The Big Things Ruining Your Job Satisfaction as a Nurse—and What to Do About Them

More than just helping nurses find a job, we want to help nurses find better jobs and higher job satisfaction. This involves a deeper understanding of what your work priorities are and whether they’re being fulfilled in your current position. Many nurses will burnout of the industry much faster than they otherwise would because they waited too long to recognize that it was time to switch positions and find a nursing job that better meshes with their personality. Here’s what our experience in the nursing industry has taught us about specific situations and concerns that can help you find the right job fit.


1. On-Call and Time Schedule Demands

One of the biggest long-term hassles—and one that’s consistently underrated by new nurses—is being on-call. This is a standard job requirement for many hospital jobs, especially those involving direct patient care. It’s easy to justify this job demand when you think about how you’re at least getting paid something when you don’t get called in and a slightly higher rate when you do get called in. Nurses looking to increase their paychecks may actually prefer to get called-in during their on-call shifts. Over the long run, however, the logistical cost of trying to plan things with friends and family as well as the psychological cost of not being able to enjoy your free time tends to add up.

Solution: Take an Industry Job

Unless you have advanced training in specialized nursing skills, an “industry job” is your best bet to find a position with no on-call shifts. Many RNs prefer a job that demands more direct care and skilled nursing, but an occupational health nurse who works for a company, school, or other organization can typically maintain a normal workweek schedule.


2. Gaining Experience and Building Your Resume

There’s a difference between job security and employment security. As a licensed nurse, you’ll probably never have to go long without gainful employment, but this doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to find a job that won’t make you miserable. You may even want to take a job that you know you’re not going to love because it will help you land that dream job down the road.

Are the rewards worth the hassle? What if you’re not really sure what you may or may not want to be doing in the nursing field ten years from now? Even when there’s no perfect answer, early-career nurses would do well to consider how their resume will look in a few years even if they don’t take steps to develop their professional nursing skills.

Solution: Med-Surg Nursing

One of the most popular positions to build your skillset and demonstrate your value as a high-performing nursing professional, the med-surg nurse has evolved over the years into the person who’s responsible for coordinating patient care for acute care services. There may be a stepping stone position you need to take for direct patient care, surgery, emergency department, etc. to build your resume for this position. It’s also a fairly demanding job that frequently serves as a stepping-stone to an even higher position. For these reasons, once you build up your resume a little bit, it’s typically not too difficult to find Med-Surg job postings.


3. Higher Pay and Compensation

Nursing school isn’t free, and if you were already carrying some student loan debt from a bachelor’s degree before you decided to become a nurse, you may be starting your professional career in a hole financially. Then, there are growing household expenses and the stress that comes along with never seeming to get ahead.

Advanced practice nursing is one way to go after a higher pay rate, but this typically involves additional years of training that you may not be able to get through and/or afford to wait to start earning real paychecks. On-the-job training and accruing years of experience will also help, but what if you need to start earning more sooner rather than later?

Solution: Become a Nurse for Hire

It’s one thing to know that you’ll be on-call for a certain number of shifts each week and each month. Leaving this flexibility in your schedule doesn’t always lead to higher pay, however. There are other, more reliable ways to leverage schedule flexibility into a higher pay rate. Per diem nurses can earn more per hour, but with it, comes the stress of not knowing exactly when or where you’ll be working from one day to the next. A travel nurse is more of a happy medium in which you’re still guaranteed a certain number of shifts, you just don’t know where exactly you’ll be working until checking in.


4. Management, Institutional Credibility, and Team Morale

As much as nursing and hospital managers talk about the importance of building a good work culture and strong relationships with co-workers, this culture can change very quickly. A good hire—or a bad one—especially in one or two key positions within a department can signal a sea change to the rest of the team. This is why good work culture is so important but also why it’s so fragile. A more insidious kind of burnout may result from a lack of institutional credibility. Nonsensical budget rules and internal hospital policies that persist for years without explanation hurt job satisfaction.

Often, you may even like your direct supervisor who themselves are subject to these harmful institutional policies. Alternately, if your immediate boss is the problem and you’re tied to your current department and skillset, you may find it easier to transfer to a different job in the same hospital.


Solution: Communication, Participation, and Self-Preservation

As an employee, it’s on you to communicate these types of concerns and work toward reasonable solutions. In some situations, however, the best choice is to look for another position. Whether it’s the work and schedule demands or the problems associated with large bureaucracies, it might be time you consider one of a growing number of nursing jobs outside of the hospital.


Finding Your Dream Nursing Job isn’t as Easy as It Sounds

If you’re a nurse looking for a job, you probably won’t have any trouble finding job postings. While certain locations and certain positions can be more competitive than others, the overall nursing shortage isn’t going away. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of job postings for nurses in most major U.S. cities.


More than just finding work, most nurses are looking for the job that’s the right fit for their professional development as well as their personal life. But how do you go about doing this? At first, you may not have much more than a vague notion of what your dream job looks like.


Job satisfaction is elusive for many nurses, and this starts during the initial job search. How much money do you need to make? How much flexibility do you need in your weekly schedule? How much stress and how many headaches are you willing to endure? What nursing skills are you most interested in using and developing? Most people will solicit advice from friends and colleagues. They recall plans that were sidetracked coming out of nursing school.


Once you have a sense of the type of nursing position that will make for your dream job—or help build your resume for the dream job down the road—then, the real search begins.


  1. Ask Around and See What You Find Out.

More than just doing this in a general sense with friends and colleagues, look at specific locations and their nursing staff to see if you can make a connection of some kind. Does that location and department have a good reputation with the nursing community? Is it known, in contrast, for ruining good nurses? If you’re currently working in a larger hospital setting, you might look about switching jobs in a different department.


  1. Be Prepared to Experience Setbacks and Frustrations.

By the time you filter out the job postings for which you’re either not qualified or not interested, there may be surprisingly few promising options. Unless you have considerable savings and need some time off anyway, then we’d be wary about quitting your current job before you have a new one. At the same time, if you hate the job you have now, you may think about settling for a new position that’s available now rather than wait for a dream job that may never come.


  1. Practice for the Job Interview.

This includes all the standard interview tips—know where to go, read about the company beforehand, dress professionally but comfortable. Basic preparation is essential for managing how nervous you’re going to be. Our big tip is to be prepared for the pivot from personal rapport to professional conduct. For a lot of nursing applicants, the resume speaks for itself and the interview is primarily about seeing how you’d fit with the existing nursing staff. In other words, prepare for the job interview, but don’t feel beholden to that preparation. Wait for the interview to come to you and then respond naturally. You’ll be nervous, but you’ll be fine.