6 Reasons Nurses Quit

6 Reasons Nurses Quit

Registered nurses spend between two and four years studying nursing, completing clinicals, and passing the dreaded NCLEX exam — so after all that hard work, why do as many as 49 percent of U.S. nurses report they’ve thought about leaving their profession? The answer is often a combination of common nursing frustrations (such as staffing and respect), a desire for a better quality of life, and burnout, the enemy of so many nurses.

Do your reasons for potentially leaving the nursing profession make our list? Keep reading to find out and share this article with your fellow nurses to see if they feel the same ( make sure you read to the end to remember that nursing isn’t all bad).

Reason #1: Burnout

According to an article in the American Journal of Nursing, 15 percent of nurses who responded to a survey from the American Nurses Association reported they did regret their career choice. The reason most-cited for their regret? Burnout.

Burnout is not one, but several factors rolled into a single term. It encompasses exhaustion, reduced ability to perform one’s job well, and harboring negative thoughts towards a job or profession. Burnout doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it’s the culmination of chronic stress, being overworked, patient dissatisfaction, and more.

An estimated 35 to 54 percent of the U.S. nursing and physician workforce reports burnout. It’s likely the number one reason why nurses quit the profession.

Reason #2: Nursing Shortages

Nursing shortages are a worldwide problem. According to an article in the Journal of Nursing Management, lack of nurses represents the largest proportion of the healthcare professionals shortage.

Nursing shortages lead to short-staffing and under-staffing. This increases workloads on the existing nursing staff, causes stress and anxiety to nurses trying to “do it all,” and can impact patient care. Some nurses get tired of it, and choose to leave the profession altogether.

Reason #3: Injuries/Illnesses

The physical demands of nursing can be great: lifting and turning patients, standing for long time periods, and walking — lots and lots of walking — can all be a part of a nurse’s day. Unfortunately, nurses are highly vulnerable to injuries because of their work, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Injuries aren’t the only risks. There are other potential dangers in nursing as well. These include:

  • Accidental needle sticks
  • Exposure to infectious diseases
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals and medications
  • Radiation exposure

Exposure to these risks can dramatically affect a nurse’s physical and mental well-being. If they don’t receive enough support, they can face conditions such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The presence of these conditions can lead a nurse to contemplate leaving the profession.

Reason #4: Work Schedules

Nursing can be a 24/7 business if you work in a hospital or other inpatient facility. This means night shift, call, working holidays, and sometimes long hours can all be par for the course. While many facilities work to rotate their holiday schedules, missing out on holidays with family and friends or being constantly available on short notice can understandably start to take its toll over time. Working more overtime or unplanned shifts is associated with greater occupational regret, according to an article in the American Journal of Nursing.

Some nurses may love the work, but hate the grind of a difficult and sometimes unpredictable work schedule. That’s why work schedules can be a common reason why nurses want to leave the profession.

Reason #5: Incivility

There’s a lot of terms for it: “eating one’s young” or lateral violence are a few. Incivility in nursing occurs when nurses, physicians, patients, or others treat nurses with disrespect, aggression, or other negative behaviors.

According to an article in the Journal of Nursing Management, workplace incivility is one of the most common reasons why nurses develop a negative attitude toward their profession and organization they work for. These attitudes increase the likelihood that a nurse will leave a particular job as well as leave the profession altogether.

One of the benefits of nursing is there are so many career opportunities — hospitals, physician’s offices, surgery centers, insurance companies, health departments, schools, mental health facilities, and many more places rely on nurses. But if a nurse enters a hostile or especially difficult working environment, this can set a negative tone for the rest of their career — if they choose to stay in healthcare.

Reason #6: STRESS

Nurses face ethical and moral dilemmas, sometimes on a daily basis. They see life or death situations that can affect their personal sleep and nutrition, and place many physical demands on their bodies. When they go home, they often have to put these feelings aside to interact with their family and friends who may not know the true stress and pressure of the job, according to the American Nurses Association.

Sometimes, the stress of it all can be too much. It may be difficult for a nurse to remember why they chose nursing in the first place. Losing their passion for the profession or seeing their quality of life affected too dramatically can be reasons why a nurse may quit.

If You’re Thinking of Leaving Nursing…

A survey of nearly 11,000 nurses found 46 percent reported the most rewarding aspect of their job was their ability to help make a difference in people’s lives, according to Medscape.

While we know that 15 percent of nurses regret their occupational choice, there are thousands out there who do not. This can often begin with strong management and supportive staff who work to reduce burnout, provide support for nurses’ physical and mental health, and create positive working environments.

Nursing is a human-based occupation, which means it’s unpredictable, stressful, and challenging. A nurse has to work with many different types of people and providers to succeed. But — the ability to care for people in their greatest times of need, joyous events, and even sad ones is a privilege afforded to few. Yes, nurses leave, but there are many nurses who also stay and make a difference on a regular basis.

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