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Five Tips to Bow Out Gracefully from Your Healthcare Job

How to Leave Your Job with Grace & Preserve Future Opportunities
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There comes a time in everyone’s professional life when a change of scenery is necessary. Whether you are leaving your job to pursue a new career opportunity or because you are ready to move on from an intolerable work situation, the way in which you handle your departure is likely to follow you for years to come. It’s a small world after all, and that is certainly the case in the world of healthcare.

Hopefully, by this time in your career you have realized that your professional network is one of your most important assets. Leaving your job on a positive note will not only feel good; it will likely yield professional dividends down the road. From future references to new job opportunities, you will want to ensure that your departure is planned as carefully as was your initial interview.

A 2015 study conducted by WorkplaceTrends.com and the Workforce Institute at Kronos found that individuals are returning to their former organizations in increasing numbers. Fifteen percent of the study respondents said that they had returned to a former employee, and nearly half of those surveyed said that they would consider returning to a company that they had previously worked. “Boomerang employees,” as they are termed, are being welcomed back at higher rates. Of course, this only applies if the employee left the job on excellent terms.

Additionally, as the healthcare model continues to change, more health care systems are beginning to merge. In an attempt to reduce debt burdens and consolidate care, organizations are increasingly joining forces. While you may think that you will never have contact with your company again, the likelihood of being affiliated with your former organization, even in another state, is quite high.

Once you’ve decided that you are truly ready to leave your job – and I’m not talking about the: “I just worked a 14-hour shift without a bathroom break, I’m outta here” moment, – it’s important to reflect upon the way in which you wish to handle your resignation. While you may be ready for a change, don’t allow yourself to mentally check out until you have completed your final day.

As you prepare for the next steps in your healthcare career, keep in mind the following five helpful tips for a graceful exit.

Inform the Right Person the First Time

It’s understandable to be excited about a new opportunity. Certainly, you can share your new job offer with a trusted colleague or your best work friend, right? Not so fast.

Let’s face it, hospitals, as with many organizations, have a never-ending rumor mill. After all, who doesn’t love a good piece of gossip? While you might feel that your secret is safe with your closest work friend, it’s best to keep this information private. Your first conversation regarding your intent to leave your job should be had directly with your boss.

The first step of the resignation process includes scheduling a private in-person meeting with your supervisor. Although your manager may be very busy, it is not wise to speak to them on the fly or within a clinical care area. Arrive at your meeting prepared to do the following:

  • Thank your supervisor for the opportunity and skills that you have acquired while working in your current role.
  • Offer a brief, but informative, statement on why you are leaving, including informing your manager about the opportunity that you will be pursuing.
  • Present a short, professionally written resignation letter that your healthcare manager may put in your file.

Be as Flexible as Possible with Your Last Day Worked

While providing two-weeks-notice is corporate standard, healthcare is an entirely different beast. Often in health care organizations, schedules are built in four to six-week increments.  Further, hiring and training a replacement for such a specialized role takes ample time.

Depending on your profession or specialty, an adequate notice could range from two weeks to three months. To provide the best continuity of care for patients, a minimum four-week notice is appreciated within most hospitals. When in doubt, consult your HR policy to determine what your organization requires.

Offering the flexibility to work with your supervisor in determining your last day will go a long way in leaving a positive and lasting impression.

Continue to Work as Though You Are Never Leaving

How many times have you witnessed a healthcare colleague coast in the last few weeks of their employment? Surely, you’ve had a manager that is still “with the company,” but that you rarely see in those final days. Don’t be that person.

As long as you are still employed and being paid by your organization, do your very best to give it your all. This includes offering to help train your replacement, if applicable.  If this is not relevant, do your best to collate any information that might help your supervisor or replacement to fulfill your job duties in your absence.

Continue to show up on time, stay for the duration of your working hours, and more importantly, be mentally present and positive. Keep your focus on your current job and refrain from excessive conversations with colleagues or friends about your future.  Continuing to meet your performance expectations until your very last hour is essential in making a graceful exit.

Be Discreet, but Considerate, When Notifying Patients

Depending on your role, it may be necessary or considerate to notify patients of your soon-to-be departure. If you are physician leaving a practice, be sure to consult your organization or attorney for advice on this topic, as terminating a physician-patient relationship comes with a host of responsibilities.

For others in the healthcare field, use your best judgment when sharing your news with patients and families. For example, if you work as a clinical nurse who consistently sees the same patients on a regular basis, you may want the opportunity to say goodbye.  If so, keep the information short and sweet. Under no circumstances should you make any derogatory or negative comments about your organization. Keep in mind that the patient’s trust could be compromised otherwise.

Stay in Touch

The majority of working individuals spend more time with their “work-family” than they do with their actual family, and that is indeed the case for most healthcare professionals.  While the 40-hour-work-week might be corporate standards, many healthcare workers exceed those hours. In fact, physicians work almost one-and-a-half times more than the average American. Nurses and other healthcare employees are also notorious for putting in extra time.

As we spend so much time with our colleagues, departing a job is a loss for both ourselves and for the ones we leave behind.  It’s important to stay in touch with a select few individuals even after we leave our job.  For example, perhaps meet your former supervisor out for a drink one evening after work.  Alternatively, send an e-mail over to a former colleague.  Not only may it be beneficial for your professional future, but it will be appreciated.

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About Sheramy Tsai

Sheramy Tsai is a registered nurse and freelance writer. She holds a BA from Middlebury College and a BSN from the School of Nursing at Johns Hopkins University. Throughout her career she has worked in various nursing specialties and most recently managed a Post Anesthesia Care Unit at a large teaching hospital. Prior to becoming a nurse, Sheramy was a successful recruiter for WinterWyman in the Boston area. When she’s not busy with her blended family of five children, she takes the time to pursue her passion for all things related to natural health and wellness.