11 top career changes for nurses who are over it

When I graduated from nursing school in May 2020, I was brimming with excitement and eager to work in the hospital, take care of patients, and make a difference in their lives. I was also nervous. Do I have what it takes? I thought. Do I have the skills to do this job well?

Despite being a new nurse, I was thrust into the chaos of the COVID ICU and given the terrifying responsibility of caring for critically ill patients who depended on me for everything. I cared for the sickest in my community, managing ventilators, titrating medication drips, and updating family members over the phone when visitors weren’t allowed.

For two years, I sharpened my skills, earned certifications, pursued more training and education, and worked in several different hospitals and units as a travel nurse. I’ve helped dozens of patients and families live full lives despite chronic conditions. I’ve had the honor of holding the hand of patients who were dying. And I’ve cheered on those who were discharged home despite countless obstacles. The work I was doing was meaningful, and it was truly a gift to have the opportunity to care for others in this way.

However, after only two years, I was ready for a break. I was repeatedly placed in situations where I’ve had to care for more patients than what evidence suggests is safe. I’ve been in positions where I was verbally berated by patients, family members, and even other staff members. The long hours, the physical stress on my body, and the growing list of responsibilities I was given without additional pay were enough for me to take a break from full-time bedside nursing.

Plenty of other nurses are feeling this way—according to a recent McKinsey survey, nearly a third of nurses in the U.S. are planning to leave direct patient care by the end of 2022. The nurses surveyed said “staffing, pay, and lack of support” are driving their decisions to leave for other jobs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of the problems in healthcare that have been festering under the surface for years, such as PTSD and anxiety disorders, which are at an all-time high amongst healthcare workers due to the high-stress nature of our jobs and the amount of suffering we witness. Many nurses are growing increasingly dissatisfied with the current healthcare system and are seeking other fields entirely where they can put their skills to use.

For two decades straight, nurses have been rated higher than any other profession when it comes to honesty and ethics—higher by far than medical doctors, grade-school teachers, and judges, among others. As nurses, our skill set is diverse and our experience, resilience, and integrity are assets to a variety of industries—even those you might not expect! If you’re a nurse who, like me, has been struggling and is eager to make a career change for now or for good, I hope this list of 11 alternative jobs for nurses will help you try something new.