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9 Signs It’s Time to Look for a New Nursing Job

Gayle Morris, BSN, MSN
Updated January 12, 2023
    When is it time for a nurse to look for a new job? Explore what our nurse contributors identified as nine signs and what to look for in your new job.
    • The need for nurses across the healthcare spectrum has created many opportunities for nurses who want to leave their current jobs.
    • If you believe you can make a difference, it may be worth staying to contribute to the growth and development of your organization, which can put you in a position for promotion.
    • Signs it may be time to look for a new nursing job include a high patient-to-staff ratio, poor nurse and patient safety, bullying, and a lack of internal growth opportunities.

    Have you been dissatisfied and unhappy at work? Actually, you may not be frustrated with your career choice; it may just be a sign it’s time to look for a new nursing job. Nursing can be rewarding and fulfilling, but not every nursing job is the best for you.

    Do you feel stagnant in your role? Do you dread going to work? Do you feel burned out? If you answered yes to these questions, it may be time to find a new nursing job.

    We asked nurses and former nurses for tips on identifying when it’s time to move on.

    Nursing Demand Presents Opportunities

    It’s no secret that the U.S. is experiencing a significant shortage of registered nurses (RNs), which the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) expects will worsen in the coming years.

    The baby boomer generation will have all retired by 2030, increasing the population of individuals with more healthcare needs and reducing the number of working healthcare providers.

    In addition to this challenge, nursing schools across the country are unable to expand their capacity to admit qualified students. There is a shortage of nursing faculty and clinical placements that constrain admission.

    According to the AACN, 91,938 qualified applicants were turned away from nursing programs in 2021. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the profession will only grow by 6% between 2021-2031, rising from 3.1 million nurses to 3.3 million.

    The BLS also projects there will be 203,200 new openings for RNs as nurses retire and leave the workforce. In April 2022, a nursing workforce analysis published in Health Affairs revealed there were over 100,000 nurses who left the healthcare field from 2020-2021.

    This is the largest drop in healthcare staff in the last four decades. A significant number of these nurses were younger than 35. The need for nurses across the healthcare spectrum has created many opportunities for nurses who want to leave their current jobs.

    9 Signs It’s Time for a New Nursing Job

    While it is not healthy to leave a job every time you’re slightly dissatisfied, there are signs it’s time to look for a new nursing job. Only you can determine when it’s time to move on.

    If you believe you can make a difference in your current job, it may be worth contributing to the growth and development of your organization. This can put you in a position for promotion. However, in some cases, it may be better for you to move on.

    Review these signs that it may be time to look for a new nurse job.

    1 | Burnout

    Maria Regan has been an RN for over six years and is certified to work in the emergency medical system. She cautions to fight nurse burnout in your current nursing job. Burnout can lead to mistakes.

    However, it’s also essential to address and deal with nurse burnout in your current job before taking your problems to the next job.

    2 | Low Nurse-to-Patient Ratio

    A low nurse-to-patient ratio indicates that nurses are overworked and may increase the risk of mistakes. While there is a nursing shortage, hospitals must adjust their nurse-to-patient ratio by reducing the number of patients in each unit and delaying elective procedures.

    3 | Bullying

    Bullying occurs in the workplace in nearly every career. You may have heard the expression that nurses “eat their young.” This refers to the practice of nurse bullying or harassing new nurses. However, bullying can also be a problem for experienced nurses.

    Bullying includes:

    • Interfering with your work
    • Abusing you verbally
    • Threatening or humiliating behavior
    • Sabotaging your efforts to complete your work

    In a report by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, over 50% of nurses admitted they had been verbally abused in a 12-month period.

    4 | Concerns About Patient Safety

    Nurses are responsible for patient safety. That responsibility comes with steep penalties if neglected. In March 2022, a former Tennessee nurse was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide and gross neglect of an impaired adult.

    The charges resulted from a medical error, which the American Nurses Association said: “sets into motion a dangerous precedent.” If patient safety is in danger, it may also mean you are at risk of criminal charges and losing your career.

    5 | Concerns About Nurse Safety

    This is a sign it’s time to look for a new nursing job if you fear for your mental, emotional, or physical safety as a nurse.

    6 | Feeling Undervalued

    Regan advises to begin looking for a new job if you feel underappreciated or undervalued because this can increase your risk for stress and potential burnout.

    7 | Lack of Career Opportunities

    If you are consistently overlooked and passed over for promotions or opportunities when you are fully qualified, it’s another sign it’s time to look for a new nursing job.

    8 | Isolated From Your Colleagues

    Manual Thomas is a former nurse with a wide experience in healthcare. He advises to seek a new job if you feel isolated or disconnected from your coworkers and supervisors.

    Working 8-12 hours each day in an environment where you don’t feel as if you’re functioning on a team can be challenging.

    9 | Low Patient Satisfaction Scores

    Patient satisfaction scores are an important metric for the centers for Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement. When patient satisfaction scores are low for your hospital or unit, it’s an indication that something is wrong.

    Before immediately jumping ship, you might compare patient satisfaction scores to patient outcomes. Consider how you could contribute ideas to management to raise patient satisfaction.

    Preparing for a New Nursing Job

    Be prepared to fully evaluate your next position during the interview process or you may end up right back where you started. Athena Kan helps people start their nursing careers and has worked with thousands of candidates to help them find the right job.

    She points out that a disorganized hiring process is a red flag. Nurses who are not given a proper orientation may mean they’re on their own from the beginning and the hospital has no investment in their growth and development.

    Thomas advises nurses to look at whether the facility provides them with the level of support and guidance needed to succeed in their job. During your interview ask about the collaborative process among nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals. Does the institution value open communication and feedback?

    Regan cautions nurses to look for healthcare facilities that are accredited. Accreditation ensures the facility meets specific national and state standards. A healthcare institution with a high turnover rate may also be a sign of poor working conditions or mismanagement.

    Regan also notes that if the hiring manager and director of the unit are new, it could be a sign that the staffing at the facility is not stable. During the interview, ask about how schedules are determined throughout the year and on the holidays.

    The interview process allows you to see if the healthcare facility is a good fit for you. While it is wise to leave an employer when there are signs it’s time to look for a new nursing job, the job you pick should be one where you will thrive.

    Meet Our Contributors

    Portrait of Athena Kan

    Athena Kan

    Athena Kan is the cofounder and CEO of Dreambound. Dreambound is a way for students to find healthcare training programs —from CNA to RN— and get help paying for classes. Kan graduated from Harvard University and worked at Johns Hopkins University researching minority health and health disparities.

    Portrait of Manual Thomas

    Manual Thomas

    Manual Thomas is the CEO of AquariumLife and a former nurse. His passion has been caring for people and helping them enjoy the beauty and tranquility of aquaria.

    Portrait of Maria Regan, RN, BSN, PHRN

    Maria Regan, RN, BSN, PHRN

    Maria Regan, RN, BSN, PHRN, is a mother of two children and a certified nurse with over six years of experience in the healthcare industry. She is also the editor of Amy Baby Review, a blog that has been providing great tips about parenting over the years.