Losing Steam as an RN: How to Get out of the Rut

Diagnosing and Treating RN Burnout

You might have become a nurse for several reasons. Maybe you dig science or have a strong desire to help people. Perhaps you were attracted by a flexible career which offered assurance of varying job opportunities all across the country. Whatever your reasons for becoming an RN, you may be surprised if one day you don’t feel the same enthusiasm for your career.

So, what’s going on? Before you start thinking you chose the wrong field, you may just be in a rut. Occasionally, we can all feel a little blah, and the same thing can happen with your nursing career. But if you feel you’re losing stream, it’s a great opportunity to find new ways to grow, change, and recharge.

Why You’re Losing Steam

There are several reasons you might feel that you are losing stream or gusto for your nursing job. For example, it’s not uncommon to develop burnout or compassion fatigue after years on the job. After all, nurses often deal with critical situations, patient deaths, and stress. Over time, that can lead to burnout, which usually decreases job satisfaction.

Fatigue can also cause you to feel in a rut. Working 12-hour shifts, especially if you are on nights, can be exhausting. Some nurses may also get in a rut if they are bored and don’t feel challenged anymore.

Think about when you were a rookie nurse. While you may have been a little bit apprehensive at times, you probably were also excited and enthusiastic about your work. However, as time goes on, doing the same thing day after day can become a little routine and boring.

You don’t have to jump with excitement before the start of every shift, but sure signs may point to a rut. Ask yourself a few questions. Do you often daydream about doing something else? Are you using more sick days than usual? Do you dread the days you have to go to work?

Developing a New Perspective

Let’s face it, if you’re in a rut, it’s no fun. If you don’t have the same excitement about your job, it’s also an excellent opportunity to make a change and figure out how to breathe some life back into your career. You might just need to make a small change to your work life. In other cases, it may be the right time to really shake things up.

It can be a bit scary to make a move or leave a familiar job. It sometimes  depends on the perspective you have. Feeling stagnate is not really making the most of your career. Change can bring opportunities for personal growth and help you remember what you loved about nursing.

Reigniting Your Passion for Nursing

There are several ways to climb out of the nursing career rut and recharge, including the following:

Be honest with yourself: The first step in climbing out of a nursing career rut is to take some time to consider what is really going on. Ask yourself if you feel bored or overworked. Maybe you don’t feel challenged anymore or don’t enjoy your specialty. Take an honest look at what the main problem involves so you can determine what needs to change.

Switch your focus: If you are not challenged at your current nursing job, maybe doing something new is your best bet. There are so many nursing-related jobs from which to choose. For example, if you have always worked in acute care, a move to a rehab hospital might be a good option. Working with a different patient population may be something to consider. In other instances, switching into a non-traditional area of nursing, such as legal nurse consulting or research nursing, might be the right choice.

Know when to say when: You might love the work you do, but the facility where you work is not the right fit. There are several reasons why it might be time to leave your current hospital or facility, such as unsafe patient workloads, lack of management support, and disorganization.

Find the right work/life balance: It’s easy to lose your love of the job if you feel overworked and stressed. Life is better with balance. Make it a priority to find ways to achieve a good work/life balance. It might mean reducing hours or transferring to a closer facility to reduce your commuting time. But finding time to enjoy life outside of work often improves your enthusiasm on the job.

Remember, you don’t have to feel stagnate in your nursing career. Taking some action and making a few changes may help you climb out of your career rut and find your love of the job again.


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