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Looking for a New Career: Ex-Nurses Talk About What They Did Next

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Nursing isn’t for everyone. Some people just aren’t built to take care of other people when they’re at their worst. The long hours and added stress of the COVID-19 pandemic has also led to a global nursing exodus. Providers of all specialties are quitting in droves to pursue careers in other fields.

One person recently shared their feelings about their job on Reddit. They said they “hate” being a nurse and are looking to transition to a new career. They asked thousands of ex-nurses to share why they left the field and where they went next.

Looking for an Exit

Nurses don’t always last on the job. A 2014 study shows that around 17.5% of new RNs leave their first nursing job within the first year, and one in three (33.5%) leave within two years. The nurse on Reddit said they’ve been working for little over a year.

“I’ve hated it since I started, and people told me it was normal. They said it would get better by the year mark, but it honestly got worse…I am severely depressed because of this job and spend my days off thinking about the dread of the next shift,” they wrote in the now-viral post.

They added that they are “booksmart”, “introverted”, and “highly anxious”, not exactly qualities we associate with nursing. They feel their anxiety is “terrible for working in a hospital where people try to die on me all the f**king time.”

They’re not alone.

The pandemic has only made it harder to retain providers. Recent studies show that between 20% to 30% of current healthcare workers are now considering leaving the field, which would put a major dent in our country’s nursing workforce.

The 23-year-old Reddit nurse pleaded with users for advice. “My entire happiness and hope for life is gone, which is why I want to switch careers. 1/3 of new nurses switch careers within the first 5 years, and I think I’m gonna be one of them. Please help me!”

Switching Careers

If you’re no longer in love with nursing, here’s what ex-nurses had to say:

I used to work for one of the huge health insurance companies in my state. We had tons of nurses that switched over to desk jobs doing a variety of things. My company loved folks that already had clinical/hospital experience. If you don’t want to have to do additional schooling to switch careers, I highly recommend looking at health insurance companies for your next gig.

– reluctant_spinster

I worked for a large healthcare insurer with a few nurses who ran medications departments for our senior care division. Best part: 9-5, Monday-Friday gig.

– Throttlechopper

Try – nurse case coordinator, nurse care coordinator, medical management specialist 🙂

– Morganne_LeFay

I made the switch pretty early on in my nursing career (early 20s also) to study law. I had similar feelings and just knew nursing wasn’t for me. My only suggestion would be that before you make the switch, see what other streams of nursing you might be interested in. For example, child health nursing, NP, OSH, working in a GP or a cosmetic clinic – there are so many areas that don’t involve traditional hospital nursing.

– angrylobsterclaw

I work in IT at a hospital, and we have “clinical informaticists” that function as a go between the folks who manage the EMR and the clinical staff. It requires an RN, which is pretty rare in the IT field. Also pays really well.

– I_ride_ostriches

Personally, I would get into the aesthetic/cosmetic side of nursing like injecting botox, fillers, etc.

– yourartmattersxo

My mom is a nurse, and her entire job is to work for a lawyer who works with clients on workers comp and go to their appointments and take notes and not let the doctor hassle them. Makes around $80/hr and loves it.

-Sarcastikitty

I worked at a law firm that did medical malpractice cases and they had a few Nurse Paralegals that helped with the work. They didn’t require legal experience, just nursing experience and a willingness to learn.

– forestllama

A friend of mine who was a nurse (RN) transitioned to working as a teacher of nursing students. She works at a vocational high school and likes it much better. Teenagers are a pain too, but I guess it’s just a whole different atmosphere obviously, and it’s rewarding.

– februarytide-

In non-pandemic times, public health is a lower stress option for nurses too. Regular business hours and public sector benefits (which vary from state to state).

– merisia

Spend some time with yourself! Read books on your days off, listen to podcasts, watch TED talks; then if any of those have an episode or something that interests you, look up the credentials of the people speaking. That could give you an idea of a) a career field/field of study to look at and b) a pathway that a real live person took in that field.

– sk8rjoy

Give yourself permission to do something else entirely if there is another field you would like to explore. You are young! You mentioned the parts of nursing that don’t work for you – if there are any aspects that you do like, those are also worth considering as they could help guide your decision-making as you consider what you want to do.

– capwalton

Try CDI: clinical documentation integrity specialist. Good pay, get to use your brain and medical knowledge. Chart review, then message providers and tell them to fix their charting so hospitals bill appropriately for charges. It’s tough to break into, because every time I get an interview, I get beaten out by a candidate with experience.

– Blueskyz8

Have you looked into bioengineering or anything chemistry/biology related? If you enjoy the medical field but not so much socializing maybe you would enjoy working in a lab? You still have to socialize with coworkers but not as many people as a hospital.

– 3_sleepy_owls

I work in pharma, definitely consider going into that industry. There are plenty of ex nurses that work at my company.

– Peachringlover

My friend is a school nurse and loves it. Less stress. She can’t drug the kids without parental consent. She does, however, hand out crackers and bottled water 💧 all day and she’s got a nice 403(b) and generous HSA.

– Carismatico

Not a nurse, but I work in a specialty office as a medical receptionist. We have two nurses and they basically do MA work but with a little more responsibility but have really good pay. It’s low risk bc it’s rheumatology and they work 9-5.

– PeggyOlson1994

Keep these ideas in mind if you’re looking for a way out of nursing. 

Steven Briggs
Steven Briggs is a healthcare writer for Scrubs Magazine, hailing from Brooklyn, NY. With both of his parents working in the healthcare industry, Steven writes about the various issues and concerns facing the industry today.

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