Some nurses are becoming frustrated with the profession and leaving altogether to pursue other careers. I’ve known a few well-seasoned nurses who have left after 10, 20, or 30 years in the profession. Some nurses leave after only a short time in the field. Why?

Here are the top 5 reasons why nurses leave the field:

1. Short staffing

Short staffing runs rampant in nursing. There never seems to be enough staff to care for patients on any given day. Staffing issues cause undue stress on the average nurse, especially when it’s an ongoing issue. The unit they work for will ask nurses to pick up an overtime shift or two and this then becomes the norm. The money for overtime shifts may be good, but nurses get tired of continually pulling more than their weight during any given shift. In addition, if your unit is fully staffed and other units in the hospital aren’t, you may be asked to float. Having to float to another unit is the bane of most nurses’ existence.

2. Too many tasks

It seems as if each time I report to work there’s a new piece of paper to fill out or a new task for nursing to do that another department used to handle. Sometimes it seems as if every other department in the hospital dumps on nursing. As a result, nurses end up doing someone else’s job (and well at that matter!) and soon the hospital is finding other ways to further cut costs and push even more on the nursing staff.

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A prime example of this is Vanderbilt Medical Center. Nurses there are now taking over housekeeping duties! Can someone please tell me why management thought this was a good idea? This is wrong on so many levels; infection control, overworking nursing staff, disrespect for the nursing profession- I could go on and on. Most nurses barely have time to eat, let alone pee, so how can Vanderbilt feasibly add housekeeping to the list of things nurses have to do each day?

3. Lack of upward mobility

Let’s face it…it’s hard to move beyond the bedside without having an advanced degree. Many older nurses received either a diploma or associates degree to enter the field. When I received my associate’s in nursing 8 years ago, all it took to move beyond the bedside was a BSN. It’s getting more and more difficult to find a non-clinical nursing job without a master’s degree or higher. Because of this, many experienced nurses who want to try something non-clinical either have to go back to school for many more years of schooling or decide to leave the profession for non-nursing jobs when they get tired.

4. Poor management

I once read that nurses don’t leave specific floors, they leave poor management. This sentiment rang true for me as I reflected on previous jobs and the main reasons I left. I can honestly say my two worst jobs weren’t because of coworkers or the workload- it was because of poor management. Poor management can cause toxicity among coworkers and increased workload. There is a correlation! If management truly cared about the backbone of the hospital (nurses!) then maybe they wouldn’t lose so many.

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5. Underpayment

A common misconception among the general public is that nurses are paid very well for the work we do. Although we hold a tremendous amount of responsibility, this couldn’t be further from the truth for many of us. Nursing salaries vary widely based on geographic location, but most nurses feel underpaid for the amount of responsibility we have on a daily basis. Another issue concerning underpayment is that nursing salaries are capped after so many years of experience. Even worse, some newer nurses make almost as much as experienced nurses because their starting salaries begin higher than the experienced nurses did oh-so many years ago.

There are many more reasons nurses end up leaving the profession, but these are the top 5 as I see them. What are the other reasons why nurses leave and what can be done to keep more nurses in the profession?

In addition to working as a RN, Nachole Johnson is a freelance copywriter and an author with her first book, You’re a Nurse and Want to Start Your Own Business? The Complete Guide, to be released later this year. Visit her ReNursing blog at

Nachole Johnson, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC
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