It’s safe to say that for health care and frontline workers, the past months have added new levels of intensity to jobs that were already stress-inducing. But for many of these workers, the great outdoors has offered a reprieve from the challenges of working in a global pandemic. FN gave six of them the latest styles in outdoor footwear to try on their time off. Here is what they have to say about the shoes, their activities and why nature is the best cure.
Maria Pichowsky, 41
OCCUPATION: EMT and firefighter
LOCATION: Braselton, Ga.
WORK LIFE: “Every aspect of my job has been amplified, but the biggest one has been the level of cleanliness we all have to be aware of when caring for patients. From sanitizing every part of the ambulance, to constantly changing masks and gloves, to being aware of a patient’s symptoms. These are all a part of my norm, but now my senses are in overdrive. My typical schedule is 24 hours on, 48 hours off.”
FAVORITE OUTDOOR ACTIVITY: Hiking
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: “Constantly interacting with sick patients can be emotionally or mentally exhausting. Hiking with the dogs gives my mind a chance to relax and it clears my thoughts. Choosing different trails gives me a constant change of scenery and gives me a decent cardio workout to break up my routine of working in the ambulance.”
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Amanda Lee, 31
OCCUPATION: RN, care manager
WORK LIFE: “My job role hasn’t changed during the pandemic, but the hospital system I work for made some structural changes. Many people weren’t coming to the hospital. I was part of a redeployment program so they wouldn’t have to furlough workers. I was basically on call if needed, and once the volume increased, I recently started back working at the beginning of June.
FAVORITE OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES: “Walking and jogging in my neighborhood. There is a one-mile stretch and another mile back, and a playground at the end of the mile, which is good for my two kids, [a 5- and 2-year- old]. I also have been riding bikes with my 5-year-old. Now he can actually ride, so he helps to motivate me to get out and ride with him.”
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: “Meditation has recently helped me to relax. It’s time to myself to deep breathe and not think about all the things I have to do. Just time to clear your head space at a time when you really need that.”
Becca Stein Gutwirth, 48
OCCUPATION: School Age Child Care Director, YMCA of the Pines
LOCATION: Medford, N.J.
WORK LIFE: “I typically oversee before- and after-school care for eight schools in four districts. For the last seven weeks, we have been providing childcare for New Jersey’s essential employees — pharmacists, doctors, EMTs, social workers, corrections officers, etc. The guidelines have all changed and the social distancing has really affected the type of programming we can provide and the activities we can do with our kids.”
FAVORITE OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES: “I love walking, especially in the woods. We are lucky enough to have trails
in our neighborhood, and I only live three miles from my office at the camp and I often walk the trails there as well.”
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: “We are lucky to be able to run our program on 800 acres in the New Jersey Pinelands. Driving the road into camp each day and being able to see the lake from wherever we are is very soothing. It gives you just a bit of relaxation amid the crazy pace of school-age child care. Being outside in the woods, breathing the fresh air, changes your mindset. It definitely helps me get away from my stress. I also get to be out on the lake. Even just watching the water gives me some peace.”
Alon Vainer, 60
WORK LIFE: “My work itself has not changed. I take care of patients who have kidney disease, which I kept doing. I rounded daily in the hospital. However, working in a hospital during a pandemic and knowing that every day is a potential risk of getting infected, it was something in the back of my mind. But I tried not to allow those thoughts.”
FAVORITE OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES: “All that’s related to the mountains: skiing, climbing, trekking, hiking and rock climbing. [At home] I mostly walk in the woods and parks close to my house and try to climb any crag in the vicinity. And just looking at trees relaxes me.
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: “I believe we are wired to be outdoors. Being in touch with nature heals our body and heals our soul. Nature is the biggest healer.”
Kim Peters, 67
OCCUPATION: Internist and primary care doctor LOCATION: Santa Barbara, Calif.
LOCATION: Santa Barbara, Calif.
WORK LIFE: “The pandemic has resulted in a major shift in the way I practice medicine. Prior, all patients were seen
in the office, with visits and exams taking place in person. With the pandemic, for the safety of the patients, about two-thirds of visits were transitioned to telemedicine or virtual visits. In some cases, however, patients asked to come for an in-person office visit. For example, if I needed to listen to his or her lungs, or test for COVID 19 — both of which cannot be done by phone or video visit.
FAVORITE OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES: Hiking, going to the beach and kayaking
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: “Working on the front lines in this pandemic, [taking the] time to recharge after a hard week is critical to my mental and physical well-being. Being outdoors in nature in a beautiful environment is uplifting and reinvigorating to the spirit.”
Jackie Griffin, 31
OCCUPATION: Licensed practical nurse (LPN), currently working as an assistant director of residential services for an agency that cares for and houses adults with developmental disabilities.
LOCATION: Shirley, N.Y.
WORK LIFE: “I oversee five group homes and am responsible for the lives of 47 developmentally disabled individuals. I have a 24-hour on-call position, but now ‘on call’ seems to define every minute of my day. One of my programs had to quarantine for 14 days due to positive COVID-19 cases. Staff could not leave; they slept at the program and worked doubled shifts. Inevitably, some staff became sick and I had to work a 24-hour shift to ensure the staff-to- individual ratio was met. Everyone recovered well and the quarantine was lifted. Now I am able to go with my team to some of my programs and work outside a few days a week.”
FAVORITE OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES: “I mainly like to relax by the fire, and go on walks with the dogs and my friends.”
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: “It’s always good to get fresh air. Not only is it good for everyone’s immunity, but it is refreshing after being inside or in a workplace all day.”