Spring is a long-celebrated time of renewal. With warmer weather, more daylight, and more people vaccinated against COVID-19, there is finally new hope for a brighter future. Time to escape indoor confines and rejuvenate. Nature has always offered me escape from the challenges and everyday stressors of high-acuity work settings, preserving my well-being and likely my career path. Do you have an escape strategy?
Escape is a self-care survival tactic. Even though nurses are licensed professionals 24 hours a day, whether at work or not, we are not required to constantly “nurse” the emotional toll that comes with caring for patients and working with challenging people. Vacations offer escape, but they are not possible often enough. Healthy escape is both necessary and achievable in ways that do not need to involve travel, significant time, or expense.
First, think about what you enjoy. Hobbies and activities outside of work are essential for life balance, stress reduction, and overall resilience. Going for a run, gardening, connecting with friends, hiking, volunteer work, or getting lost in a book are great examples of escapes to help the mind tune out nagging issues that follow nurses home, take up residence, and cause distress. Practiced regularly with intention, healthy escape offers mind, body, and spirit time to heal and gain new perspective.
Sadly, however, some situations become untenable and escape takes on a different form. The pandemic and its turmoil have driven droves of nurses to the breaking point. News media constantly report on burned-out nurses leaving the profession. But many nurses were already walking that edge before COVID-19 due to organizational decisions that prioritized corporate profits over appropriate staffing and resources. The pandemic drastically magnified these issues. A corporate reckoning is in order.
Nurses have choices. Our profession offers a multitude of career options and settings. If it is time for an escape from a position, seek out new horizons within the profession. Research opportunities for a new job, role, practice setting, employer, or even geographic area. Nursing careers can be refreshed at any stage.
Every greener pasture comes with a unique blend of weeds, but some may be far easier to tolerate than others. Step away if you must, but please think twice before walking away from nursing. You are valued and very much needed.
Happy Nurses Month and International Year of the Nurse and Midwife (again)!
Be safe and well,
LINDA LASKOWSKI-JONES, MS, APRN, ACNS-BC, CEN, NEA-BC, FAWM, FAAN