Nurses leave the bedside for numerous reasons, including personal, professional, or other circumstances.
Some nurses leave bedside care due to staffing shortages, burnout, workplace violence, management, or health issues.
Others leave because of better career opportunities, higher pay, retirement, or a desire for a different career.
This article exposes why nurses leave the bedside and discusses non-bedside career opportunities.
1. Staffing Shortages
Staffing shortages result from insufficient hospital funds, lousy management, high patient-staff ratios, and burnout.
Some healthcare departments also experience staffing shortages due to retirement and a lack of qualified nurses.
Healthcare facilities that frequently experience turnover struggle to maintain new nurses because of high levels of burnout.
In these cases, new registered nurses receive high and sometimes unsustainable workloads that quickly lead to fatigue.
These nurses switch to different healthcare facilities with better staffing, pay, management, and resources.
Therefore, hospitals with consistent staffing shortages may utilize travel nurses or offer incentives to entice nurses to stay.
Improving workplace culture, management, and benefits for nurses is also essential to improve staffing shortages.
Burnout results from multiple factors related to the workplace, personal preferences, mental/physical health, and lifestyle goals.
Some work-related causes of burnout include staffing shortages, emotionally/physically stressful tasks, management issues, and long work hours.
Personal causes of burnout include mental health challenges, conflicts with personal goals, and work that doesn’t match their personality.
Common Causes of Burnout:
- Consistent staffing storages
- Workplace issues
- Emotionally stressful tasks
- Poor workplace culture
- Mandated overtime
- Stressful work environments
- Unsustainable physical tasks
- Mental health issues
Registered nurses must receive sufficient support inside and outside the hospital to minimize burnout.
Healthcare facilities may provide support by offering mental health services, flexible hours, and adequate staffing.
They can also develop a healthy workplace culture, utilize good management and provide resources to support nurses.
On a personal level, nurses can pursue bedside careers that match their personality, develop healthy relationships inside and outside of work, use stress-releasing activities, and seek mental health professionals.
Nurses who experience extended burnout may switch to non-bedside careers or altogether quit their professions.
Non-beside careers enable nurses to stay in their profession by operating in a field that suits their personalities and goals.
3. Workplace Violence
Registered nurses and other healthcare professionals may experience workplace violence from time to time.
However, some locations and healthcare facilities have higher workplace violence than others.
Physical threats, verbal abuse, and assault can happen in any hospital.
As a result, facilities must develop training and procedures to help staff manage these situations effectively.
Security and law enforcement must also provide adequate protection and safety, especially in dangerous locations.
Finally, good workplace culture and management ensure nurses remain connected and perform effectively together.
A bad workplace culture can increase the odds of workplace violence and minimize the effectiveness of facility procedures.
4. Bad Management
Bad management practices, feeling undervalued, and poor workplace culture can cause nurses to leave the bedside.
Accordingly, poor management can lead to occupational regret, medical errors, destructive team dynamics, stress, burnout, and a loss of passion.
Nurses operating under difficult management situations may develop a negative career outlook and mental/physical health issues.
They may also experience personal and relationship challenges outside of work due to consistent job stress and a lack of support.
It’s vital that healthcare facilities carefully review their management behavior and workplace culture.
Not providing effective oversight can lead to burnout, high turnover rates, increased medical errors, poor workplace culture, and unproductive staff.
Poor management affects the healthcare facilities staff and negatively affects patient care.
5. Work-Life Balance Challenges
Inflexible schedules, long work hours, and a stressful workplace may create work-life balance challenges for nurses.
Some nurses love to work and enjoy receiving lots of overtime.
However, those with families and friends to support may find it challenging to obtain an excellent work-life balance in some settings.
Nurses with outside passions, hobbies, and interests may also find balancing work with personal goals challenging.
Therefore, nurses must determine whether are particular workplace offers suitable hours and support to meet their needs.
An excellent work-life balance provides decent hours and money to support their lifestyle goals.
Being overworked, not having suitable work hours, and not earning enough money can lead to a poor work-life balance.
6. Loss of Passion
Registered nurses often choose a career in nursing due to their desire and passion for helping others lead healthy, happy lives.
Nevertheless, some professionals experience a loss of passion over time.
A lack of passion results from poor management, a lack of inspiring work, and a feeling like their work doesn’t make a difference.
Nurses also lose passion due to favoritism, feeling undervalued, workplace politics, and an inability to be heard/take charge.
Unfortunately, once an individual loses passion in their work, finding new inspiration can be highly challenging.
Some nurses move to other hospitals or healthcare facilities with better support, management, and positive workplace culture.
They may also become travel nurses or choose per diem nursing to avoid office politics and improve work-life balance.
Others nurses shift to non-bedside careers like consulting or research to regain their passion while remaining in healthcare.
With over 100 nursing specializations available to registered nurses, most can find a suitable career with enough effort.
7. Insufficient Pay
Another common reason nurses quit their job is to pursue better pay.
A registered nurse’s salary can double by moving from a low-paying state to a high paying one.
Nevertheless, they must consider the cost of living in certain states to determine whether it’s work moving.
Some nurses also become travel nurses due to the benefits, incentives, and earning potential at well-funded hospitals.
Nurses who work in rural places often earn less than those in busy cities or metropolitan areas.
Busy facilities have the added benefit of offering overtime and double time, which can quickly increase earnings.
As a result, some nurses travel outside of their local area to earn more money at healthcare facilities willing to pay more.
8. Resource Challenges
Some healthcare facilities consistently hire staff but lack adequate resources to enable nurses to perform their best.
Resource challenges include a lack of good management, technology, educational tools, pay, and mental health services.
Nurses who don’t receive sufficient support to manage their duties often experience stress, burnout, and a lack of passion.
Over time this can negatively impact workplace performance, culture, and morale.
It also leads to healthcare facilities losing good staff because they can’t provide access to vital resources and tools.
One of the most common reasons nurses leave the bedside is due to an increase in retirements.
At a median age of 52, many healthcare facilities have numerous registered nurses that will retire soon.
In addition to losing nurses due to retirement, they also lose highly qualified, dedicated, and experienced staff.
Obtaining newly qualified registered nurses ensures that healthcare facilities provide adequate patient care.
Nevertheless, developing the expertise and skillset of those retiring takes many years.
Healthcare facilities must develop excellent training procedures to help onboard new staff.
Besides the high retirement numbers, many universities struggle to educate enough students to replace those retiring.
It takes a combined effort of the educational systems, government, and healthcare professionals to fix the nursing shortage.
These institutions must train and incentives more nurses to become educators to help students enter nursing and support the healthcare system.
10. Conflict in Beliefs
A conflict of beliefs/interests among hospitals, the government, and nurses resulted in some professionals quitting their jobs.
For instance, some nurses have left the bedside due to debates over COVID vaccine mandates.
Numerous nurse also quit their jobs due to management conflicts, healthcare facility procedures, patient care practices, workplace culture, legal disputes, and ethical and moral conflicts.
11. Career Change
Not all nurses leave the bedside due to conflict, pay issues, burnout, workplace culture, or staffing shortages.
Some nurses prefer a career change that suits their interests, personalities, and work-life balance better.
Numerous nursing students who enter nursing also realize they choose a career that isn’t particularly fulfilling to them.
Everyone has different interests, personalities, and life goals.
Many instances exist where students and newly registered nurses realize that nursing isn’t an ideal career fit.
After all, not everyone wants to risk their health by dealing with viruses, cleaning poop, managing complex patients, working in a high-paced and unpredictable environment, and experiencing loss of life.
Nevertheless, nurses are incredibly talented, educated, and well paid, and they play a significant role in all areas of healthcare.
Some become educators, researchers, legal consultants, entrepreneurs, emergency care professionals, and managers.
There are many other responsibilities registered nurses manage beyond what was covered above.
However, I wanted to mention some challenges nurses face and why they leave the bedside.
Unfortunately, some registered nurses leave the bedside due to personal illness or mental health challenges.
12. Personal Illness/Mental Health
They may love their work but cannot continue to serve in this profession because of its toll on their minds, bodies, and health.
Work-related issues include physical fatigue, illness due to viruses, a lack of support, and other everyday work stressors.
Some nurses find support outside the workplace to help them cope with their mental health.
However, this profession can be challenging and stressful for even the most dedicated healthcare professionals.
Personal reasons for leaving include challenges with nonwork relationships, poor career fit, and personal illness/mental health issues.
Sometimes passionate nurses leave to care for loved ones and manage other essential responsibilities.
In these cases, working as a nurse may not have a good work-life balance, given the situation.
Non-Bedside Nursing Careers
There are numerous non-bedside nursing careers for nurses who leave the bedside but want to work in this profession.
It includes careers in legal consulting, research, education, sales, forensics, and other nondirect care occupations.
Each career offers opportunities for registered nurses to apply their expertise and skills to different healthcare problems.
Non-Bedside Jobs for Nurses:
- Legal Nurse Consultant
- Travel Nurse
- Freelance Nurse Writer
- Research Nurse
- Nurse Entrepreneur
- Forensic Nurse
- Aesthetic/Cosmetic Nurse
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse
- Nurse Health Coach
- Informatics Nursing
Countless nurses have refound their passion for pursuing careers that utilize their expertise in less stressful settings.
For instance, legal consultants, educators, and research nurses have set work hours, improving work-life balance.
They don’t need to worry about unpredictable emergencies, nursing shortages, or workplace culture.
They also have a more stable workflow that can be completed steadily.
Some registered nurses pursue work-from-home careers to minimize office stress and have exceptional freedom.
In summary, there are multiple reasons nurses leave the bedside.
Sometimes they leave due to unresolvable workplace differences like management, staffing shortages, and poor workplace culture.
Other times they leave for personal reasons such as illness, mental/physical health, family, or to pursue a different career.
Whatever the reason, employment will always be available for educated, hard-working, and flexible registered nurses.