Can Job-Hopping Hurt a Nurse’s Career?

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

How long have you been working in your current position? For your current employer? And would those numbers matter if you went looking for a job today?

A new term, the job-hopper, seems to have surfaced recently in our profession to describe a nurse who has changed jobs more often than not. But is job-hopping a bad thing? Do potential employers view it as a negative trait? Would an employer not hire you simply because you have too many jobs listed on your résumé?

Hmmm. Good questions.

The current era of nursing is changing–Baby Boomers are on the cusp of retirement, the Generation Xers are knee-deep in their careers and Generation Y is still dipping their feet in the sand. And in this era of change, job-hopping is still one of those gray areas full of lingering questions for many nurses.

In my opinion, the answer to whether or not job-hopping can hurt a nurse’s career is “It depends.” (I know, no one likes to hear that.)

As an employer, if I had a résumé from a nurse who had frequent job changes, I would probably be asking these types of questions before I even spoke to them:

  • “How often are you changing jobs?” A new job every 12 months or more is viewed very differently than changing jobs after six months or less on the job.
  • “Are you changing positions or just employers?” This can be viewed as expanding your experience, versus unhappiness with the employer.
  • “How long have you been a nurse?” This matters quite a bit. During the first five years of your career, there has to be a balance between finding your niche and navigating work relationship challenges.
  • “What are your career goals?” Are you changing jobs to seek more challenging roles? Do you need a certain type of experience that is required for your education or advancement?

In the end, it’s going to come down to one simple question that should be asked in person:

  • Why did you change jobs?” The why will probably guide the entire thought process on how the job-hopping will be viewed. Did you change jobs for professional or personal reasons? Did you pursue positive solutions before parting ways? How long did you wait for a resolution? Did you seek assistance? Did your previous employer understand your needs and wants as a professional? Did you as a new employee understand your job expectations?

When an employer is interested in hiring you, they are weighing the odds of investing the time and money into your employment. Why would they put forth the effort to train, educate and orient you to their workplace if you don’t have a track record that emphasizes some element of dependability or reliability?

Try not to look at this as an attack on you personally. Be objective and professional about yourself and your goals. And above all, be upfront and honest about the whys and why-nots of your job experiences.

Is job-hopping bad? I personally don’t think it is, as long as it’s seeded in advancing you professionally with a balanced and patient frame of mind.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and don't forget to check out ModernNurse Jobs for the latest job openings.

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


  1. I had to move in May 2015, to help my sister in Philadelphia care for my mother with worsening dementia. I moved from Phoenix, after a divorce in 2009. I had only worked in home health since 1984. I didn’t think I would have any difficulty getting a job with my knowledge and experience. Luckily, I had my BSN, since every position in Philly required a BSN. It took me over a year. I experienced age discrimination. I have been doing private duty care for 2 clients, working 6 days a week. I should be earning more with my experience, but at least I have a job. I am happy. I take good care of my clients. I do not know when I will be able to retire. I am 61.

  2. Staying with one employer is a thing of the past. RNs know that most states “employ at will” and will let you go regardless of your merit or longevity. Kudos to the new, younger nurses that don’t feel guilted into extra shifts & working for bullies. Additionally most older nurses from diploma schools felt a connection to their graduating school hospital… those days are over because of BSN mandates. You go new BSNs & do you.

  3. Well I was asked this question and I tell you after being “layed off” from my long-term hospital job because of being an Lpn and they only wanted RN nurses, it’s been difficult finding a job that I truly love. I find doing rehab nursing more difficult as you have 15 very sick patients difficult to deal with and discharging patients and suddenly without warning your getting calls to give you report on admissions you didn’t know where coming and having to rush everything and get a room cleaned so you can admit this person while still trying to care for patients you have and answer phones etc overwhelming and on top of this if you are long-term nursing you have anywhere from 29-39 patients to 1 nurse and still trying to get it all done so job hopping is expected when you are trying to find a good balance where you don’t burn out, after 27 yrs of being a nurse and being older the opportunities out there are not exciting especially since you cannot advance within companies without going back to school

  4. I have been at my current hospital for 16 yrs. prior to that I was st my other place 7 before I made the change to acute care. 2 yrs ago we were taken over by a major health system. Thought things would be better but in fact they are worse. Plain and simple they do not value the loyalty of their employees. We are pushed beyond our capacity. I work in a state that does not have mandatory nurse to patient ratios. I am a coronary step down nurse and some days I have up to 6 patients. On any given day I could have anywhere from 3-5 discharges and be slammed with admits or transfers from icu. The only thing right now that is keeping me from walking away are my coworkers.
    What’s even worse is we get no help from the unit manager. At the age of 52, who would hire me. Age discrimination is real.
    In the future the new grads will not stick around for extended periods and job hopping will be the norm.

  5. In interviewing I always ask why…..motive speaks to much. If they are younger nurses I find they are searching for their passion. However when I hire folks, because of the work we do I need long term plan. Developing the trust of our clients is an essential part of successful patient education. If they see someone over and over the relationship is built and learning is more likely to occur. I often say to fellow nurses it takes a year to learn your job, then a year to try to tweak it to work better for you. At that point if it is not your cup of tea then look for another position. Unless of course it is an unsafe or crooked company, then by all means protect your license, but also whistleblow!

  6. I was a military spouse. We had 14 moves over 26 years. I changed jobs, house & cities very 2-3 years. I stayed in NICU. I had no problems getting hired. The experiences across the country made me a better nurse and employee.

  7. I worked in two nursing homes before I settled down as a school nurse. I felt that they were putting my license on the line every single day. You cannot expect a nurse to give out medication to 39 residents in 2 hours when most received approximately 10 pills each that needed to crushed and hidden in food or they wouldn’t take them. The department of health was there every other week. So there are legitimate reasons why someone might job hop.

  8. If as a nurse you are finding it difficult to find your niche, try travel nursing. There is local and long distance travel and you can contract for 4,8 and 13 weeks. If you like it where you are, you can see if there are further contract needs or open staffing positions. If you don’t like it, you can finish up and move on. Traveling makes it easy to change, challenge, learn new techniques, new charting programs, gain experience with diverse populations. You interview travel agencies, recruiters and find the one that best works for you. In this scenario you get the best of both, longevity with the travel agency with the advantage of being able to change jobs and locations.


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