How Burnout Causes Nurses to Change Their Career Paths
Nurses are a crucial pillar of the US healthcare system, particularly for their roles in service delivery and patient care. However, recent years have seen the nursing workforce face critical shortages.
In light of a nationwide nurse staffing crisis, there have been strikes to demand an increase in nurse-to-patient ratios in states like New York. When hospitals and health institutions are short-staffed, nurses are routinely put in high-stress environments. Some are even asked to work overtime to compensate for the shortfall.
However, this only exacerbates the staffing problem. As nurses become fatigued and burned out from stressful work environments. Some consider taking on new nursing roles or leaving the field altogether. In this light, the article looks closely at how burnout causes nurses to leave their jobs and which careers they find themselves in after experiencing burnout.
Why do nurses change jobs or professions?
As discussed earlier, nurses play an important role in driving better patient outcomes, but this work is at risk due to burnout. To illustrate, a study on the prevalence and factors of nurse burnout published in the JAMA Network found that more than 400,000 nurses in the US reported leaving their position. Among these nurses, 31.5% cited burnout as the main reason for leaving their job.
The study further nuanced these nurses’ decisions to leave by associating burnout with other aspects of the work environment. These include certain aspects such as increased workloads, lack of good management or leadership, and the need for better pay and/or benefits. Burnout alone does not cause nurses to reevaluate their career paths.
Rather, true burnout also stems from a lack of control and consistency in the workplace. As outlined in LHH’s post on the difference between burnout and dead ends in professional contexts, those who are burned out tend not to leave the profession altogether. They only need to recharge and rejuvenate their passion for their work before seeking new jobs with greater freedom and autonomy.
It’s a different case when nurses realize they’ve hit a dead end and are incompatible with their career choice. This happens when nurses’ long-term goals — such as increased pay, career advancement, and learning opportunities — are no longer valued. They can also feel inadequately supported by their employers and the healthcare system. These nurses thus chart new career paths where they are recognized, challenged, and allowed to grow personally and professionally.
Common Career Changes Among Nurses
As nurses facing burnout consider their next move, travel nursing is a viable option for those who want to stay in the field but with a different nursing role. The advantages of travel nursing mainly lie in job security and competitive salaries. As the demand for nursing care persists, hospitals are willing to compensate additional staff fairly.
Beyond the countless opportunities to travel and explore different places. Unlike those in permanent positions, they are also given freedom and flexibility over their schedules and days off. Finally, the lack of workplace politics paves the way for a stress-free experience, as you are only expected to show up and do your work.
Online Nurse Practitioner
With the rise of telehealth, becoming an online nurse practitioner (NP) also allows burned-out nurses to take a step back while still being able to provide quality health services. It’s a natural evolution for registered nurses, as the qualifications for NPs include earning a master’s degree in nursing. They can also obtain specific certifications for pediatric care or women’s health. Among the typical responsibilities of NPs are gathering patients’ medical histories and creating treatment plans. They also collaborate with other healthcare professionals.
Lastly, nurses can transition from patient-specific curative care to community-wide preventive health and programming by becoming public health educators. Job career platform Joblist expects the demand for health education to grow by 17% from 2020 to 2030. This will create job opportunities in healthcare settings, government agencies, nonprofits, and community organizations.
As observed, there are many options for nurses to address burnout and change careers without necessarily starting from scratch. On top of being paid fairly for their work, nurses deserve to be valued personally and professionally across all workplaces.