Nursing is a rewarding profession, but not every job will be a good fit for you. The wrong work environment can cause problems in your personal and professional life. The combination of the nursing shortage and turnover rates means that there are plenty of nursing positions available.
But a strong job market doesn't mean the perfect job will fall into your lap. To work for the very best employers, you need a job application package that reflects your professionalism and passion for nursing. Before you quit your job, take time to think about what you want in a new position, determine your options, and polish your resume and cover letter.
Here's our career change advice for working nurses:
Reasons for leaving a nursing job
If you're unhappy in your nursing position, you're not alone. Forty-nine percent of nurses have considered leaving the profession, and 54 percent report that their work negatively impacted their mental health. Staying too long in a job you're dissatisfied with can potentially affect your physical or mental health or lead to burnout.
This, in turn, may affect your work performance and patient satisfaction. If your dissatisfaction has to do with your work environment, talking with your employer may help. You might be able to find a solution that lets you keep your current position.
It's also possible to search for a job while staying on good terms with your employer. Professionalism and discretion are essential during this transition. Start by determining what you're unhappy with in your current job so you won't experience the same pitfalls in your next position. This introspection can also help you decide if you should look for a different role in the same nursing specialty or consider something new.
Some reasons for changing a nursing job include:
- Desire to learn new skills
- A work environment or culture that doesn't align with your values
- Appeal of a different specialty
- Lack of recognition or feeling undervalued
- Dissatisfaction with your schedule
- Inadequate compensation
- Coworkers who bully
- A lack of management support
- Seeking more or less responsibility
Looking for a new nursing job
Even if you feel ready to leave now, it's important to fulfill your employer's required notice and not leave your coworkers short-staffed. Leaving a bad impression upon your departure can be more damaging than it seems, especially if you need a reference or wind up applying for a job at that facility in the future.
Use this time to prepare for a new position, by taking the following steps:
- Be discrete. Don't share with your co-workers that you're looking, at least until you need to request a reference. Then choose who you confide in carefully. Also don't over-explain why you need to take a couple of hours or a day off to interview. The more false details you provide, the more likely you'll be exposed. We also recommend making job search-related calls away from your employer's premises, if possible. Sit in your car or take a walk somewhere your colleagues don't frequent to limit the chance they'll overhear.
- Update your LinkedIn Profile
Turn off notifications, so your employer won't be aware of your job search, and don't mention in your profile that you're searching for a job. Make sure your most recent jobs and responsibilities reflected and update if needed.
- Review your resume
Ensure that it includes the five critical components: header, professional summary, skills section, work history and education. Work from one of our Resume Templates and rest assured you'll hit the mark with all five components. Be sure you're not referencing your company email or phone number (see our points about being discrete below.)
- Build your network
Attend local networking opportunities, alumni events in your area, or career fairs to make professional connections. You might hear about jobs before they're posted.
- Clean up your social media accounts
Update your privacy settings to keep your personal life personal and delete negative comments or unprofessional photos.
- Set aside some time to prepare and apply. Looking for a job is like having another job. Take it seriously and plan for a set amount of time per day or per week – and stick to that. Try not to scroll through job boards or do other job search-related activities on work hours. Instead, save your current organization's goodwill on work time for when you really need it, like for an interview.
- Stay organized. Track which jobs you're applying for in a spreadsheet or notebook. And set up folders to hold your resumes, cover letters and other customized application materials so that when they do contact you, they are at hand and easy to access, saving time.
- Prepare for your interview
If you do land an interview, consider what you're going to say if they ask why you're leaving your job, without speaking poorly about your current employer.
One last thing. Don't slack off while you're looking for a new job. Though it may be tempting and sometimes unavoidable, maintaining your workload is important. First, it leaves a good last impression when you do find your next role. You may need references or come back into a work situation with one of your coworkers or supervisors in the future, and you want that to be a good reunion. Second, it may cause you to have issues at your current job – which you likely need until you find that new job.
Career changes for nurses
If you're considering a new specialty or changing the direction of your nursing career, there are plenty of options. Start by researching the requirements for your new area of interest, as well as how hard it is to change nursing specialties. Ask to shadow another nurse who is working in that specialty, to ensure this is the route you want to follow.
You may need to take classes while you're still working at your current job to prepare for the transition. This may be a lot to manage if you are looking for a job while working as well, so consider the time, money, and level of effort it will require before you commit to additional training or certifications. If you've decided you want a new career, a few of the most common career changes for nurses include becoming a nurse consultant, health educator, nutritionist or medical writer.
Whether you decide to switch specialties, change careers or apply to new positions, make sure your application is the best it can be. Our Cover Letter Builder and Resume Builder can ensure your application materials are polished and professional.