Monday, March 12, 2018

Escape Velocity

There are many of us who desire change during the course of our nursing careers, but change can be hard to manifest for a variety of reasons: boredom, ennui, limiting beliefs, lack of imagination, low self-esteem, difficult life circumstances, finances, burnout, or perhaps a rut so deep that we can't dig ourselves out.

In order to break free of the earth's gravitational field, a rocket must reach 25,020 miles per hour. Is your needed escape velocity equally daunting? If you were to gain the momentum needed to make a change, what is the escape velocity you would need to actually make it happen?

My Lonely, Embittered Planet

When something is amiss in your nursing career, something has to give, as was the case when I was a burned out inner city nurse case manager. At that time, what "gave" was my physical health, emotional stability, and any sense of satisfaction and joie de vivre; my work and work-related stress consumed my life, chewing it up and spitting it out with terrible efficiency and gusto.

My life was in the pits, and I saw no way out. I felt married to my work, I was overly committed to my patients, and my vision of being irreplaceable blinded me to the fact that it was time to extricate myself and create something new.

A New Lease on Life

The gravitational pull was strong: my work responsibilities, my patients' never-ending neediness, and my sense of overwhelming and stultifying commitment all combined to create a situation wherein the "escape velocity" needed for me to break the gravitational pull of my lonely, embittered planet was astronomical.

With the support (and, honestly, the vehement yet compassionate cajoling) of my wife, I did indeed break free; I thought that the guilt and distress of leaving my needy patients would kill me (could anyone take care of them like I did?), but the new lease on life that I felt was akin to shedding a heavy yoke that I had pretty much felt I could never release.

What Yoke Do Your Wear?

So, my friends, what yoke do you wear in life and work? What are you hanging onto? Is it a job and a sense of responsibility that keep you from making a move? Is it your own sense of despair and ennui that hold you back? Or is it fear?

Some yokes are self-made, and others are thrust upon us. There's no arguing with a situation wherein you're completely responsible for a disabled loved one or an aging parent; some situations yoke us, even when there's love involved.

Whatever your yoke, if you can find even small ways to change your circumstances, that can be a chink in the armor of your sense of feeling trapped. Perhaps you need to hire someone to give you a break several times a week from the burden of the 24/7 care of your disabled spouse; or maybe you need to drop to part-time while you look for something new. There's usually a small step you can take in a positive direction, no matter how desperate the situation may seem.

Escape Velocity Achieved

Achieving escape velocity demands different types of action in various situations; finding the key to your own escape vehicle is the key, and then your job is to create the fuel that will propel you forward. Sometimes, the answer will be right in front of your nose, and at other times you need a concerned loved one to give you a push (as was the case for me when my loving wife was the one doing the kind yet forceful pushing).

Life is too short to continue to be unhappy, and living on a desolate planet of unhealthy work and unnecessary stress is a sure recipe for ill health and misery.

Find your path to change, discover the escape velocity needed for the gravitational pull of your individual situation, and marshal the tools, support, and fuel that will launch you in the right direction.

Misery is optional; escape is possible. Make it happen.


Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is the Board Certified Nurse Coach behind and the well-known blog, Digital Doorway.

Keith is co-host of, a wildly popular nursing podcast; he also hosts The Nurse Keith Show, his own podcast focused on career advice and inspiration for nurses. Keith is also the resident nursing career expert at

A widely published nurse writer, Keith is the author of "Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century." He has also contributed chapters to a number of books related to the nursing profession, and currently writes for MultiViews New Service,, StaffGarden, and Working Nurse Magazine.

Mr. Carlson brings a plethora of experience as a nurse thought leader, online nurse personality, holistic career coach, writer, and well-known successful nurse entrepreneur.

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