Too Old To Leave Nursing Now

I have been a RN for 25 years, I have held every type of nursing job there is, from bedside med/surg to insurance case mngr, to DON, to ICU, to home care and hospice.  I hate, hate, hate being a nurse. The profession has given me the opportunity to have flexible hours, decent wages, but it has destroyed my spirit. I have been in/out of therapy, on anti-depressants, and now at 51 I am lost. I don't know what to do any more.  I must work to support my family and carry the health benefits. I have seen too much pain, too many mistakes, and I am tired of seeing people suffer. If anyone has any ideas, please help me!  If I could do it again, I would have chosen a different profession. I have changed jobs almost every 2 to 4 years. I realize other professions have good and bad people, pros and cons, but nursing only continues to show me the little respect humans have for each other. I thought I was going to make a difference, I really believed I could make people feel better and get better. I have watched over the years how insurance companies, Medicare, government regulations, and greed destroy health care. My coworkers always say I am the best nurse they ever knew or worked with, so then why do I hate, hate, hate being a nurse? I wish I could stop working....
nananurse nananurse
51-55, F
20 Responses Jul 18, 2010

Try reading this book. It gives advice on how to use your nursing experience to transition into a completely different career.

How to Get Out of Nursing

by Melanie Nightingale

Available on Amazon as an eBook

@Papa nurse. I can relate to the problem of having to stay when no one shows. I've been in LTC/ALFs as an LPN for 13 years now, 3-11 shift. Call ins at my place come at 2345. Then I'm expected to spend 1/2 hour of my time calling around looking for coverage, to which everyone says "no". Then I work a double. This happens at least once a week. @Laurie 61 Thanks for the encouragement, but all the pretty words mean NOTHING. I KNOW why I became a nurse, and I love my residents. THEY are not the problem. The problems come when you are undervalued by management, picked on and used by other staff members, MDs and families jumping on you, and your DON telling you in no uncertain terms that you are there to pass pills and gather information only, since you are not a REAL NURSE. Hello.. I run rings around the RN we have, and can do it BY MYSELF. She insists on having a 2nd RN no less, or she won't work her shift. Yet I can't make a nursing judgment to hold a Lopressor if a resident's b/p is 80/40 ??????????? Even if I notify MD of said b/p ?? Nope, I have to ask permission first or give the pill anyways. PS. the RN gave Lopressor with patient b/p at 77/44. And she didn't tell the MD.

The only time that I've hated my life has been when I've worked as a nurse. I HATE MY LIFE!!!!

My experience with nursing has been started in nursing school, nursing instructors are INSANE!!! most of the girls in my class were jealous, pretentious, ignorant, sneaky *******! When I got my first job, i got a real taste of the "female nurse complex". They walk around like they are God's gift to humanity, but I've seen how they let their patients soil themselves until their stage 4 ulcers are covered in glad im done with this. what a colossal waste of my time...back in school for electric engineering

I realize I'm entering this thread a couple years late? But I feel the need to reach out. I've put 18 years of my life and soul into this career as a Registered Nurse, and want out too. I think my expectations and standards were too high? I was so excited and proud to enter the profession when I graduated with my BSN, but the reality pretty much hit me the first year. I held on, went to counseling, took continuing education classes, started antidepressants, yet lo and behold, the reality of the unrealistic staffing, overall lack of respect from physicians, administrators, even many other nurses(!?) took it's toll. Yet I still hung on. Yes the money and flexibility was great, but this is most definitely NOT for you if that's all you are in it for. I truly enjoyed those times where I connected with my patients, and was actually able to help them, but most of the time I was running by the seat of my pants, just trying to keep up to the often impossible demands placed on the average floor nurse. It seems some of the best nurses out there were the quickest to burn out. I recall my preceptor at my very first job as a Med Surg RN being an excellent nurse, who was very dedicated and our go to person on the unit if we had questions or needed help. Sadly, she ended up diverting from the pyxis, addicted to narcotics, eventually fired and finally getting her license revoked. This was about two years into my own career. Now, 18 years later, I am a recovering alcoholic, went to rehab in September 2008, reported myself to the BON as advised by one of my counselors the second day I was there. Well what a hard lesson that was. Lesson one: NEVER EVER self report to the BON without getting an attorney first. I "voluntarily" signed for a five year monitor program. I am due to graduate August 27th this year, but I missed my FIRST UA last Friday, and have been notified by the monitor that I will need to fill out a form explaining why I forgot to call in, and hopefully they will not seek action. Sorry this is such a long letter, but I just needed to reach out. The irony is killing me. I feel I am a good nurse , have a good employment record, no prior complaints. I just let myself continue to think I must be perfect, had poor coping skills, a genetic predisposition to alcoholism, and let it get the best of me. Made a couple poor decisions. The young, energetic, hopeful new nurse I was 18 years ago has become an anxiety ridden, near suicidal, hopeless mess. I left acute care years ago, went into clinic work taking a pay cut because honestly I've lost the passion and don't think I'd be a good floor nurse. It's enough for me just to answer phones and take blood pressures. I am a shell of what I was. Maybe I should call a crisis line. I'm just sick with worry , and the "what ifs" now. If I knew then what I knew now I would never have chosen this for a profession. Again sorry this is so long, but wanted to share with people who understand. People who I know in my heart, just from reading most of these posts, must have started out the same way. I don't want to die but I am in a crisis now. I don't know what else to do. But I know I don't want this any longer.

I made it 7 months as an RN in my first nursing job(long term care) It was miserable, not enough time in a year to do correctly all they expected in one shift. Understaffed. Too much repeated charting and documentation. I was nothing but a secretary. I finally walked. This is supposed to be my new career after losing my production job of 14 years. So I am at a lose on what to do. My age and my sex work against me in every interview for nursing I have had.

The conditions nurses are working under have become DANGEROUS to the patients. Always keeping calm and smiling while working as a nurse under these conditions is not a sign of being the type of person who "had a calling", or is a more kind and compassionate nurse.. It is really a sign of becoming APATHETIC. If you know conditions are high for error, then you SHOULD be upset about it if you truly care.

I hear you. I've worked so hard to help my patients over the years and besides seeing good outcomes, Can't stand the the fact that I can't keep up anymore. But I don't see a choice or I can't see myself making the choice. Weak I am. Too many changes in nursing is killing me. No more respect. Nothing out there for me. No I don't want to go back to school. Price is too high.

Dear papa nurse, I can totally understand everything you said. After 20 + years of doing this I think I am headed down the same road. It's either that or I'm about to have a stroke.

Hi Nananurse, I feel your pain at the deepest level. I am a fifty eight year old male LVN, whose entire experience has been in long term care. To quote John Lennon, " I should have known better", as I had a horrible experience in school, due to my clinical instructor's disdain for male nurses. (I won't whine over this). By the time I graduated, I already hated nursing so bad, that for the first four years I worked as a personal trainer, and manager of a fitness center owned by our local hospital. It didn't pay all that great, but was the best job I ever had. I was forced to utilize my license following a divorce, in order to adequately support my daughter, so I went to work in a nursing home in my hometown. Going from energetic hard bodies, to people drooling on the floor was hard.....very hard. However in no small amount of time, I developed a genuine love of the old folks, and looked forward every day to my residents, and making their day better, and actually developed some close friendships with these old people.

This was only twelve years ago, and at the time, my job was not so bogged down with all the excessive, EXCESSIVE documentation! To me this is the root of all nursing evil, redundant paperwork. I would dare to say that in the nurses MAR, there are so many places to initial, confirming that you have done a particular task, that if you actually went line by line and performed each and every thing on a hall of thirty residents, it would take an unimaginable amount of time to complete, probably a double shift to do what is expected of one in eight hours. Can you see an opportunity for errors here? (I hope I am not rambling too much, but this is my first time to ever voice my frustration in this type of format) When one has to do nursing tasks, i.e. g-tubes, trachs, diabetic care, wound care, admissions, discharges, baby-sit crappy CNA's, take *** chewings from staff, residents, family members, doctors, pass medicines, respond to each health crisis, write an hour long incident report, take an hour in the dining room at each mealtime, take your MANDATORY thirty minute lunch, endure a fifteen minute lecture from a son on how mom needs to drink lots of water, and get it all done in eight hours or get in trouble for overtime, it's no wonder nurses like Vicodin and Xanax!!!!
Now with the government taking back money for fraudulent or unjustified charges, the tricks nursing homes are doing to try to hang on to their money is only making the job ten times more difficult, resulting in depression, anxiety, chemical dependency, and a host of other neurological problems. I have always suffered with ADD, just recently officially diagnosed and now treated with Adderall. I reached this end, I am sure, due to the stress of the job. I had always been able to compensate and had to work harder than others to succeed. In fact I graduated with a 3.76, passed boards first time, and was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa. But recently I have not been so successful. Two and a half years ago, I went to work for a facility on 2-10 shift, and the nurse relieving me at night was late at least three times a week, if not five times a week. I am not talking ten minutes, but any where from one hour to three hours late, and three times I had to stay all night. Though I complained regularly, nothing was ever done, and this went on for a year, until finally her attendance began to have a negative impact on the DON's job, at which time she was terminated. In the course of this year, I became a very angry nurse, frequently verbalizing my displeasure, wherever I chose, several times using very profane language. I began to make mistakes, usually with documentation or transcription of orders, even after the offending nurse was terminated. I had become so de-humanized, that I couldn't pull myself out of the funk I was in, and eventually was also terminated. I went to a new job, with a new attitude and approach, but the careless mistakes continued, and another termination. I took one more job, determined to absolutely do my best, plant roots, and work until I retired from this one. Not to be. No matter how sincere, and strong my efforts were to excel, the mistakes continued until I was again terminated.
It was then I finally went to see a psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with ADD and started me on meds, but now it is hard to find a job, having established such a bad reputation, with all of the job changes on my resume, and the negative impact of multiple terminations.

Three years ago, I met and married the most beautiful woman, and as I write this, we are only days away from the birth of our son. I am so happy to have the opportunity to enjoy parenting with a woman who loves me genuinely, as much as I love her. However I am scared of the prospects that lay ahead professionally, and financially. I currently have a job as a staff nurse in an adult day care, which is stress free, but quite below my accustomed level of employment. I feel that this profession, of which I felt such a conviction to do good to and for all, has left me at 58, wondering what I can do with the rest of my life.


Anyone find anything else to do? I want out so bad after 36 years. I can't stand the incompetence in today's hospitals. Managers that have no business in their position. Good nurses that once they speak up on the patient's behalf: HISTORY. Anyone?

I left my job of 34 years mostly ICU I was a senior rn in the cvicu and have experienced all the above except not terminated - I left. Some of my friends rn's of 35 years did not understand, were quite angry although they are the ones who always complain about the incompetence, dangerous staffing, idiot managers etc. It has been difficult and I have felt not acknowledged, validated or supported by some. Very humiliating. I am volunteering at a humane society, helping out my friends with a lot of "nurse support" dog sitting. I really don't want to stop working (I am now 58) but in california with the lack of jobs it has been very difficult to even get to the interview stage. I have an AS degree in nursing, many facilities want bsn. I do not want to go to school for nursing! So to answer your question, maybe vet tech school, however they do not get paid very much, I am not quite sure. Patient advocate - the legal liabilities may be too much, or private duty nurse with medi-cal patients - so could be peds to adults with most likely g tubes, trachs, ventilators at home in their last stages - sure to be a lot of moral and ethical issues, and very poor pay. Let me know if you think of something!

I have been in the field now for almost 10 years and I absolutely hate it. I change jobs every 6 months to a year. For the most part I love my patients but having to deal with management, lazy staff and office politics has made me want to reconsider this profession. I work midnights now, which has isolated me from friends and family. It has reaped havoc on my relationship with my boyfriend and he has since moved out. I find I am no longer the friendly, easy going person I used to be. I'm so desperate I even thought working as a ******** again. The ***** club was easier to handle than being a nurse. I am 33 and I'm so lost and unhappy. I would love to do something else but this is all I know.

Hi Nananurse-- you are NOT alone!!! I am in the SAME boat w/ 34 yrs in the acute care setting. I don't know where to go now either. Most people my age (I'm 55) are starting to think of retirement and all I can think of is 'I want to leave nursing NOW but what to do?'. My husband is 61 and just SO done with working; he's exhausted--he wants to retire ASAP and has mentioned that I will need to provide the health insurance. It actually is a horrific thought, having to stay in nursing despite being miserable so I can support the two of us w/ decent pay. So I've been searching for other healthcare related jobs that are less stressful but I've come to the conclusion that I really don't want to be a nurse any longer. I'm fried, burnt to a crisp and spit out! Wouldn't it be great if all the unhappy nurses could walk away from their jobs from hell, come together and and start their own business doing something fun?? I've never had a job where I've actually didn't mind going to work. So I completely feel your pain!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I just failed one of my nursing classes last fall! I was to graduate that May. I cried all of December. I am set to return in August! But I am NOT! It was a sign bc I hate nursing!! Im going to breed bulldogs and go into business with my partner who is a photographer! I wAnt kids, my health, my sanity! I want to follow my passions. I wont be happy as a rn and im so thankful I failed my ob class by 1 point!!! Thank you thank you thank you god:)

your never too old to leave nursing. I was a RN X 32 years. I quit and became an 18 wheeler driver at 55 y.o. I did it, so can you! Remember you will probably live to be 90 y.o. and medicare/social security will run out so plan to keep busy.

Reading the comments here has deeply warmed my heart! I've been an RN for 20 years, and honestly really hated most of it. It's so nice to know I'm not alone. I pour my heart into caring for my patients, but so much of everything involved in medical care is emotionally toxic: The unhappy staff, the back stabbing, the sick management and bean counters that only care about their spreadsheet reports, the doctors who are only in it for money, the insurance and pharmaceutical companies who also are only in it for profit. I understand we all need to make a living, but kindness, humility, compassion, being a team pla<x>yer, these all are so rewarding in themselves. Why are they so rare? I think because people emotionally and spiritually shut down, and become hopeless, to survive in this material world. I applaud the nurses who leave and have the courage to find another vocation, despite other people telling them they are nuts for doing so. I applaud everyone in this vocation, whether they stay or leave- nurses are truly unsung heroes. I love the world of healing, so I'm gradually transitioning out of formal nursing into holistic private practice. I must walk the talk, "Healer heal thy Self", and in this way I hope to hold the space for others to heal, and know the deeper causes of health and disease AND wellness. I have other friends who also follow their hearts in this world, and have forsaken much material wealth to be true to their core values. Initially it can look like leaving security and good pay, but look at the many many people who are successful having followed their dreams and inspiration: Steve Jobs (Apple computer), Eckart Tolle (Power of Now author), and Chicken Soup for the Soul authors, and countless others in all walks of life. The whole world needs healing right now. What if this collective yearning for change, is the guidance that will help heal our own lives, and our whole world, one person at at time. What if each of us made a commitment to follow our hearts and committed to being kind to ourselves and others? Each of us has our own answers to these questions, our own path to walk. I'm grateful to have read the thoughts and feelings of other nurses here. Let's have faith, that those of us who yearn for it, will find another form of livelihood that feeds our souls instead of depleting our spirits. May the unseen forces of good in this universe help us all on our journey!

Thank you for posting your story. I'm having a crisis of the soul, so to speak. I want to leave nursing, but feel like a failure if I do.

I sense that it is not nursing that you hate but rather the diminished quality of life and the human suffering which you have witnessed over and over again. From my perspective you seem to be a kind person with a giving and beautiful spirit caring for others from the heart which is the essence of quality compassionate nursing. You have undoubtedly provided wonderful care and have touched the hearts and souls of many ,many patients who have been fortunate to have been cared for by you. When you feel downtrodden with all the pressures of the nursing today, just remember that in your chosen career you have experienced the pain, suffering and joy of others in a way that no other profession would have allowed you to do. <br />
All the best to you .....I hope that you are able to overcome this hurdle and continue to be the wonderful nurse that you are doubtingly are!

I quit after 26 years of nursing. I feel as though I've betrayed myself by staying in it for so long. Yes, I was gratified if I knew I really helped my patient. The downside, though, was the culture of nursing. There was so much back- biting, scapegoating, lateral violence, vertical violence, information hoarding, insecure nurses and md's who had to always be one up. Honestly, I don't know how the patients survive in such an emotionally toxic environment. I know that workplace violence is now being recognized and addressed, but, there are a lot of pla<x>yers who talk the talk but who will never walk the walk. Good luck to all of you who stay. Life is too short for me to stay in such a toxic environment. I owe it to myself to be happy and fulfilled. I have always heard that the only thing that brings change is to "vote with your feet". Peace Out

Good for you! I too would be so happy to leave this profession far behind and I agree with your comment 100% that life is too short;but I am at a loss to know what else to do to make a living. Any suggestions?

Hey, I understand what you're going through and you probably have it ten times worse with the length of time you spent nursing. I recently quit my nursing job because it was killing me. I found that there are many ways to break out of nursing and you don't need to go study or anything. You just need the internet and the know-how. I am currently blogging about the challenges of nursing and how I broke out of the career and also trying to show nurses how to break out of it too. Read my blog. I hope it inspires you. Do comment at my blog. I am sure I can help you.<br />
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my email is<br />
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Let's find a way out. :)

Your experience mirrors my own! I have been a nurse for 24 years and have worked in every specialty and position imaginable trying to find my "niche". Some positions were better than others but deep down I have never enjoyed being a nurse and never had a passion for it. I have done the same as you, changing jobs every 2 to 4 years in a quest to find something better. I have finally come to the conclusion that there isn't anything better because I simply don't like being a nurse! After 24 years I have decided to leave the profession altogether and am currently pursuing an entirely different career path away from the medical field that I am passionate about. It is putting somewhat of a financial strain my going back to school but I feel strongly that life is way too short to be doing something you are miserable doing. I am 46 years old but feel it is never too late to pursue what you really want to do. My family thinks I'm nuts for leaving nursing but I have to do whats in my heart. I wish you the best of luck and what you say is so true....