advertise with us find a job post your topic join the community log in
Seasoned with Sage
Staying When All You Want to Do Is Quit

Sticking out that first job as a new nurse even when you feel like quitting can be one of the biggest challenges you’ll ever face.

As a new nurse grad you’re pumped up and ready to change the world. You’ve learned all about treating the whole patient; he’s a person not a room number or medical ID number; her family affects his condition, and her care and her outcomes. You’re going to spend time with your patients. You’re the best nurse ever!

Then reality hits. You have six patients, not one or two. You have to stay for the whole shift, not just a few hours. And it’s now your license if you make a mistake, not your instructor’s. You don’t get an hour for lunch to discuss patients and the latest gossip with your friends. You’re lucky if you can even go to the bathroom!

You’re responsible for all of the care for your six patients now, and all the other nurses are busy with their own patients. They no longer have to help you. You’re on your own. You feel a little lost and suddenly begin to doubt your knowledge and skills. Your patients all want you at the same time. You don’t know who to help first, and you’re way behind schedule.

You want to cry and run screaming from the building--never to return! Why on earth did you ever want to become a nurse? How does anyone ever get it all done in one shift, and who has any time to spend with the patients?!

Take a deep breath and try to relax. It will get easier, but you have to give yourself time. It may take you a year to get comfortable. The research supports this, but not all units or facilities understand this. Some facilities have developed long-term orientation schedules for new nurses and are beginning to prove that this is an essential process. If you’re not in one of those programs, you’re just going to have to get by yourself, and you can do it!

Start by making a plan for yourself that includes sticking it out for a year before you quit. First, accept the fact that it will take you this long to really become a nurse. Get a calendar and mark off the days if you have to. Then get yourself organized. Use a schedule and stick to it. Get the most difficult and disgusting tasks done first. This will ease your stress tremendously!

Stop and document each hour. Make rounds frequently--such as at the beginning of your shift, before you take a meal break and after you return, and then again about an hour before your shift ends. This can be just a quick glance into each patient’s room after you’ve made your initial assessments.

Learn to anticipate needs such as PRN meds. Learn to delegate appropriate tasks and to double team with other staff to get things done more quickly. Be a sponge and learn from your co-workers. Everyone has little tips and tricks that save time and improve efficiency. Always ask for help if you don’t understand something or have never done the procedure before.

Give yourself time to become the best nurse ever! It will happen.

Kathy Quan, RN BSN has been a nurse for over thirty years. She is the author of The Everything New Nurse Book and The Everything Guide to Careers in Health Care. She is the former Guide to Nursing at and has moved that content to her own site

Read more Seasoned with Sage articles

3 Responses to “Staying When All You Want to Do Is Quit”

  1. Paula Says:

    Oh my did this ever bring back memories. I have been a nurse now for 25 years and I think there are many patient charts in the medical records department that have my teardrops on the nurses notes. But you said it all. It will get better. And don’t forget to ask for help. Most nurses are more than willing to help We don’t expect you to do it all yourself. But sometimes we can’t tell if you want us to help or not. And always take a break. Leave the floor if even for 15 minutes. Things won’t look so bad when you come back.

  2. Amy Morton-Miller Says:

    This certainly brought back memories for me as well. I’m so pleased that many orientation programs are now anticipating the stress of a nurse’s first year and providing some long-term support. And, I’m glad to see someone writing so eloquently about the feelings often encountered by the new nurse. I believe the hardest part for me (so many years ago now) was thinking I was the only one feeling this way. New nurses, do remember it really does get easier after some time and it’s ok to talk to others about what you’re feeling. Hang in there!

  3. Jane Says:

    I can not express enough how well this was written. SO TRUE. I graduated in May 2011. After passing the boards July 11th it took me until the end of September to land a job. I live in MA so that’s where I got my license; after applying to over 60 positions and not even one phone call back, through connections I was able to get an interview at a hospital in RI. It took until November for my RI license to be approved. I have been working part time since then. The orientation was 2 months (not long enough) I wish MA had a six month to year long residency program; that would have been ideal. This is such a tough adjustment period that you really need that extra time. 5-6 high acuity medsurg/oncology patients is a lot to handle. No charge nurse. Paper documentation system. I’m still overwhelmed but I keep pushing myself and trying to do the best that I can everyday I go into work. THANK YOU for writing this, your view points are spot on. ……staying when you want to quit.

Leave a Reply

search realityrn

sign up for weekly cartoons, tips, and blog posts
first name
last name

Register to win a pair of RX Medical Silver Fox Crocs

Nursing Jobs