So You Want to Quit Nursing

You’ve tried being a nurse in different care areas. You’ve tried changing your attitude. Meditation, spiritual guides, life coaches, self-help books. And alcohol, lots of alcohol.

Despite all of these interventions, you’ve come to the conclusion that you aren’t really feeling the love anymore. You’re ready to to quit nursing.

So what comes next?

First of all, accept it, and don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s okay to not want to be a nurse. I used to think I could never be a nurse because the site of blood and bodily fluids made me queasy. Turns out that you can get over the queasiness. What you can’t get over is that dealing with bodily fuids (measuring them, documenting them, smelling them, cleaning them up) day after day just plain sucks. It’s a crappy way to spend your time. And you will come across wonderful, intelligent nurses who say, “Oh I’m able to overlook cleaning up poop because I love my job. I love being a nurse.”  And that’s great. But maybe that’s not you.

Or maybe it’s the attending who screamed at you over the phone, simply because you called him to report that his patient was going septic, and you needed an MD to order an intervention. (The resident and the fellow were unreachable.)

Or maybe it’s the surgeon who told you that “some people aren’t cut out for this work” because you participated in an ethical consult regarding a dying patient who suffered in pain for months on end with a incurable gaping wound in her digestive tract.

Perhaps you’ve found yourself in that downward spiral of caring for the dying patient, giving lasix to get off the fluid one minute, giving a pressor to keep up the BP due to fluid loss the next. Meanwhile everyone surrounding this patient is living in denial over the notion that people do not, in fact, live forever.

I get it. I truly do.

But if you want to quit nursing, you need a game plan.

First of all, get out of the hospital. You might have to take a pay cut, but it will be worth it. Most likely you’ll need to keep earning money while you try to figure out what your second act is going to be. Some suggestions: Work in a clinic or a hospice. Try telephone triage, case management, or home healthcare. Anything to get you out of the hospital and to begin the winding down process.

Consider leveraging your nursing experience.

There are some interesting non-clinical jobs for nurses. Healthcare companies often will consider nurses for sales positions, and they certainly hire nurses to teach fellow clinicians how to use their products.

You might want to abandon health care altogether. Which is fine. But you’re going to need some skills. One thing to be encouraged by: You got through nursing school, and that’s no small feat. An owner of web development company that he would hire a nurse, simply because he knows how hard it is to learn and do nursing. Remember that the type of person who can survive nursing school (and the first year of nursing) is capable of doing many things.

(Creative Commons image courtesy of Flickr user Rachel Ost)