The Day I Realized I Don’t Want to Be a Nurse Anymore

For the whole and entirety of my life, I wanted to be a nurse.  Until the day I realized I hate nursing, that I don’t want to be a nurse anymore.

I grew up wanting to save lives and help people. I worked my butt off for years to get the grades and be accepted into nursing school.  After graduation, I worked my butt off to prove that I was a good nurse. Then it all changed.

I don't want to be a nurse anymore.

Growing up, I idolized my mom and my aunt.  They were both nurses in different fields. My mom was an OB nurse.  I remember her working nights when I was little, coming home when I was getting ready to go to school with breakfast from Burger King (those tiny cinnamon rolls were the best thing ever).  

She was exhausted, but so proud to be doing what she did. My aunt, on the other hand, was an ICU nurse. She saved the sickest of patients.

I would sit and listen to the stories they would tell about saving lives and bringing babies into the world.  They would talk about the patients that touched their hearts, the staff they worked with, and the hospital they were both a part of.

I wanted all of that.

So I worked and struggled (and I do mean STRUGGLED) and eventually graduated from nursing school.  I immediately went to work in the field I had spent the last few years in as a CNA, the Emergency Department.  

I was swallowed up by ER nursing from day 1.  Saving lives in organized chaos consumed me. I swore I’d never find another job I loved as much as ER nursing.

That lasted 5 years.

Then it began to take a toll on me.  

The patient to staff ratio began to get dangerously high.  

Nursing administration, in their perfect office world, would send down orders for changes that no working nurse would ever want.

 Department administration would look the other way when we asked for help, giving excuses and reasons why they “wanted to help us but couldn’t.”  

Experienced nurses were let go for reasons I’ll never understand or left because they could see what was happening.

I began to hate nursing.

The Emergency Department became a soul-sucking entity that threatened my license and my sanity. I took 2 sabbaticals into other areas of nursing in the hospital. None of them made me any happier.

So after 12 years working in the same hospital, 6 of those years as one of its nurses, I gave my resignation and ended my employment with the establishment that I thought I’d retire from.

I left for a different job, one as an oncology nurse in a different city and state.  The change was exactly what I needed.

Or so I thought.

Learning a completely new area of nursing made me fall in love with nursing again.  I was helping people again.

I was responsible for giving life-saving medications to people that NEEDED IT, wouldn’t survive without it.  

For a while, it was everything I wanted.  It was everything I had been missing in the ER.  I loved the patients and the staff I worked with was amazing.  

It lasted 10 months this time.

Then one day, something happened.  It wasn’t one particular thing. There wasn’t a patient or a specific circumstance. I had a realization.

It was the realization that nothing is going to change.  

Healthcare is a broken system.  

Patients go broke seeking treatment or die waiting for insurance to approve medications they need.  Insurance companies dictate medical management instead of providers who spent years in school and more years perfecting their craft.  

Charting became 14 different screens of CYA instead of one page about what the patient is actually experiencing and what I’m doing about it.

Administration became, “Why can’t you be better/take on more patients/take on more responsibility?” instead of “What can we do to make you a better nurse/how can we help you?”  

Good nurses leave the profession entirely, leaving it to new grads with no experience and even less common sense.  (No offense, newbies, but most of you learned a lot of book stuff but have no idea how to be a nurse. It’s not your fault, but that is an entirely different subject.)

Don’t get me wrong.  I still love being a nurse.

I love my patients SO MUCH.  Taking care of them makes my days.  Talking to them and hearing the struggles and triumphs is what I long for.  Being able to help with the battle is why I became a nurse in the first place.

Sometimes I inspire my patients

I became a nurse to help people.

I didn’t become a nurse to do mountains of paperwork unrelated to my patients and their care.

I didn’t become a nurse to have to answer for my appropriate actions to administration.

I didn’t become a nurse to have to defend my license every day because some doctor/ CEO/ patient decides they want something a certain way and no one will back me up when that something is dangerous or just not good common sense.  

I love taking care of patients, but it’s not enough anymore.

Hard work and dedication come naturally to me, but it’s not enough anymore.

My educational requirements and every task that is handed to me are done, but it’s not enough anymore.

I’m a good nurse, but it’s not enough. i hate nursing, and i don’t want to be a nurse anymore.

Update 11/28/19:

I have had so many people contact me with questions, comments and just to let me know that they feel the same way. It warms my heart to know that what I’m saying resonates with other nurses.

I worried when I wrote this that maybe I was crazy. Maybe it was just like that at the hospital that I was at. That is not the case.

Apparently, it’s a national crisis. Nurses EVERYWHERE are feeling it. It’s probably one of the saddest realizations I’ve had.

I have had lots of people ask if I am still in nursing. I am.

I still work as an ER nurse, but only PRN (as needed). I try to keep it down to 2 days per week. It’s tight sometimes, but managable.

update 6/10/20

Yes, I still hate nursing is one way or another. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say I don’t want to ever be a nurse again.

I still love the patients and still hate the rest. There isn’t a day that has gone by that I haven’t thought about how nice it will be to not have to be a nurse, or at least be a nurse because I want to and not because I have to.

But i have found a happy medium between being a nurse and not being a nurse.

I am working 2 PRN or “as needed” jobs. The first is in the ER, but I haven’t worked in 2 months there because the country is in an uproar. The second is at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN.

I work 40 hours every 2 weeks. They pay well, so it all works out. (BTW if you’re a nurse and you don’t think you’re being paid well, either shut up because you really are or find another job. Most nurses have no idea how well they have it.)

I am devoting my remaining time to selling real estate for the state of TN and writing blog posts like these.

If you liked this article, show it some love by sharing.

If you want to read about how nursing administration can kill healthcare, give this link a click.

You can also check out a story from when I was an ER nurse.

why i dont want to be a nurse anymore


23 thoughts on “The Day I Realized I Don’t Want to Be a Nurse Anymore”

  1. I’m an Indian. I don’t want to explain the situations here in terms of education and jobs. I just want to say. Thank you for this amazing blog. I WANT to be a nurse. Or rather I’m going to be a nurse. But not really sure. I’m still thinking…

    Reply
    • It can be a very rewarding job. You just have to be careful not to do too much and burn out too quickly. Good luck!

      Reply
  2. I feel this way! So on point! I dont know if im jaDed with how much expectations there is from Management/adminIstrAtion or i just never really wanted to be a nurse to Begin with. Ive been a nurse for 10 And a half years and I dont know what to do anymore. I just dread going to work.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the read. Since writing this article, I have dropped down to as needed and only work 2 days a week. I have also completely changed organizations. These 2 things have helped immensely. The end goal is still to quit nursing completely, but for now I am satisfied.

      I’m sorry you feel this way about nursing. There are so so many that do. I fear for the future of Healthcare because of how things are going.

      I hope it all works out for you! Good luck!

      Reply
    • I DREad going to work. I don’t sleep,. I get nauseous at the thought of having to go into work. I’m tired ALL the time. I’ve been a nurse 34 years, 23 of them as a NP. In pediatrics. I want to leave health care but I don’t have any idea what to do

      Reply
      • I totally get it. I want to leave too, but I have a mortgage to pay. Eventually I know it will happen. I’m also a real estate agent and write for 3 blogs. But they don’t pay (yet).

        Good luck with whatever you choose to do.

        Reply
    • I am Really so glad that I found this and took the time to read this. I thought I was crazy too. I love being a nurse, but it is so disheartening at the same time….I hate going to work, get anxiety the day before, then can do nothing but “lick my wounds” a couple of days after because of being shorthanded constantly. You go in this field to make a difference, then it NEVER happens.

      Reply
  3. Hi it was an eye opener, I’m a nursing students, kinda scared reading this article . My mom’s a nurse , I wish to be too in 3 yrs, let’s hope for the best

    Reply
  4. I completely agree. I recently quit my job on a med-surg-onc floor after being full time and then eventually going prn and now im a stay at home mom. I just got so jaded, burnt out, didn’t care about nursing anymore after being shit on for years on the floor. My anxiety level after leaving nursing is so much better and i dont think i could ever go back to bedside at least. Nursing today is just not what it used to be, feels like more of a business 🙁

    Reply
    • Bedside nursing definitely isn’t what is was even 10 years ago. I hate that the field has taken such a nosedive. I hate it even worse because I don’t see it changing.

      Reply
  5. Hey,
    I’m not a nurse I’m an occupational therapist at an elderly/retirement home from Belgium. And I feel it too…I love beeing an OT, I know I’m good at it but the system is fucked.
    I have to struggle every day to be heard by the man and women who controle the money. Our boss just has a radical diffrent view and isn’t interested in my goals als an OT with our residents. To them I’m just someone they have to hire and theu use me as an extra.

    For A while i’ve wondered iff I should go for my nurses degree, as a little kid I came in contact with hospitals and nurses a lot and I was always fascinated by what they were capable of: healing wounds, saving lives, comforting anxiety etc. But now I’m not so sure anymore. I’ve heard a lot of stories that beeing a nurse isn’t that idylic anymore and it abve all it takes a huge toll on your own life….is that worth it for me?

    I’ve always wanted to learn..;I huger for knowledge but is 4 years of combining studying and working, having moneyproblems to get through this enough to make me happy in the end. Yess it’s a job which is more appreciated in the medical field then OT! Yes it’s a DIFFERENT kind of knowledge, skills I will get but will that eventualy make me happy.

    So after months of thinking I’ve decided to not do it. I’m staying an OT, I will try to see through the bullshit en find my energy back again to get through my days and have moments of happiness along the way.
    However I will do a 3 year study to become a Herbolagist and maybe do something with that in the future and if it’s just as a hobby it can function as a good weight to keep balance with my job.
    so my sky has cleared up a little more…I feel energetic again, which I haven’t felt for a long time

    good luck in your search and journey
    but I fear the healthcaresystem around the world is sick and isn’t cared for enough and lots of skilled and passionate workers will become frustrated and turn their backs …and it’s a shame.

    Reply
    • It is a shame. The whole of Healthcare is a shame anymore. Good luck with whatever direction your life takes.

      Reply
  6. I am Really so glad that I found this and took the time to read this. I thought I was crazy too. I love being a nurse, but it is so disheartening at the same time….I hate going to work, get anxiety the day before, then can do nothing but “lick my wounds” a couple of days after because of being shorthanded constantly. You go in this field to make a difference, then it NEVER happens.

    Reply
  7. Wow, i came across this post as i was literally searching “I don’t want to be a nurse anymore”. I’ve been at the bedside for 14 years. I started getting panic attacks about 2 years in. but, like everyone else, i have kids and a mortgage to pay. I know my husband cares, to a point, but he has no idea what working at the bedside is like and all he really wants to see is the full time paycheck come in every two weeks. I’m so stuck. I’ve tried reaching out to leadership to transfer to non-clinical roles, but you need at least a bsn (Which I’m working on slowly) to leave the floor. besides, everyplace is so short staffed that i’m sure they’re a little reluctant to lose an experienced nurse from the floors.

    Reply
    • That BSN requirement is bologna. I know a ton of good nurses who don’t have it and a ton of shit nurses that do.

      Sorry you don’t have much of a support system. Having a FT paint job is important, but at what cost?

      Don’t for one second worry about the short staffed-ness of the floors. Guaranteed they don’t care about you.

      Reply
  8. I’ve been an rn for 25 + years. i haven’t been happy in nursing for years. i count the hours down to go home. i feel undervalued and unrewarded. i have decided that nursing is no longer what i will do. i am 62 and want to be happy. life is fragile – no one knows how long we have on this earth. i am looking into doing something like door dash and obama care to help me pay the bills and mortgage. i am so scared. any advice?

    Reply
    • I don’t have advice about what you can do to supplement income, but I can tell you life it TOO SHORT to be unhappy. If you are miserable every day, something needs to change. I hope you find something that makes you happy.

      I can tell you I found a job in nursing where I don’t have to work as hard and get paid more than ever, and it’s been a God send!

      Good luck.

      Reply
  9. I can relate to this so much! I have been a nurse for 11 years now. It doesn’t bring me the joy it once did. I work in a doctor’s office now, but I would love to do something else. Currently in the middle of my BSN, thinking about becoming a NP. But it terrifies me to think it will just keep getting worse and I will have wasted all that money to be miserable. I hope you find something you love and the balance you need. I hope the same for myself.

    Reply
  10. I have been a nurse 30 years. I am 59. and I am like so burnt out!. I have beeN IN PACU FOR THE LAST 18 YEARS. I AM SO SICK OF THE POLITICS, LAZINESS AND OTHER NURSES WILL ABSOLUTELY NO WORK ETHIC. IN THE UNIT I AM A WORKHORSE AND ALWAYS HAVE BEEN BUT IT GETS DIFFICULT WHEN 4 PEOPLE ARE SITTING AT THE DESK PLAYING ON THEIR PHONE INSTEAD OF HELPING. NO TEAM WORK EVERY MAN OUT FOR THEMSELF! I THINK DAILY…. WHAT ELSE CAN I BE THAT SUPPORTS ME? IF YOU SPEAK UP YOU ARE A TROUBLE MAKER . I HAVE PURSUED MY MASTERS WITH 4 CREDIT HOURS LEFT AND THINK WHY BOTHER. ADMINISTRATION DOESN’T WANT THE TRUTH THEY WANT A YES PERSON. THE PHRASE HAS BEEN BEEN NURSES EAT THEIR YOUNG???? WELL I THINK THAT HAS CHANGED THAT NURSES DISRESPECT AND DUMP ON THEIR ELDERS!

    Reply
    • I HATE lazy nurses. Probably one of my biggest pet peeves! I don’t see how anyone can sit and just watch someone else work.

      You’re absolutely right about admins, too! Luckily, my current admins are pretty awesome, but I’ve had some crap ones.

      Good luck and I hope you find some peace!

      Reply

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