might be putting the needs of patients and coworkers ahead of your own needs and those of your family. Or, maybe it's mandated overtime at your facility that has you missing your child's athletic events or feeling like you're sleeping with a stranger.

2015 study found the stress of an out-of-balance lifestyle is especially hard on 62% of U.S. nurses who work in a hospital setting. Flexibility in scheduling that fosters a healthy work-life balance was one of the biggest reasons nurses gave for staying at a current job in the AMN survey. You might benefit from transitioning to another facility, another specialty or even into a temporary position.

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2. You Feel Like You've Stopped Growing

If the prospect of showing up for your 12-hour shift has you yawning in boredom, you're probably not feeling challenged or mentally stimulated by your current position. AMN's survey found 20% of nurses stated their organizations didn't offer any form of professional development. This is unfortunate because strong leadership is required to transform the U.S. healthcare system.

In its report entitled The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) states nurses should be full partners with physicians and other health professionals in redesigning healthcare in the United States. This will require nurses to educate and re-educate themselves, participating in lifelong learning. Professional development opportunities are integral to a healthy work environment, and Felicia Sadler, MJ, BSN, RN, CPHQ, LSSBB, notes key components of such programs might include:

  • Tuition reimbursement policies to encourage continuing education to earn BSN, MSN or doctorate degrees
  • Encouraging participation in local and national nurse associations
  • Providing in-house continuing education opportunities
  • Sponsoring leadership training and management courses


3. You Realize You're In The Wrong Specialty

Perhaps you were passionate about pediatric nursing at the start of your career, but now you mostly feel burned out with little energy to share with your young patients. The idea of working as a geriatric nurse might have great appeal for you, and you know that the need for skilled caregivers continues to grow as all members of the baby boomer generation reach age 65 by 2030. Switching specialties could be just the thing that makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning (or evening),

4. The Workplace Is Rife With Incivility, Bullying Or Violence

A staggering 41% of RNs are victims of incivility, bullying or other forms of workplace violence, according to the AMN survey. Another 27% stated they'd observed workplace violence. If a supervisor is verbally abusive toward you or a colleague's treatment of you is consistently discourteous or disrespectful, tolerating the behavior can erode your self-esteem.

Perhaps you're dealing with the all-too-common physical violence perpetrated against healthcare workers by patients or their families. The American Nurses Association (ANA) calls workplace violence against nurses an under-reported epidemic, with devastating effects on the healthcare industry that include:

  • Affecting the quality of care and care outcomes
  • Contributing to the development of psychological conditions
  • Reducing the nurse's level of job satisfaction and organizational commitment


If the stress has become too much for you, maybe it's time to seek a position in a new facility with a supportive workplace culture. Maybe you're ready to step into a role that's not patient-facing and is less hands-on?

5. Your Salary Is Not Commensurate With Your Skill

You probably didn't go into nursing for the money, but if you're barely able to cover your monthly expenses, the financial stress is sure to take a toll on your performance and your mental health. AMN's survey found more than 20% of RNs hold second jobs — including about 273,000 nurses with two full-time jobs.

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