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Job hopping and looking for the best possible opportunity is familiar, even among nurses. When you’re building a nursing career in the healthcare industry, you want to look for better opportunities that may yield more money, more time off, improved working conditions, more flexibility, sign-on bonuses, educational opportunities, or whatever else makes working worthwhile for you.

Recent reports show that millennials — and Gen Z members—are also more comfortable with frequent job changes than previous generations. But in healthcare and nursing, is job hopping a good idea for career development and building a strong resume?

Job Hopping: A Current Reality

According to a report by Gallup, millennials are the most likely to switch from one job to another. Gallup’s results show us that six out of 10 millennials are open to a job change in the next 12 months, that 21% have already changed jobs in the last year, and that only three in 10 millennials feel “emotionally and behaviorally connected” to either the job that they perform or the organization employing them.

Meanwhile, Axios states that Gen Z is changing jobs at 134% of the rate that they were in 2019. They add that “some 25% of Gen Zers say they hope or plan to leave their employers within the next six months…compare that with 23% of millennials, 18% of Gen X and just 12% of boomers.” Does this include nurses who are members of Gen Z? We can’t quite drill down into the data to completely clarify that question. Still, we can probably safely assume that Gen Z nurses are more “employment mobile” than their peers from other generations.

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Granted, circumstances can always arise that cause a worker of any age to jump ship. However, with changes in demographics, expectations, and attitudes towards work, employees, and employers must understand the broader consequences for both parties when frequent job changes are increasingly the norm.

What About Job Hopping for Nurses? 

Job hopping happens in every industry and with every type of worker, and nurses are no exception. Nurses, like anyone else, leave their jobs for many reasons. The American Nurses Association (ANA) shares that the reasons nurses leave jobs can include, but are not limited to:

  • Burnout
  • Poor leadership
  • Bullying and incivility
  • Feeling undervalued
  • High patient-to-nurse staffing ratios

The ANA also states that approximately 18% of new nurses leave the profession within 12 months of becoming licensed and entering the workforce, an alarming statistic no matter how you slice it. 

However, if Gen Zers or millennials are less likely than their older colleagues to tolerate poor treatment, low pay, or unsafe conditions, more power to them in moving on to greener and happier pastures.

Should You Stay or Should You Go? 

In the final analysis, should you stay in a job where you feel burnt out, bullied, undervalued, or underpaid? No. Is it necessary to demonstrate loyalty to an employer whose chronic staffing ratios create unsafe conditions for staff and patients? Not in the least. We must all vote with our feet when it comes to the quality of the employers for whom we work, and we can hope that perhaps those with high rates of nurse employee attrition eventually learn from the error of their ways — but obviously, some never will.

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While job hopping is becoming more accepted as the 21st-century norm in many industries, it remains to be seen if nurses’ careers can withstand the same fickleness.

It can cost a healthcare employer tens of thousands of dollars to onboard a new employee, and employers want to see a return on their investment in a new hire. On the other hand, a nurse puts their safety, well-being, and hard-earned license on the line when accepting a position. Thus the nurse’s return on investment is no less important.

If your nursing resume shows that you chronically leave every job within the first year, this can raise the eyebrows of recruiters and hiring managers. In contrast, if it’s apparent that you dedicate yourself to a new position and stay the course for a year, 18 months, two years, or longer, an employer may feel safer bringing you on. And if you participate in committees, research, and other initiatives and projects, all the better.

As noted above, there’s no reason to stay at a job where bullying, poor treatment, and unsafe staffing are the norm. You must protect your health and your license, and sometimes you need to exit stage left no matter what.

However, if things are reasonably positive at work, you feel valued, cared for, and well-compensated, you should hang in there and build a resume demonstrating staying power. Put yourself in employers’ shoes and assume that a resume with short stints probably doesn’t benefit you (unless you’re a traveler, which is easily explained and a plus in flexibility and quickly adjusting to new environments).

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Consider creating a nursing career where you give significant time (at least a year) in most situations, and leave each position on the best terms possible. But if you’re maltreated and at risk, find something more agreeable and safe as soon as possible.

Your nursing career is of your making, so make sure your resume and experience speak volumes about how very amazing and valuable you truly are.

Keith Carlson
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