How to Break Out of a Rut in Your Nursing Career

Nursing may have been all you ever wanted to do as a child, or you may have come to it in later life. Either way, you can remember how enthusiastic you were on your first day at nursing school, how it felt to put the uniform on for the first time, and how nervous you felt the first time you had to deal with an actual patient.

If you have been working in the industry for a few years now, those happy memories may seem extremely far away. You had plans and goals when you first chose your career but once you have achieved them, what is there left to do? You have got to the point where you are feeling stuck in a rut. Although you still enjoy nursing overall you may find yourself feeling bored or restless and it can be difficult to find a way forward. If this sounds like you, here is a guide on how to break out of the rut in your nursing career and find a new sense of excitement and enjoyment.

Plan Ahead

You were probably the happiest in your career when you had been working in the job for a couple of years. You had been there long enough to be confident and not long enough to be bored. There was plenty you wanted to achieve, and you were going to great lengths to achieve your goals. However, once you have done this and enjoyed the fruits of your labor the work can get a little tedious and you may feel that you have lost direction.

You can change this by creating new plans. Think about what you would like to be doing a year, or five years from now. You may want to consider specializing or moving into management. Write yourself a plan of where you want your career to go and then work out the steps you will need to get there. You might not be able to do everything immediately but if you are working on your new goals, you will create a new sense of purpose and feel more motivated. This will help you to get out of your rut.

Learn All You Can

There may be some parts of your job that you are better at than others and this can lead you towards always doing the same jobs and leaving the things you aren’t as confident as to your colleagues who are. This means that although you feel comfortable with what you are doing, you never challenge yourself, and this can lead to boredom. Learn everything you can about your job, even the bits you are unsure of. Practice makes perfect and if you want to aim for a promotion, knowing your job inside out will certainly help you to get there.


Studying can give you a new lease of life and make your job more interesting. It can also help you to achieve your goals. To advance in your career you may decide to study for one of the NP certificate programs available through Wilkes University. You can study online in your own time to gain many advanced nursing or specialist qualifications, and this will give your career a new angle and help you get out of your rut happy in the knowledge that you are working towards the future.

Volunteer for Work You Find Interesting

Make your voice heard at work by volunteering for things you are interested in. This could include a secondment or a side project that could even be linked to your studies. If you find this interesting, you will look forward to working on it and you could learn a lot of new skills. However, if you don’t speak up for yourself and let your colleagues know that you are willing to take on additional work, they won’t know to ask you.

Become a Mentor

You may still remember what it felt like to become a nurse. For the first few months, you were probably terrified of making mistakes and scared of asking questions for fear of looking silly. Imagine how good it would have been to have a senior nurse take you under their wing and mentor you. Even if you do not have a structured mentoring scheme in place at work, it doesn’t stop you from taking the newbies under your wing and helping them learn all they can about your job.

Mentoring will give your working life a new dimension as you will start seeing it through someone else’s eyes. This will make the job more interesting for you and it will be a fantastic way of gaining recognition from your seniors if you are looking for a promotion yourself.

Ask for Help

There is no shame in asking for help, no matter how long you have been in your position. Talk to a trusted colleague about how you are feeling, and they may be able to help. This can help you gain a new perspective on the rut you are in, and it could lead to you figuring a way out.

Often when someone is feeling unhappy at work it relates to something that affects everyone. However, until the first person is brave enough to speak up, everyone suffers in silence for fear that they will not be taken seriously. It may be that once you speak to a colleague about your issues, they will admit to feeling the same. This could lead to other people being brave enough to admit that they are having the same issues, and these can then be sorted out. Management does not like an unhappy workforce and if you speak out, they may want to make the necessary changes and make the job better for everyone.

Build Your Reputation

The good thing about being stuck in a rut is that it gives you time to make plans and build up your reputation. If you are always moving forwards, it can be more difficult to get noticed as you are constantly changing direction or department. You may get ahead quicker, but you will have to hustle for it.

If you have been in the same position for a while, you have had time to build up your reputation and you can continue to work on this as you go along. Become an expert in the work you are doing, and you will be noticed. Colleagues will come to you for advice and your good reputation could be a deciding factor with management when they are looking to make promotions.


That time you think you are spending resting on your laurels can be put to effective use if it helps you to increase your career network. You can spend time getting to know people in other departments and districts. Don’t be afraid to let your new contacts know if you are interested in working with them more directly. This will make them likely to come to you first if an opportunity arises.

You can network outside of your place of work by volunteering to go to meetings or conferences about interesting or relevant industry events. This will help you to build up your network outside of your immediate environment which in turn increases opportunities for you. It will also keep you up to date with advances in nursing which means there is a further reason for colleagues to ask for your help and opinion in related matters.

Take a Break

Many nurses feel like they are stuck in a rut when they need to take a break. After the intensity of the Coronavirus epidemic, it is no surprise that nurses feel burnt out and this can often be mistaken for being stuck in a rut. If you love your job but feel trapped it might be time to physically get away from it all.

Now that travel is opening up again, take the opportunity to go on vacation and do what you want to do for a change. Take the time to relax and enjoy yourself and you could find that you are excited to be going back to work at the end of your vacation full of motivation and excitement about the next stage in your career. You could even write your five-year plan while you are lying on the beach.

Make Changes in Your Personal Life

If life is not going well for you outside work, then this can spill over into your working life too. It may be that the problem isn’t your job but things outside work that you are unhappy about, and it might be time to make some changes in your personal life rather than your career.

There could be a lot of things going on in your personal life. Your relationship might have gone stale, the kids are playing you up, or you are trying to move house. Consider what changes you could make outside work to make you happier and put them into practice. Once you are in a good place in your personal life you might find that your working life falls into place naturally.

Practice Self-Care

Concentrating on yourself might not come easily for you as a nurse as you are usually so busy being concerned with everyone else, but it is important to practice self-care. This will stop you from feeling burnt out and can improve the way you feel in general. Take a bubble bath, practice meditation, or go for walk-in natural surroundings whenever you can. Do something that is just for you and that can help you relax. It doesn’t need to take very long but you will be surprised how much difference just ten minutes of self-care per day can make to your emotional well-being.

Change Your Mindset

The power of positive thinking can make a world of difference to your love of life, and this is especially true of your career. You may have been doing the same thing for the past few years but getting complacent or bored with it means that you will find it even more boring. This goes round in a circle until you are feeling totally fed up and stuck in a rut. Think about the wonderful things that drove you to choose this career in the first place. They are still there but you may never consider them. Rather than thinking about how many times you have done the same tasks, think about the people you are helping, the lives you are improving and saving, and how much of a difference your actions will make to your patients and their families. Changing to a positive mindset isn’t always easy but it makes an enormous difference to your love of work.

Consider a Career Change

If you have tried all these things and are still feeling stuck in a rut, it might be time to consider whether nursing is the right career for you right now. The fantastic thing about nursing is that you can take a career break and return to it later. There will always be a need for good nurses and your qualifications and experience mean that you can walk back into nursing when the time is right.

No job is worth doing if you don’t want to get out of bed in the morning and face another day at work. It might be that you need to take a couple of years out and do something else entirely to reawaken your love of nursing and make it feel like a privilege rather than a chore.

This guide can offer you many suggestions on how to get out of a rut in your nursing career, but it can’t decide which one is best for you. Everyone feels stuck in a rut at some point in their career and often for different reasons. Consider why you feel this way and you can help yourself to get out of your rut and back to enjoying your career and feeling energized by it.