These Nurses Left Nursing Behind For Careers They Love


By Lambeth Hochwald

Let's all agree: Nursing jobs are not only intense, but also super stressful. Add a worldwide pandemic, and it's easy to see why nearly one third of registered nurses have considered leaving their jobs, according to a recent report.

For Lauren Syed, who worked as a registered nurse for a decade and left nursing at the end of 2021 to become a life coach in Evergreen, Colorado, the pandemic changed her career trajectory entirely. She spent that critically important, albeit highly stressful, time working at a major hospital in New York City, a hotbed of the COVID-19 pandemic in its early days.

"There was an element of burnout that was still lingering when I decided to leave my job, as well as the fact that the pandemic up-ended our lives in New York," says Syed. "I moved back to Colorado not only to be closer to my family but because I was stressed out in my job and with what felt like never-ending lockdowns and a completely changed lifestyle in the city."

The stress of nursing is a given. In fact, a Nurse Career Satisfaction Report published in December, found that workplace politics, salary, and work-life balance play a significant role in the day-to-day challenges in the profession. And a study found the top five reasons nurses leave nursing are stressful environments, lack of leadership, burnout, inadequate staffing, and better pay.

Medicine Adjacent

However, deciding what to do next comes with challenges. And although many nurses have transitioned into related fields, such as physician's assistant or physician, that takes time and the financial commitment to further your education.

If a major change in the day-to-day doesn't appeal, working in an allied field, such as patient advocacy, can be a natural next step, says Teri Dreher, a former ICU nurse who founded NShore Patient Advocates in Chicago 8 years ago. She describes her firm as a cross between being an "advanced practice nurse, a lawyer, and a bulldog" for patients.

"Patients and families tell us how grateful they are for our expertise every single day," said Dreher. "We go to the wall for our clients and protect them as if they were our own family members. Today, every person in America needs a patient advocate, and no one is better equipped than nurses. We know where the danger spots are and help our clients avoid them."

Other medicine-adjacent career options popular with nurses include nutritionist, personal trainer, pharmaceutical sales, social work, counseling, and physical therapy.

A career move that had elements of her past life appealed to Jennifer Rushak Baldwin, who worked as a nurse practitioner at an urgent care center before starting a career in medical aesthetics. She now owns an aesthetic studio in New Hartford, New York.

Baldwin says the day-to-day fulfillment has been the best part of making this career switch.

"Medical aesthetics has given me a whole new avenue to serve people on both a medical and emotional level," she says. "My work has offered me a renewed sense of meaning."

Stepping Away From Medicine

Others have pivoted into brand-new fields, such as life coaching, with no obvious overlaps with the work they were once doing.

No matter your career move, the key is to go slow, says Elizabeth Hanes, a registered nurse who transitioned to starting her own business coaching nurses on freelance writing via her business model at RN2writer.

"The main key to successfully transitioning from full-time nurse to another career is to start the new career on a part-time basis, then gradually reduce your clinical hours as you increase the time you spend in the new career," she says. "This way, you don't feel the financial pressure of needing to succeed immediately in your new career. You can take your time, learn the ropes, and gradually replace your existing income."

Of course, that may work for freelance writing or another self-employed business you can get up and running while still nursing part-time, but it probably won't work if you need to jump into a full-time role in a completely new industry.

So, it's also super important to educate yourself as much as possible about the industry you intend to enter, Hanes says.

"For example, if you want to start an infusion business, then learn as much as possible about how that industry works: regulations, insurance requirements, overhead costs, marketing, etc," she says. "The same is true for freelancing. Many people don't realize that professional writing is a venerable industry, with a well-entrenched ecosystem that operates in very specific ways."

For those no longer in love with nursing, spend some time exploring other career options that may interest you. Note the parts of nursing you liked and didn't like to help lead you toward the right career path. The best careers for former nurses may be those that allow you to use your nursing skills in a new way. For example, your leadership skills can translate to leading in other industries, or your gentle, helping demeanor may be great for working with kids or the elderly.

Assess your strengths and weaknesses, like organizational skills and conflict resolution abilities, and look for career options that may be a fit.

Hanes says that nurses do themselves a big favor when they take the time to research a new industry to get a good grasp of how easy, complex, expensive, and regulated it is before they plunge in. "It makes the learning curve a lot shorter!"



  • Excellent articles ("These Nurses Left Nursing Behand For Careers They Love" and Nurse Practitioner Tops List of Next Decade's Fastest-Growing Jobs"). As a former RN these articles have given me somethings to think about. Thank you.

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