Knowing When It’s Time for a Change

Throughout life we are constantly growing and adapting to life’s challenges. We set goals and strive for them. Sometimes we reach them and sometimes we fall short. Juggling personal life and work can be a difficult task and nurses, no matter how skilled they are at juggling, are not immune to struggling.

There are some nurses who stay in the same job for decades and absolutely love it no matter how difficult it is. Some feel stagnant after a while and seek out professional growth opportunities. Sometimes you seek out change and sometimes charge is forced upon you. Nursing is a challenging profession both mentally and physically.

Signs it may be time for a change

  • Headaches, feeling negative, unexplained exhaustion, irritable, becoming physically ill, insomnia/disrupted sleep patterns, anxiety, feeling inadequate/hopeless, neglecting self-care, feeling apathetic about life
  • View work as extremely stressful, distancing yourself from others, feel like nothing you do is making a difference, reduction in your overall performance, do not feel like yourself


Ways to Modify

  1. Go part time: It may not always be financially possible, but if you do not want to leave your place of employment, reducing hours will allow you to have more time for things that are important to you while keeping the position you have.
  2. Reduce your level of stress: If you are in a leadership position, maybe you need to switch to a staff position for a little while to remove additional administrative responsibilities. If you are involved in extracurricular activities, projects, and committed, step back and allow someone else to take the torch for a little while. It is okay to say “no” when asked to pick up extra shifts. If you are feeling overwhelmed, there is a possibility that you truly are overwhelmed. So take an inventory of your responsibilities and see if there are some ways to appropriately bring down the stress level.
  3. Change your environment: Switch specialties, units, or locations. The grass may not always be greener, but it can act like a breath of fresh air. Learning something new allows you to focus on professional growth and the satisfaction of completing new tasks. Depending on the change, it can come with a different pace of work. A faster pace will keep you engaged more and a slower pace could allow for more energy outside of work to do the things you enjoy.
    One of the many reasons nursing is a wonderful profession is that there are so many options. Do some research and see if there is another specialty that you want to try. Some specialties will be a longer transition process that others. You may need to get special certification or back to school for an additional degree, but reaching your next career goal will be satisfying.
  4. Change your course: sometimes the toll of nursing gets to a point where the nursing profession is no longer a good fit. That can happen for numerous reasons. You can go back to school to pursue a new career path you are interested in or turn your hobby into a small business. You will always be a nurse no matter the course you take, but it is ok to have dreams beyond your “RN.”


Questions to ask yourself

  • Why am I unhappy at work?
  • Is the reason for my unhappiness due to a temporary season or permanent situation?
  • Are there changes I can make in my personal life that will improve my satisfaction?
  • Are there changes I can make at work that will improve my satisfaction as a nurse?


Remember, it is not your responsibility to take a career path that others think you should take. It is your responsibility to do what you need to do to stay healthy. Do not step away from responsibility lightly. Take the time to process the impact of your personal and professional responsibilities and make the decision that is best for you in the long run.