Nursing is one of the hardest jobs in the country, and the first few years can be a wake-up call to aspiring providers trying to find their place in the healthcare industry. Many new nurses quickly realize that nursing isn’t for them, while others wind up in jobs that make them want to quit.
Studies show 33% of new nurses leave the workforce within the first two years largely due to poor work-life balance, unsafe working conditions, and the emotional strain that comes with caring for patients and dealing with family members. The U.S. desperately needs more nurses, but many young providers won’t stay in the workforce if they can’t adjust to their new role.
So, what can new nurses do to prepare for the job? Reddit user u/DynamicSploosh recently shared a few tips to help nurses avoid leaving the profession after a few years.
Nursing is an identity or personality trait.
The author argues that new nurses who go into the job believing it’s their calling or that they were born to be a nurse can be easily taken advantage of, as their colleagues and managers may guilt them into taking more shifts or working overtime when they’re not ready.
“Nursing is a job. It can be a great job, but it’s still a means to support yourself,” they write. “It’s not something to weave into your entire life at the expense of your time, your health or your relationships.”
Nursing is a 24/7 profession.
That doesn’t mean nurses need to work non-stop but the facilities they work at do. The good news is that there will be someone there to pick up where you left off.
“When you arrive on the ward, nurses have been there for an entire shift before you. When you leave your shift, there will be nurses to take over for you,” the author writes.
“There will never be enough minutes or hours to do every last thing that needs to get done and that is ok. You need to be alright with handing over what is unfinished. I’ve seen so many new nurses run themselves into the ground because they thought they had to do it all.”
Just do your part, don’t do it all.
Nursing means caring for patients, not caring about them.
It may sound insensitive, but the author argues it’s important for nurses to set boundaries with their patients. You might meet an amazing patient and form a sacred bond and that’s okay, but it’s good to keep some distance when things take a turn for the worst.
“You see pain, suffering, fear and loss. These feelings are so strong and heavy that if you hold onto them, they will eventually flatten your emotional tether,” they warn. “Your patient needs a clinician first and foremost, whatever friendship you can offer them after that is admirable but by no means owed. Even the most experienced nurses grapple with this and it’s something to keep in the back of your mind at all times.”
Nurses care for patients in all sorts of ways, so don’t get stuck in a role if it’s not a good fit.
It may be tempting to settle for your current position, but there are lots of jobs for nurses out there, so don’t be afraid to try something new if you’re not getting the support you need.
“Don’t get stuck on a ward you hate, doing work you despise with a team that doesn’t support you, just because you think it’s the only way to be in the profession,” they argue.
You can always go back to school or get additional certifications to take your career to the next level.
“Loyalty to specific hospitals or wards can be dangerous if you can’t see that you are being treated as another body that they throw into the meat grinder. You’ll stay thinking it’s an opportunity when it’s actually just a sink hole for your mental and physical health. Keep an eye out for the difference.”
Nursing educators aren’t always right.
The author advises nurses not to take what their educators say to heart if they feel they are being mistreated or disrespected on the job.
“I had the misfortune of being under one particular educator that took it upon themselves to make students feel inadequate at every turn. It made us feel anxious, unworthy and unsupported. This can make you want to leave the profession after a single shift,” they warn.
But you may be one step away from meeting a caring, supportive mentor who will help you rise to the occasion. If you’re struggling in school or on the job, it may not be that you can’t learn or that you’re not cut out to be a nurse. There could be something wrong with your learning environment.
“Don’t let some jaded and impatient person who forgets what it felt like to be a student make you feel like less. Trust yourself first and foremost and constantly strive to improve,” they add.
Don’t lift patients.
They teach you this in school and during training, but many nurses still make the mistake of trying to lift patients on their own or by hand, which can lead to lifelong injuries.
“It can take one nurse in a rush asking you to shift someone,” they write, but you should always use the proper equipment/lifting technique just to be safe – even if you’re facing time constraints.
Remember that patients are 100% heavier now than they were in the 90s. A single injury could derail your entire career.
Don’t be afraid to leave.
Even though you’ve poured countless hours and thousands of dollars into your nursing career, the author says it’s best to trust your instincts if you’re not happy. Maybe you just need a break or a change in scenery, such as another facility or ward.
“Find what you love, what you want to do and go for it. And if that’s not nursing, be prepared to walk away from it.”