“Nursing Stress” unfortunately leads to high divorce rates

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There is absolutely no surprise that the nursing profession is one of the most stressful jobs.   I’m saddened to see that it also has one of the highest divorce rates.  Sadly I can completely understand why…


“Work stress in nursing was first assessed in 1960 when four sources of anxiety among nurses were identified: patient care, decisionmaking, taking responsibility, and change. The nurse’s role has long been regarded as stress-filled based upon the physical labor, human suffering, work hours, staffing, and interpersonal relationships that are central to the work nurses do. Since the mid-1980s, however, nurses’ work stress may be escalating due to the increasing use of technology, continuing rises in health care costs, and turbulence within the work environment.” read more here

Business insider reports that Nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides share a — 28.95% divorce rate  read more here

Occupational Psychologist Dr. Dai Williams notes, “Those involved in the caring professions experience a high level of break-up. This might be because they spend too long caring for other people at the cost of their own families, or because they are naturally sensitive people who are more vulnerable and sensitive in their own relationship.”  read more here

Nursing is a profession that requires you to give all of yourself when you’re at work.  

Nursing requires you to share in a patient’s ultimate highs and devastatingly lows.  

Nursing as a profession has done away with many eight hour shifts and functions mainly on 12 hour shifts.  This means nurses work from 7 AM to 7 PM and night shifters 7 PM to 7 AM which generally turns into 645 to 715 on a good day. Hospital based nursing hours are generally working 12-13-14 hour shifts at a time.  

Nursing is a profession keeping you constantly on your feet, moving from room to room, ensuring that every patient, family member, and coworker are comfortable and well.  

Nursing is a profession that requires you to constantly leave your problems at the door and immerse yourself in your patients problems & concerns.  

Nursing is a profession dealing with overwhelming time demands, charting nightmares,  and fast paced patient turnover.  Mother Baby Nurses are no different.  The world of obstetrics is ever changing.  Census can be low one day requiring staff to be flexed home, and the the very next shift you are scrambling for staff and opening up overflow areas for women to deliver and recover postpartum.

Nursing is a profession where you leave work at the end of your shift exhausted, physically and emotionally.  Nurses often don’t have much left in their tank when we go home.

IMG_4374I can understand how some families are unable to manage a family member staffing in such a high stress job day in and day out.  

Nurses that have young children at home often walk into the door to find their children have already all gone to bed.   Homework is done, baths have been given. Most families have already eaten dinner before their nurse comes home.  Leaving the nurse to eat alone. This surely puts stress on the parent or caregiver at home, and they often must feel like a single parent family.  

Nursing as a profession is a hard job that takes a compassionate person.  That compassion needs to be shared with your own families as well.  On the days that I work a 12 (14) hour shift it is very hard to come home after giving every ounce of what I have to my patients.   I simply want to relax,  finally eat an un-rushed meal,  watch mindless television, & not move a muscle… But,  I do have a husband, & I do have three children… they need me too!  I don’t want to ever compromise my home life for work. I love my job but I always want my family to come first.  It’s not always easy but it has to be done.  My husband and I are a team and his flexibility allows me to do the work that I do.Yes nurses are compassionate, but it takes and requires a compassionate family of a nurse to complete the package and not become a nursing divorce statistic.


It is important to develop self care habits that help deal with the stressors of being a nurse as well as maintaining a peaceful work life balance.  Everyone can take steps to ensure they are taking care of themselves; getting the recommended amount of sleep, eating well, taking time to exercise.  I also think it is important to have a mentor at work, reach out to someone you can discuss the complexity of your job with.  It is simply good practice to not take your stress from work home, so if you find a mentor, you can discuss problems, vent about certain situations and have an encouraging ear that understands the demands of your job.  

What are ways you find to de-stress after a long day?

This post was written as part of the Nurse Blog Carnival. More posts on this topic can be found at www.thebossynurse.com.   If you are interested in participating find out more details and sign up.

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  1. 1


    What an excellent and insightful post! Thank you for your insights, fact finding and compassionate sharing. 12-14 hour shifts rob most nurses from their ability to even think of self-care. Still, on their days off there are ways to fill their empty tanks. AS you state, being able to vent and discuss is also a key and not take the frustration home. An encouraging ear or just someone who will listen is a nurse saver.

  2. 3


    Hi Kelly,
    Loved your post! As a disability advocate, I couldn’t help thinking of all the nurses with disabilities and nurses who have children with disabilities. Their stress levels can get so high. Taking care of themselves and their marriages is often low on the list.
    Nurses are not superhuman! We need a village to help us do our work.

    • 4

      Nurse Kelly says

      Donna a 12 hour shift is tough on all, It’s hard to imagine what others have to tackle outside of their work environment. Its often hard to leave our burdens at the door. You are so right, it takes a village!!

  3. 5


    What a great article. I actually interviewed several nurses for a project I was working on a few years ago. It was not uncommon for me to hear that one relationship or another suffered when a nurse was putting work before life (which we sometimes feel we have to do with the amount of work that we do!). It is great to read your ideas about separating work from home and keeping a healthy state of attention on both. Great post, thanks for sharing.

    • 6

      Nurse Kelly says

      Thanks Elizabeth. It is hard to maintain the best work life balance all the time. Luckily I have a great mentor at work and husband at home!

  4. 7


    Thanks for this post Kelly. I remember reading an article about higher divorce rates among healthcare professionals. It is good information for us to work with proactively by doing more self compassion and restoring ourselves.

  5. 9


    Great post, Kelly and lots of supportive resources. I didn’t know about the divorce rate being so high among nurses and I had the same reaction of sadness but not surprised. I’m so glad to see that this is becoming a visible issue and there are many nurse leaders working to change the status quo. We deserve to work in environments where we can be healthy and thrive.

    • 10

      Nurse Kelly says

      Beth Thanks! Talking about issues such as these brings them to the forefront and allows us to be stewards of self care.

  6. 11


    Thanks for this great piece! I work with often very emotionally draining people, relentless in their need and demands: on a psyh unit, a dangerous lack of social skills and judgement is often a primary trigger to admission. I work 8-hour shifts and while could keep things almost as safe for 12 hours – fatigue equals patient risk – it would wear me out emotionally, and the quality of my work would take a hit. As it is, my wife sometimes accurately complains that I’ve used up all my tolerance for humans at work and brought none home with me. It’s tough!

    • 12

      Nurse Kelly says

      Greg, I can’t even imagine how draining a psych unit is. My clinical in psych was enough for me. I was at Raleigh’s Dorthea Dix campus when it was coming to a close. I was placed on a male intake unit. I was on high alert the entire time I was there. I’m glad you have 8 hour options. Save a little bit of energy for home, many spouses cannot even comprehend what a nurse does in a day! But I couldn’t imagine being in my husbands business world either!!!

  7. 13


    Thanks Kelly for such a great post. It is true that healthcare workers are under an enormous amount of stress, and that it ultimately leads to problems in the home. CRNA school is the same way. Anesthesia students spend so much time studying and away from their families. This is why a lot of schools will talk about this with the students and their families on orientation day. In CRNA school interviews one of the most popular questions asked is, “How have you and your family prepared for the stress that comes with being in CRNA school?” Stress can have a huge impact on our lives. Thanks again for the great post.

    • 14

      Nurse Kelly says

      John – I’m glad schools have this conversation in the beginning with students. I remember that “talk” in the beginning of nursing school, it was an eye opener – they basically said that nursing school was our job and they wanted no excuses from students that chose to work as well.

  8. 15


    Kelly. I did not know how high the divorce rate was among nurses. I like that you say, “get a mentor.” Nurses need more mentors and also need to seek out mentors. It really does help put things in perspective for the nurses. Great post!

    • 16

      Nurse Kelly says

      Joyce I believe our next blog carnival is on “Mentors”. Looking forward to reading everyones work. I know my mentor has helped me see my career in a different light.

  9. 17


    WOW – I had not idea…. although I am not too surprised, just based on the peers I have worked with over the years. Definitely needs to be a supportive team to survive the challenging schedule and the ups and downs of our career. Thanks for shedding some light on a topic we probably need to talk more about!

    • 18

      Nurse Kelly says

      Joan I too have seen these statistics in my current job, many of the women I work with are divorced or have problems with their kids. I am striving to not be one of the statistics. I actually just submitted my request to work part time, my young children need me NOW, more than I need to be at work or advancing my career.

  10. 19

    D says

    disclaimer*** Before anyone gets mad at me and claims that it’s not a nursing problem, Yes I agree, to a point. But, I am only searching for reasons and Nursing is not the only suggested problem but it hasn’t helped the situation. Consider this just a plea to nurses, before you let it go too far, please make sure you go home today and tell your spouse that you simply love them and are sorry if they feel slighted in any way because, I promise you that there are some feelings there. Maybe just a tiny bit but, please at least just talk about it, so you don’t get to the point where I am.
    I simply have the right, not as a man or husband, but as a human being, to not be dismissed or to be simply placed at the bottom of the list to be used for what I can do for her or her family. I deserve for my feelings, wants and desires to be taken into consideration. I feel I have been discarded. I have dis-appeared. I don’t exist. She cannot see me. She cannot hear me. Oh yes, I talk and her ears take in the waves of air that my mouth produce. However, her brain, now psychologically trained, completely discards the words I say and produces a reply that is intended to persuade me that she is all right and I am all wrong. All I’ve ever wanted from her was just her attention and her desire to make “US” a priority. I deserve not to be treated like she’s now some elite member of society because she’s a registered nurse. Her nurse’s training has ruined her ability to be down to earth with her personal relationships. Not just me, but her family and friends, (friends that are not nurses). Her sister, who is also a nurse and divorced has the exact same disorder. They are simply so much better at everything and better than everyone that it’s sad to me.
    And a simple, heartfelt, look me in the eyes apology would have went a LONG way with me. But, this is something that is not in her family dynamic. Everyone i’ve met in her family has this same problem. You can see it in their own relationships. There is no remorse. She has done nothing wrong. I am over-reacting. There is nothing left. No let’s find out what to do, there is no lets get help, no let’s talk about it. I guess that’s that. (Divorce papers in hand, to be filed at the courthouse on Monday) 🙁
    Way down in her heart somewhere, is the beautiful soul that I met in school. The one country girl that was so sweet and caring and didn’t see herself as better than anyone. Nursing school has ruined my life and I didn’t even go to nursing school.
    Maybe, I’m just naive and this is really the way that a husband and wife are supposed to be. If that is truly the case, then I will never pursue marriage again.

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