How Travel Farming Helped Me Heal From Nurse Burnout
Trigger warning: The episode included in this article discusses death, loss, depression, and anxiety.
Burnout is a real and serious issue that many individuals, especially those in high-stress professions like nursing, face. In this episode of the Nurse Converse podcast, Lily Madelyn, RN, BSN, OCN provides a personal account of her experience with burnout and the steps she took to overcome it.
Lily shares her story of working as a new grad during the pandemic, diving into travel nursing, and burning out. She discusses how spending 6-months solo traveling, and working on organic farms around the world, helped her to not only overcome burnout but changed her entire life for the better.
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Burnout is not just a singular incident, but rather a culmination of multiple stressful moments that make it difficult to carry on each day. The World Health Organization defines burnout as a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and
reduced professional efficacy.
Lily shares her journey from nursing school to becoming a registered nurse, navigating the challenges and pressures of the profession, and eventually realizing the toll it was taking on her mental health.
Nursing is a high-stress environment, which exacerbated Lily’s own struggles with anxiety, hypochondria, and fear of death. She shares the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on her mental health and the challenges she faced as a new grad during this time. Lily describes the overwhelming feeling of caring for patients who were experiencing life-threatening conditions and the emotional toll it took on her. There’s a difficulty to balancing empathy and emotional attachment, with the need to protect your own mental well-being.
Lily shares the steps she took to prioritize her mental health, and would recommend them to anyone who was in the same position.
Talk about your feelings and seek support, whether it be through therapy, journaling, or conversations with colleagues and friends
Take the time and space that you need and evaluate if your situation
Be kind to yourself, everyone handles things differently and presents their emotions differently
Lily’s personal journey toward healing took an unexpected turn when she decided to leave her job as a nurse and embark on a six-month journey of travel, volunteer farming, and self-discovery. She shares how this experience allowed her to broaden her perspective, immerse herself in something new, and give her mind the time it needed to heal. Unfortunately, not everyone has the privilege or ability to take such a drastic step, but Lily encourages individuals to find their own ways of prioritizing their mental health and seeing help.
Burnout is a serious issue in the medical field, and many individuals either know someone who has experienced it or are at risk of developing it themselves. It’s important to recognize and address the issue. Don’t ignore it. Seeking help is a crucial step towards healing and well being.
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