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It was a real meeting in 2022: the women who connected on social media met in person for the first time over wine and snacks at a company that teaches computer coding to talk about what’s next when you end your career in healthcare.

While it is well known that Americans rarely stay in one career for their entire lives, The Great Retirement has made this fact undeniable.

“The pandemic has made many of us realize what we took for granted, from personal training to toilet paper,” said Tess Keim, a retired physician assistant.

Idaho’s healthcare industry is undergoing a major reshuffle.

The number of health care workers leaving their jobs during the pandemic has broken records, according to seasonally adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. join staffing companies whose recruiters offered premium pay for work in crisis zones. But some of them have left health care altogether.

Stephanie Moore
Stephanie Moore demonstrates a Raspberry Pi microcomputer at her business, the iCode franchise in southeast Boise. Moore opened the business a year ago after pandemic-related delays. It operates year-round with five classes, about 35 students per week, and a dozen instructors and lab mentors—mostly high school and STEM college students or recent graduates. (Audrey Dutton/Idaho Capital Sun)

For some healthcare workers, the pandemic has left exhaustion and injury.

Pandemic-induced burnout wasn’t the only reason Keim chose a new career, she said. It wasn’t the only reason her new friends started leaving the healthcare system.

I always feel like it was my first chosen profession. I feel that some part of me wants to be devoted to him.

– Stephanie Moore, RN and owner of iCode Boise.

Keim, Nicky Manning and Stephanie Moore got in touch Boise business women Facebook groupwho share a common history of working as healthcare professionals and their desire to try new things.

All three women said they have experienced various challenges over the years as business and health care delivery in the US has changed.

They don’t urge healthcare workers to leave the ship at a time when the industry needs more staff. They also do not believe that their personal stories will motivate medical professionals to leave.

“If people are going to leave healthcare, they are already thinking about it,” Keim said.

They decided to share their personal stories so others could feel less alone, “make the transition easier and make them feel a little more normal,” she said.

From emergency room to desk work and hat making

Manning is a longtime respiratory therapist who now works remotely for a healthcare provider but is building a business as a hat maker.

Manning had just returned from a week-long internship in Colorado with renowned manufacturer of cowboy and western hats.

According to her, her apprenticeship class included a nurse practitioner, an anesthesiologist, and a functional medicine doctor.

Manning has “always” been a respiratory therapist – for 22 years, she said.

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When her family moved to Idaho in 2013, she worked in the trauma intensive care unit.

“My kids were in their driving age and it was quite traumatic and stressful and all that. It just caused me a lot of anxiety,” she said. “I got to the point where I thought, ‘OK, I think I need a change for my mental health.’

She left her job at the hospital three years ago, taking a job as a Medicaid patient case manager. The job gives her more time on her 12-acre lot east of Boise, where she owns horses and has now started a hat business, Indian Creek Hat Co.

From treating a serious illness to serving food in Boise

Keim is a physician assistant who works in a small local medical practice but will open soon. Baked ham with honey store next to the Boise Towne Square mall.

Keim was working in a large medical group in the Portland area when the coronavirus spread across the US in March 2020. She and “several hundred” others were fired during the first wave of COVID-19.

“I was given two days notice,” Keim said in an email. “It was a scary time for my family as we, like many, relied on two family incomes. It was then that I decided to take steps to take responsibility for my own destiny.”

But she had already begun to feel burnout years ago, after taking a job as a liver specialist.

“My workload increased a lot and my salary didn’t increase and I worked from home on Sundays to be ready for Monday and I didn’t get paid for it,” Keim said. “It upset me and my family time just suffered a lot.”

Keim didn’t hurry to the exit door. She left in stages. She now works part-time at a small local clinic where she gives injections such as Botox and fillers.

“I do not regret the time spent caring for patients as it was a true privilege that I will always cherish,” she said.

Helping professions such as nursing, medicine, and respiratory therapy are in high demand and highly respected. They require years of study and training. Workers are also accustomed to structuring their daily lives around unpredictable schedules, holiday work, night shifts and on-call shifts.

Keim and others said their families and partners struggled at first to understand a future where they weren’t in healthcare; it was such a big part of their lives.

Everyone is supportive as you begin your medical journey, but it can be a lonely journey when you want to get out of it.

Tess Keim, a medical assistant, is moving on to a new career as the owner of the Honey Baked Ham restaurant.

From healthcare quality to technical education

Moore is a registered nurse who now owns and operates iCode School in Southeast Boise. She doesn’t seem to be able to part with her RN license, she says, emphasizing how much the job can become part of the healthcare professional’s identity.

She started out as a medical surgical nurse, then transitioned to a bariatric nurse and ran a large program at a hospital outside of Washington DC. She developed a specialty in quality of care and eventually started the graduate program in Organizational Effectiveness and Workplace Learning. There she met other professions and industries.

She realized that she felt glued to her specialty.

Moore moved to Boise with her family in 2017 and completed her degree to become a nurse practitioner. This went on for only a few months.

“I cried every day,” she said. “I’m already done with healthcare.”

According to her, her husband wanted to become a small business owner for a while. He encouraged her to think about it, and in 2018 and 2019, she began to seriously think about it. She began work on the franchise and was due out in early 2020. The pandemic has put a brake on this venture, postponing the iCode Boise debut until 2021.

“If something happened in society that I (as a nurse) would come back, it might be COVID. I didn’t do it,” she said. “So, I don’t know what might happen that will bring me back.”

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