Why Are Nurses Leaving The Profession?

>>Listen to The Mass Exodus of Nursing: Why Are Nurses Leaving The Profession? With Dr. Wali Khan, DNAP, CRNA

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the first time I held a human heart in my hand a profound realization was ignited, I realized that my calling is to serve humanity. 

Nursing is hard work. Nursing is heart work. 

It’s been over a decade since I marked the start of my nursing journey. During that time, I’ve experienced and witnessed immense changes in healthcare. Working at a level-one trauma center through a worldwide pandemic, and now post-pandemic, I can tell you that nurses are absolutely leaving – but, it’s not a shortage. That’s a myth. The shortage is not an issue of willing bodies getting into nursing. They don’t hate nursing, that’s not the issue. There is no shortage of nurses. We have more nurses today than ever before. There’s something else going on here, and it’s an exodus. 


In my episode of the Nurse Converse Podcast, presented by, I dive deep into the systemic reasons why nurses are fleeing the bedside in droves, where they’re going, and what I believe can be done to reignite your passion for nursing again. Furthermore, I hope to empower nurses to take control of their livelihood and their future by using their nursing license and experience in ways that will benefit them professionally, personally, and financially. 

>>Listen to The Mass Exodus of Nursing: Why Are Nurses Leaving The Profession? With Dr. Wali Khan, DNAP, CRNA


So why are nurses leaving? The so-called “shortage” is not an issue of willing bodies getting into nursing, people want the jobs. They don’t hate nursing – that’s not the issue. The issue is more about access and retention. Here are the reasons why, I believe, nurses are leaving: 

  • Nurses don’t have to stay where they are not valued. Nurses have options. We have a lot of options, the career opportunities are wide open for nurses. They don’t have to stay in their position, unit, hospital, city, or even continent if they are not happy. Nurses can leave the country and go to work anywhere in the world. 
  • Nurses are sick of not being heard. Nurses have been telling the administration that we don’t feel safe, that our staffing ratios are dangerous, and that we’re experiencing workplace violence. Admin is not listening and very little change has been made. 
  • Nurses aren’t paid enough. We’re not and if you don’t believe that, you’re not a good person. Period. Us nurses, for the most part, love our jobs and want to care for people, but when our wages are not keeping up with inflation and our employers say they can’t give us raises, well, we know that’s not true. So, we move on to higher-paying opportunities. 
  • Higher education. Through higher education, the sky is the limit. I’m an example of this, I obtained a doctorate and am now a Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). Through education, nurses gain an increased scope of practice, and more knowledge and can serve people better. Bedside nursing can be a limiting factor to our potential. With a higher level of education comes higher salaries, and while It’s not just about money, people want to feel valued and respected. 
  • Burnout. Bedside nurses have higher instances of burnout, so they leave to pursue opportunities, like travel nursing, that alleviate those feelings. 
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The list can go on and on, but what I want to highlight here is that nurses are finding different ways to be happy and to feel valued. 


So, where are the nurses going? Well, it’s 2024 and nurses have options – we’ve realized that we don’t have to be a slave to the system. The veil was lifted from bedside nursing and nurses decided to leave, for many reasons. Nurses are taking control of their destiny. 

Here are a few examples of where bedside nurses are going, 

  • They are advancing their education to pursue careers that offer better work-life balance, autonomy, and higher pay. This is the path I took when I decided to earn my doctorate to pursue a career as a Nurse Anesthetist.
  • Nurses are becoming travel nurses to not only alleviate burnout but also earn much higher salaries than they would at their staff jobs. I know travel nurses, who worked during the pandemic and made upwards of $30,000 per week working COVID contracts. While that level of pay is scarce post-pandemic, it’s no secret that travelers earn higher income – while traveling the world. 
  • Social media has opened up a world of opportunities for nurses. Now, I’ll be the first to say that social media has romanticized nursing – from the dancing TikTok nurses to the perfectly curated images. With that being said, nurses have learned that they can take their degrees, wear their scrubs, and be hired to create content for major companies. Many nurses have been able to replace their nursing salaries through content creation and social media deals. 
  • Telehealth and digital health. The pandemic amplified the need for telehealth and remote nursing. Nurses realized that we don’t have to work physically in person to give amazing care to patients. This trend will continue to evolve. 
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Questions For Nurses and Future Nurses To Ponder

There’s more to you than a dollar sign, it’s more than “getting the bag.” You have to take the responsibility to take care of those things you hold sacred. Here are a few questions that I challenge you to ponder about the nursing profession,

  • Are our education programs accepting a high level of applicants? Or do they accept anyone? What does your nursing program do to screen applicants? 
  • Are our healthcare facilities equipped to set up new hires for success? 
  • Are we strengthening the workforce that we have? 
  • Are our workplaces focused on employee retention through support in and outside of the workplace? Mental health should be a focus before a mental health crisis occurs. We say “people over profits”, but that’s not how the system was designed. 
  • Are current healthcare workers getting the help they need from working through the traumatic pandemic or in their everyday traumatic jobs as a nurses? For example, I worked in the trauma unit at a hospital in Chicago with a lot of gang violence. They had a social worker and a chapel for the unit, not just the hospital. The unit. It’s facilities like these are taking that extra step to support nurses. 
  • Do you know who you can go to for help, do you know the groups who will advocate for you? I suggest joining a union if you’re not already a member. We are stronger together.  


A quote that I often ponder is,Complacency is the nest of apathy.” Remember that when you become complacent, when you’ve been in a job for years and don’t seek change, you become comfortable. Comfort is lethal. Comfort will kill you. You have to be a little uncomfortable. YOU deserve better. The answers are within you. Are you happy where you are? Will you be happy in the future? Does it serve your personal and professional needs? 

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Some of you will agree with what I’ve said here, some won’t. 

Have uncomfortable conversations wherever they are needed. 


Connect with Wali on social media:

Instagram: @wali_khann

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