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Nurses Are Quitting in Droves. 

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It’s no secret that nursing is a tough job. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed millions of providers to their breaking point. These brave men and women are tired of dealing with staff shortages, deadly outbreaks, and a systemic lack of respect from patients and their employers.

Studies show around 18% of U.S. healthcare providers quit their jobs since the start of the pandemic. We asked millions of nurses why they’re leaving and what they plan on doing next. Here’s what they had to say:

There’s no respect from administration, the pay f*cking sucks (I’m still living paycheck to paycheck, bumming money from family and friends for gas), nowhere is fully staffed, our society is treating us worse by the day, and I’m physically and emotionally drained…

I have developed a hatred for healthcare over the past year. Between seeing people devalued for profit and everything else I’ve mentioned… I am done. If I can find ANYTHING else to do, I will leave today. Unfortunately, the job market in rural Arkansas is not the best, and I can’t afford to just move or go back to school and start over yet.

Naomi

I am burned out. I spend more time on administrative/paperwork type stuff than I do on patient care. I’m tired of the politics. I’m tired of being constantly asked to do more with less in a shorter amount of time. There are no signs of any of this getting better. On the contrary, the outlook is that it will get worse. I got my first job in healthcare almost 30 years ago and have been a nurse for the last 16 1/2 years. I’m getting my CDL and going into OTR trucking.

Julie

I quit after 24 yrs of floor nursing/research. I was tired before Covid even hit. Haven’t looked back for one second. Now managing our rental properties and going to open a Botox business when this Covid BS settles. So happy.

Sarah

In the middle of January, I switched to be a clinical system analyst. I’m hoping it’s the major change I need. After 17 yrs of bedside nursing, my body is wearing down. Doing more with less is killing me. More anxiety before I get to work. Constantly short staffed as well. It’s been a 6-month process to change but I hope this helps.

Charlotte

I went back and got my degree in Social Work, but the pay difference between senior RN and starting SW just wouldn’t cut it. So, I picked up an 8 hr. per diem job with hospice, which was more rewarding than in-hospital nursing.

Eileen

I left the bedside 16 yrs ago and haven’t looked back. I worked in ED/level 1 trauma for about 9 yrs … burnt out quickly… realized I couldn’t do that until I was 65. Moved into healthcare IT and got my MHA, then consulting, later became a CIO for a healthcare system. Then the VP of operations for a medical device company and now in pharma. The best thing about nursing is you can do whatever you want if you are willing to take a few risks and commit. I do miss the patient care, but don’t miss the rest…

Scott

I left Hospice nursing 5 years ago after a 15-year stretch. I opened a food truck and nonprofit with my husband. Best decision ever!!!

Angelique

I didn’t leave nursing, but I left the bedside. The abuse from patients is grotesque and the lack of support from management did it for me… I loved the ER too… But my own physical, emotional, and mental health as well as my family’s is more important than any job. Work from home as a case manager now. Much better work-life balance and I work for a great company with so much support.

Kelsey

You can make $22/hr. as a manager trainee at Chipotle AND get free food? Also not have to worry about the liability and stress of being a nurse. The relatively small pay cut may be worth it. As long as they keep raising everyone else’s wages but keeping ours stagnant, there will be a constant exodus of nurses.

Tina

I left nursing just before I had my first baby last spring. Now I am a Christmas tree farmer.

Nicole

There is a level of respect that has been lost in nursing. Nurses not only take abuse from patients and their families, but it comes from management too. I am sick to my stomach thinking about the college debt I have for a career that is circling the toilet bowl. I am unsure which direction the wind is blowing for me at this time, but I will figure it out while on leave.

Breanna

I love my job. It takes a special person to be a nurse, and if the pandemic changes how you feel about your job, then you should absolutely be moving on to something else. Nursing is definitely not cut out for everyone.

Audra

Opening a coffee shop with my husband. I just feel like nursing is a very thankless job now. Too much stress and responsibility from every corner (patients, coworkers, and management) for not enough respect or pay.

Meghan

I’ve shifted away from bedside nursing to holistic nursing. I’m tired of medicating people’s symptoms and not helping people heal. It’s BS and it’s making people sicker.

I’m tired of administration treating me like I’m their pawn and not a human

I’m tired of the system treating patients like products we sell to pharma

I’m tired of patients treating me like I’m supposed to fix all their problems when they should be the ones responsible for their health.

The system is crap, and it doesn’t have to be this way.

Anna

Been working as a travel nurse to pay off bills and try to snap out of the burn out, but discovering it is so hard everywhere right now. Been a nurse for 15 years, working on covid ICUs the last two years has been soul crushing.

Short staffed, people dying so quickly and in mass numbers, feeling helpless, and hospital management not understanding what they can do to help us. I’m taking 6 weeks off for my mental health. I don’t know what else I will do if/when I get out of nursing. But there’s got to be more in this life.

Amanda

Don’t get me wrong, I love my nursing job, but I can’t help dream of working in a bookstore with a cafe and smelling fresh Java and books all day 🥰

Kimberly

Walked out on my nursing job because I had had enough. Had I been willing to work for one more month I would have had $14,000 in my pocket between the one-month salary and paid vacation time. I just couldn’t do another day. I spent the next month and a half sitting in my bed watching TV. Now I drive for DoorDash and Uber Eats. I’m only making enough to cover expenses, but I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of me. I look at nursing jobs and just cannot imagine ever going back.

Kathy

Thank you to everyone that commented online. These responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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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