While speaking with actress Taraji P. Henson for Variety's Actors on Actors series, Pompeo said "there were many moments" when she considered leaving the show.
"It's funny: I never wanted off the bus in the year that I could get off. The first 10 years we had serious culture issues, very bad behavior, really toxic work environment," she said. "But once I started having kids, it became no longer about me. I need to provide for my family."
Pompeo has been starring on Grey's since it debuted in 2005. She and her husband Chris Ivery share three children together: 9-year-old Sienna, 4-year-old Stella, and 2-year-old Eli.
"At 40 years old, where am I ever going to get this kind of money? I need to take care of my kids," she went on to say. "But after Season 10, we had some big shifts in front of the camera, behind the camera."
"It became my goal to have an experience there that I could be happy and proud about, because we had so much turmoil for 10 years," Pompeo added. "My mission became, this can't be fantastic to the public and a disaster behind the scenes. Shonda Rhimes and I decided to rewrite the ending of this story. That's what's kept me."
The actresses comments seem to point to former co-star Patrick Dempsey, who left the show in Season 11. Pompeo said that "the studio and network believed the show could not go on without the male lead," but she intended to prove them wrong.
"He was being paid almost double what I was in the beginning. He had a television quote. I had never done TV," she explained, before adding that the show's writers would say to her, "He's done 13 pilots.'"
"Well, none of them have gone. I didn't even realize until we were renegotiating season 3. No one was offering that up," Pompeo continued.
Notably, the actress also stated that she does not feel like she's been "creatively challenged at all" on Grey's, saying, "Every once in a while we do an amazing storyline. But for the last five years, I've had other milestones that we were trying to achieve behind the camera."
Pompeo is currently contracted to be on the show through Season 17, and the series itself will officially become the longest running medical drama of all-time with Season 16, beating ER's 15 seasons.