Dealing with the guilt of leaving your job

By | 2015-12-14T19:23:35-05:00 December 15th, 2015|0 Comments

When it’s time to leave one nursing job for another, guilt can be a stumbling block in the decision-making process. We can feel emotionally attached to, and responsible for, our colleagues and patients.

Leaving your job can be a fraught decision, even though we understand the importance of professional advancement.

Professional treason vs. professional decision

Whether you’ve been employed at your workplace for six months or six years, feelings arise when deciding to move on.

If you’ve been employed briefly, you may worry that a brief stint will taint your resume, branding you as a nurse who can’t hold down a job. You may also fear judgment that you’re unreliable.

If you’ve enjoyed a long tenure, you likely have many attachments that can tug at your heartstrings. You may be loath to abandon colleagues or patients, and this may weigh heavily on your conscience. How could you make a choice that can feel tantamount to professional treason?

Remove the emotion

When considering a change in employment, it is advisable to first remove emotion from the equation, considering your decision from a completely practical viewpoint. Ask yourself some questions:

•    Is the potential job a positive career change?
•    What are the benefits — financial or otherwise — of making a move?
•    Will this position advance your skills, knowledge or professional standing?

Next, consider other aspects that may be troubling:

•    Will your colleagues survive without you?
•    Can your colleagues fill the gaps and take care of your patients?
•    Will your leaving cause your current workplace to fall apart or implode?
•    How truly responsible are you for taking care of your colleagues and patients in light of the needs of your professional growth?
•    Would another colleague leave if they found a similarly attractive position?

Removing emotion from the equation may help you examine the situation from a rational place of critical thought.

Acknowledge your feelings

If you feel guilty, acknowledge those feelings and seek assistance in assuaging them. When the potential of departing is causing you distress, consider the best candidates for supportive conversation about your misgivings:

•    Trusted friends and family
•    Understanding colleagues
•    Faith leaders
•    Counselors or therapists
•    Career coach or life coach

Your feelings are real, as is the need to advance your career. Ask for support if guilt is standing in your way of moving on when the time is right.

Choose for you

The choice to leave a workplace, colleagues or patients to whom you feel attached is not easy. Be circumspect and rational in your decision-making, reach out for support and make the best decision for you, your family and your career.

No one can live your life for you, and sticking around out of guilt is a slippery slope. We all change workplaces when necessary or prudent. Be sure to not let guilt hold you back when it’s time to move on.


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About the Author:

Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC
Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC, is the Board Certified Nurse Coach behind and the award-winning blog, Digital Doorway. A widely published writer, Keith is the author of “Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century.”

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