The Résumé Rx

How Long Should You Stay in a Nursing Job?

Amanda Guarniere

Q: How long should I stay working in a nursing job, especially if I know it’s not the perfect job for me? Is it better to gain experience by advancing within one unit/setting or should I try out a couple of different setting in order to discover what I’m most passionate about?

A: This is a tough question. It really depends!

Many people (especially managers) will say that it is common courtesy to stay in a nursing position for at least 2 years. From the perspective of the employer, it costs money to hire new staff and can take a considerable amount of time to recuperative the investment of recruiting, hiring, orienting, and training.

I recently polled my audience on instagram to see what you thought was acceptable!






I got a wide variety of answers, with the most common being “at least a year.”

Does that mean you should stay in a job if you’re miserable? Of course not.

One of my followers responded, “as little as necessary if it’s damaging to mental health.” Smart girl.

This brings up the important point of researching a job before accepting it. Hopefully you can take the time to decide what your ideal practice setting is.

Take the opportunity to learn about the unit – ask questions, ideally go for a shadow experience, before committing to the position.

If you do end up learning that the position is not for you – do your best to stick it out at least year (unless of course there’s anything unethical or harmful going on).

Staying in a job less than a  year can have the appearance of “job-hopping,” and may imply that you accepted a position without doing your research ahead of time. 


Q: If I stayed in a job less than a year, should I even include it on my resume?

A: I’m a big fan of honesty, and I don’t like the idea of excluding work experience, even if it was a short lived position. I suppose there can be extenuating circumstances, such as unethical or unsafe work environments, in which case you could leave it off your résumé but be prepared to bring it up in the interview.

The last thing you want is to leave something off and then have the hiring manager or potential employer find out that you were not being truthful. That does not make a good impression!

Q: What about per diem jobs? Should I include those even if the work was sporadic?

A: Plenty of medical professionals have second and even third jobs, these days. I think that you can use your discretion as to whether to include a per diem job on your résumé. If you have the room for it, and it was a valuable contributor to your clinical experience, then I say include it.

That said, if the per diem job was an identical job to something else you’re including on your résumé, and you’re needing to save some space, then I think it’s fair to leave it off!

However you decide to present your information, a great way to summarize your achievements and your intentions is through a well-written cover letter. Click here to grab my free Résumé & Cover Letter Starter Guide!


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