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Ready to Quit?

*Original post released on 1/4/2022

Nurses consider leaving their jobs for a multitude of reasons, even more so recently than perhaps ever before…and maybe you’re one of these nurses. Sometimes we outgrow our positions, want a change in specialty, have an opportunity for better compensation, have experienced poor staffing situations for too long, have encountered issues with management, have a lack of educational or professional opportunities, don’t experience the level of acuity desired in patient care, have burnout, changes in life circumstances, etc. The list goes on and on with the potential reasons for wanting a change in professional scenery. Whatever your reason may be, it’s perfectly okay to be considering termination of your employment for an opportunity that better aligns with your life goals, circumstances, and professional/personal needs. It is all too common for nursing professionals to neglect themselves while they dedicate much of their time to the care of others. Don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t okay for you to put yourself first as a priority. In this article, I want to take time to discuss possible alternatives to quitting your job, what you should do before giving your notice or leaving your position, possible consequences of leaving your job, and how to ensure you can leave on the best terms possible.

Let’s get started by discussing potential alternatives to giving notice. Depending on the main reason for your exit, have you addressed your concerns with management or superior staff? Many times, management may not know you have an issue with certain circumstances unless it is brought to their attention in a one-on-one meeting focused for that purpose. Give them the opportunity to at least acknowledge and (hopefully) address the issue that is bothering you. Discuss and agree on a timeframe in which to meet to discuss if adjustments have been made satisfactorily. The employer-employee relationship is two sided and you should allow them the benefit of the doubt to instill changes within a reasonable timeframe. Of course, with that being said, if no improvement is noted within the agreed upon timeframe, it may be time to give your notice. Another alternative to quitting could be to transfer units, specialties, or perhaps even have management laterally transfer you to a sister facility for a change in scenery and staff.

So you’ve done what you can on your part to give your employer the benefit of the doubt and an opportunity for improvement (or circumstances were of other nature). Now let’s talk about what you should try to do before giving notice. If you have decided to pursue travel nursing, you’ll want to make sure that you allot yourself about a month or so to complete the onboarding process (labs, tests, vaccines, etc.) and secure job placement. Once you have your start date, then give your notice. Usually, healthcare agencies will only start this onboarding process once you’ve been selected by a facility to fill a position, so you should have a start date within a week or two’s notice. This of course is a longer process the first time you work with an agency. After your first placement and completion of onboarding, you’ll likely transition to new assignments much more rapidly and notice will be less.

If you’re looking for a new staff position, apply to multiple openings, participate in interviews, get offers, compare your offers, accept the best fit for you and your circumstances, get a start date and give appropriate notice to your current employer that aligns with your new start date. This will help you reduce time off without pay, unless that doesn’t bother you personally or financially. An exception to this might be the lateral transfer we discussed earlier on in the article. I did this once previously in my career and what helped most was contacting the desired unit at the sister facility to determine job availability and express interest. Once these were confirmed, the management leaders from each facility coordinated the transfer logistics and I was able to transition seamlessly without a break in my schedule.

Since you’ve now considered alternatives to quitting and thought about what to do before taking any action, let’s consider the possible consequences of departing from your current professional role. Potentially most obvious, quitting would result in a break in the job longevity you’ll be able to record on your resume. Nurses are becoming more and more valuable as of lately, which may make this less of a reason to stay in a job; however, future employers will look at your resume and may question you about frequent changes in employment unless it is due to travel contracts. This could affect the way future employers view your reliability as an employee.

Quitting your current role may also result in a loss of references with higher management. At times, nursing professionals can be understanding, but times are difficult for healthcare right now and staff retention may be a bitter subject full of resentment for those who do decide to leave for greener pastures. On a similar note, unless you’re traveling (and sometimes even when traveling), it can be hard to gain the confidence and trust of your new supervisor as a new employee. That is something that will take time and effort on your part to cultivate the relationship with those supervisors. Additionally, it may be more difficult to pursue a higher nursing degree if you are required to submit references from someone in a supervisory position who knows you, your work ethic, and abilities well. If you’re new, management will be less willing to give their endorsement. Leaving a position may cause tension or resentment on previous relationships with management which may also make this a difficult feat. Keep these consequential considerations in mind before giving your notice.

Lastly, if you’ve determined that leaving your position is the ultimate best decision for you, put in some serious effort to leave on good terms if possible. This is best achieved by giving two weeks’ notice minimum. That notice allows your employer some time to interview potential replacement employees, cross train staff as needed, and make adjustments to staffing for the near future to accommodate your leaving. If you have colleagues of charge nurse position or higher that aren’t offended by your notice, speak with them about being a potential reference for you in the future and do your best to obtain all of their contact information (phone number, email, position, and facility at a minimum). Consider keeping this information on an excel document or on a note in your phone for future purposes. Finally, make darn sure you don’t allow your performance to slack while you are waiting for the start of your next opportunity. This can be quite tempting, but it will only serve as a detriment to your character and potentially result in disciplinary action, mistakes at the bedside, and/or loss of references. It is not worth it.

In my nearly four years of working as a critical care nurse, I have worked in five different jobs depending on the circumstances of my life at the time. My first ICU job I held for a little over a year before undergoing a lateral transfer due to management issues and lack of educational opportunities. I left my second CVICU job once we found out we were expecting twins and needed a financial boost from travel nursing for prenatal care and newborn expenses. When I returned from travel nursing, I took a less critical and slower-paced role in a LTACH ICU setting, which I quickly found was not the ideal career choice for me. I then left the LTACH setting to resume travel nursing (locally) so I could resume ICU nursing in the acute care setting. Ironically, the first local contract I took was with the same facility and unit that I began my nursing career in, and this time it’s been much better! I’m enjoying my work here and it has been a smooth contract.

Sometimes leaving a job is the right decision. Lord knows I’ve made my fair share of these decisions, whether for the better or not. It has to be the right decision for you, your family, your circumstances, finances, and mental health. Don’t stay in a position that is unsafe or is a detriment to your health or professional career. Make the decision you need to, but do so in the most professional manner to maintain good relationships with all parties. You’ve got this! Until next time, happy studying!

Andra Alyse

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