8 Main Reasons Why Nurse Practitioners Quit The Profession

Written By: Kasee Wiesen DNP, APRN, FNP-C

Nurse practitioners are essential in our healthcare system. They play a vital role in meeting the healthcare needs of those living in urban and rural areas. The degree of their impact is determined by their state of practice—or in other words, some NPs have full autonomy in their practice and can even open their own practice. In contrast, others have more restrictions and must always be overseen or work directly alongside a physician.

Unfortunately, nurse practitioners are quitting their profession due to many different reasons and circumstances. This is devastating and will impact the delivery of healthcare and the outcomes of patients. So why do nurse practitioners quit? Below I will discuss 8 main reasons why nurse practitioners quit the profession.

Is It Common for Nurse Practitioners to Quit the Profession?

Until recently, nurse practitioners did not frequently quit the profession. With the Covid-19 pandemic and other changes within the healthcare system, it is becoming more common for nurse practitioners to leave the profession. Burnout, depression, inadequate salary, and poor work-life balance are reasons NPs quit the profession.

Why Do Nurse Practitioners Quit?

Below are the 8 main reasons why nurse practitioners quit their profession or healthcare entirely.

REASON #1: Inadequate Pay

Inadequate pay is one of the causes of nurse practitioners leaving the profession. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), in 2022, the average salary for a nurse practitioner was $124,680 a year. And while this salary is great, over 50% of nurse practitioners throughout the United States make less than that.

The salary of an NP depends on multiple factors, including city and state work, rural vs. urban environment, years of experience, and specialty. It is not uncommon to hear NPs state that they can make more as an experienced nurse or traveling nurses with less responsibility. This leads to NPs quitting the profession and returning to bedside nursing or leaving the profession entirely.

REASON #2: Work-Life Balance

Having a good work-life balance is important for people across all professions. Meeting the demands at home while working outside the house can be challenging for many people, including nurse practitioners. Many nurse practitioners quit the profession due to poor work-life balance. When the journey started to obtain their MSN or DNP, the goal for many NPs was to have a better work-life balance than they had as a bedside nurse. But, with greater responsibility sometimes comes an increase in workload--which may include increased hours in a clinic or frequently taking work home to keep up on charts or results, leading many NPs to leave the profession.

REASON #3: Increased stress in the workplace

Nurse practitioners are leaving the workplace due to increased stress. This is often due to increased work demands, including having to meet a specific number of patients seen in a day and increasing hours worked despite receiving a salaried pay impacting work-life balance. Also, many NPs have such a strong desire and need to help all their patients improve their health and feel overall better—and sometimes, due to the patient’s medical problems, it is impossible.

REASON #4: Feeling Burned-Out

A recent study reports that 62% of nurse practitioners have felt burned out in the last year. This is a significant statistic that should be grabbing people's attention in all healthcare professions, including administration. The term burned out is not new, but it definitely gained momentum during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many organizations have recognized this feeling in NPs (and all medical professions) and have implemented various resources. Still, unfortunately, due to the increase in stress, workload, and fatigue, many nurse practitioners are quitting the profession due to feeling burned out.

REASON #5: Lack of Respect

Lack of respect is a key reason nurse practitioners quit their profession. This may come from other healthcare providers, including physicians, who feel that our education as NPs does not prepare us to assess, diagnose and treat patients. Fortunately, I cannot say I have encountered this frequently in my practice. Still, I have known other NPs or have read stories that have demonstrated a clear lack of respect, appreciation, and trust toward nurse practitioners of all specialties, regardless of years of experience.

REASON #6: Increase in bureaucratic demands

Increased bureaucratic demands are another leading cause of nurse practitioners quitting the profession. A study completed in 2022 indicated that 49% of nurse practitioners reported that bureaucratic demands led to burnout—and ultimately considering leaving the profession. This includes the paperwork, meetings, certain policies, and the need to meet patient satisfaction goals. Many NPs feel this negatively impacts their ability to provide care to the patients before them—or at least pulls their attention away from those needing help now.

REASON #7: Poor workplace environment

Workplace environment plays a significant part in why many nurse practitioners quit. This environment comprises many factors, including the management team, other healthcare providers (physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners), medical staff, and ancillary support. It also includes support, respect, and trust in making medical decisions and providing high-quality healthcare.

Studies have been completed over the last several years that demonstrate a poor workplace environment can negatively impact nurse practitioners' mental health, productivity, and satisfaction with their job. It leads to increased burnout rates and drives nurse practitioners to leave healthcare. I have heard stories from peers of environments without respect, teamwork, or communication between the healthcare team, including MDs, NPs, and clinical staff. This is unacceptable as it impacts the healthcare team and the care provided.

REASON #8: Mental-health and overall well-being

Increased depression and anxiety in nurse practitioners is another reason many are leaving the profession. While working as an NP does not cause many people a decline in their mental health, many of the pieces I discussed above do—such as poor work environment, lack of respect, increased bureaucratic demands, and increased stress. These pieces combined can lead to depression or worsen the overall mental health of the NP—making many NPs doubt their decision to advance their degree or even continue to work in healthcare.

Keep in mind that many organizations offer programs that are to help a person’s mental health. This may include various activities, tips, and information on things an NP can do to improve their well-being. Still, many organizations offer counseling or resources to obtain counseling knowing this can positively impact a person’s mental health and well-being.

Can a Nurse Practitioner Return Back to the Profession After Quitting?

Nurse practitioners can return to the profession after quitting as long as they have maintained good status with the RN and NP licenses. This includes completing the continuing education required and renewing the licenses on time. I know many NPs who had temporarily quit working for many reasons but kept up with the requirements of their licenses and returned to the workforce 5, 10 even 15 years later.

My Final Thoughts

After reading the article above, are you now able to answer the question of why do nurse practitioners quit? The article discussed 8 main reasons nurse practitioners quit the profession—which is truly eye-opening as there are areas where improvements can be made to improve the well-being of nurse practitioners and all healthcare providers. Nurse practitioners play a significant role in healthcare delivery to people in urban and rural settings, and steps need to be taken before more NPs leave the profession.

Kasee Wiesen DNP, APRN, FNP-C
Kasee Wiesen is a practicing family nurse practitioner. Her nursing background includes emergency medicine, pediatrics and peri-op. Education is a passion of Kasee’s, and she has taught BSN, RN-BSN and DNP students, and has enjoyed every moment of it!