‘Don’t Burn Your Bridges’

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We all have heard the saying, “Don’t burn your bridges.” This saying is used often when resigning from your current job. But what does it really mean? It means not to do something in life that will potentially affect you in the future, such as wrong the same people or company that might one day decide or influence your future.

Today I gave my formal resignation to my work, after working as a nurse manager for several years in an ambulatory day surgery. It was a hard decision to make after many months of contemplating. I finally came to an answer that it had to be done due to personal changes in my life. There’s never a right time, the timing will never be perfect, and if I choose to wait, I would miss out on many opportunities that were presenting themselves. I made the decision to make a jump at a new opportunity, and in my gut it feels like the right decision.

Parting is bitter sweet… and then some. Whether I was moving toward something better or from an insupportable situation, deciding to leave my job was difficult and stressful. There are so many emotions that I experienced, ranging from sadness, excitement, guilt, hesitation, and everything in between. Finally, walking away can be a wonderful relief, but I still grieve for what I had and what I lost. Sometimes this is hard, especially for us nurses. We spend so much time taking care of others, often we neglect our own needs.

Then it spills over into our home life as well. These losses include collegial friendships with my coworkers. As nurses, we often develop strong friendships in the work place, though some of them may be based on timing, convenience, or shared suffering. I need to recognize that some friendships will end when I leave the building, but true friendships I developed won’t.

Biting the bullet, giving proper notice, and leaving on good terms will help me in the future. Because I will never know when I will encounter someone from my facility who I will need a reference or a recommendation from as I move forward. My advice: resist the temptation to talk negative about your facility. Walking out without sufficient notice causes a problem in future prospective employment, and it leaves a bad impression of you. Bury any animosity you may have, no matter how justified, by wiping the slate clean. You will feel better about yourself in the long run.

Easing my way out of the door was challenging. I kept it civil and professional. No matter how good or bad (especially when it was rough), the most respectful thing that I did was to leave with honor and dignity. I’m looking forward, not backward, with my head up. I will leave with respect instilled in me. Leaving a positive impression showed my colleagues that I care about them and showed my supervisors that I remained committed and loyal to the institution and wrapped up any of my responsibilities. Deciding to quit any job is stressful, whether you’re leaving a job you love or a job you loathe. By thinking it through you can leave any job gracefully. And by me doing so, I experienced far less stress, left a positive impression and felt energized and lighter.

And yes, burned bridges, like karma, do come back and haunt you—in ways you least expect.

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About Author

Samantha Therrien, RN
Samantha Therrien, RN

Samantha is an RN with 21 years of nursing experience. She has a diversified background in multiple areas of nursing, particularly in management. Currently, she works in a fast-paced ambulatory surgical center, where she manages the preoperative area, staff, patients and scheduling.

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