Healthcare Providers Recharge in the Outdoors

By Carey Guhlke-Falk, Communications Director at Lincoln Hospital and Clinics


Anyone who fully appreciates the great outdoors understands how much of an outlet nature can be for the stresses caused by the daily grind. There’s nothing quite like deeply inhaling the pure, piney air while hiking the terrain of Eastern Washington or the feelings of peace and solitude while gliding through the waters of Lake Roosevelt and the Columbia River – all while shedding the week’s worries. 


In healthcare, the daily grind can include caring for people with extreme pain and trauma, uncertain social and domestic situations, and even death. At Lincoln Hospital and Clinics in Lincoln County, employees are well-aware of the need for the self-care required to avoid burnout. 


“An important factor to providing good care to patients and their families is to make sure staff has sufficient quality, self-care,” said Erin O’Regan, RN and compassion fatigue coordinator at Lincoln Hospital in Davenport. “ One of the best, easiest ways to take care is walking/hiking in nature. Studies have shown that being outdoors- communing with nature, and wild life- can lower stress levels, blood pressure, and address depression. Our staff is encouraged to participate in activities that feed them emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually.” 


 Sometimes referred to as compassion fatigue, burnout occurs when healthcare professionals haven’t tended to their own need for self-care, but continue to give and give to their patients and co-workers. Basically, their cup is empty. Long shifts, sleepless nights on call, irregular schedules, and navigating the emotional and physical needs of patients all contribute to the physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion from the demands of being in the healthcare industry.  


“Unfortunately, compassion fatigue is a reality of the healthcare industry everywhere – not just our organization,” said Erin O’Regan, RN and compassion fatigue coordinator at Lincoln Hospital in Davenport. “We provide an array of tools for our employees to combat compassion fatigue, but making sure they are aware of what it is, and that it’s okay to ask for help or take time for self-care has the most impact.” 


Unlike many other healthcare facilities and providers, Lincoln Hospital and Clinics provides compassion fatigue workshops for all employees as well as opportunities for self-care like massages on campus and an off-site counselor through the Employee Assistance Program. However, Erin notes, nothing compares to the employee being aware of their own needs and what will fill their cup best. For her own self-care, Erin enjoys open water swimming. She has competed in several swims and has secured a slot to swim the English Channel in 2021. “Swimming is a solitary event but the sound of my breathing and the strokes are very healing and is great exercise.”

Erin O’Regan, RN

For many other employees at Lincoln Hospital and Clinics self-care also includes the great outdoors. 


“Scuba diving is my new passion,” said Larry Carpenter, PA-C. Larry provides care at the Lincoln Hospital Emergency Room and is a primary care provider at the Davenport and Reardan Health clinics. “[It] is an amazing exercise, very calming, and when you are 50, 60, 70-feet underwater it is unbelievably peaceful.  


Larry and his partner, Minnie Key, at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

Recently, Larry went to Northern Australia along with his partner for a scuba adventure to dive at the Great Barrier Reef . “In order to combat the high stress level of what we do, it is important for providers and fellow staff to attempt in every way to live a balanced life outside of medicine,” he said.  “Hobbies are a very good way to combat stress and over all work fatigue that can seep into our work life.”


Larry said his other “Pacific Northwest hobbies” include fishing trips to Lake Roosevelt, kayaking the Spokane River, and just being outside when the weather permits to soak up the “good old Vitamin D.”  


“There are plenty of ways to keep active out here [in Lincoln County],” said Libbie Klettke, receptionist at the Davenport Clinic and EMT for the Lincoln Hospital ambulance. “Personally, I love to go fishing, diving, and snorkeling out on Lake Roosevelt as much as I can. When I’m not fishing, I’m either out camping and hiking, mine exploring or riding quads to explore new areas.” Klettke lives north of Davenport near Lake Roosevelt and said many of these activities can be found out her own back door. “It’s a nice break after the week between the clinic and ambulance to just relax and recharge.” 


Libbie Klettke lives near Lake Roosevelt and enjoys all the
recreational opportunities right out her back door. 
She is a receptionist at the Davenport Clinic and an EMT 
for the Lincoln Hospital Ambulance.

Sometimes outdoor connection comes along with four-legged friends and digging in the dirt. Lincoln Hospital’s Social Worker, Margaret Cureton, finds self-care in caring for her self-proclaimed hobby farm located northwest of Davenport. “When you work in healthcare you spend your days caring for people and that can be demanding, but the farm is a different way of caring. It puts me back in touch with the simple things,” she said. “It’s very grounding to work with animals and I feel like I am contributing to the circle of life.” Margaret’s farm includes llamas, horses, chickens, dogs, and cats. She attends local shows and play days with her Norwegian fjords horses. 


Margaret Cureton, Social Worker at Lincoln Hospital finds self-care and connection with her Norwegian Fjords horses.

Studies show that time spent in nature reduces stress, lessens depressive symptoms, drops blood pressure and muscle tension, and some studies even indicate that pain levels decrease. (I think we can all benefit from the great outdoors!)  Experts at Texas A&M University validated that plant-rich environments enhance brain function and researchers at the University of Michigan found that memory and attention span increased by 20% when test subjects spent time in natural settings. Isn’t it nice to know your local healthcare providers at Lincoln Hospital and Clinics are giving you their best by taking care of themselves? 


Lincoln Hospital and Clinics is a multi-facility public hospital district with 250 employees serving rural Lincoln County, WA. The district includes Lincoln Hospita l,  a 25-bed Critical Access Hospital located in Davenport, WA; 3 area clinics including: Davenport Clinic, Reardan Clinic, and Wilbur Clinic; and Peak Fitness Physical Therapy, an out-patient physical therapy clinic. Lincoln Hospital and Clinics started in 1963 by a grassroots movement in the local community as a stand-alone hospital. Since then, it has grown to become a leader in rural healthcare by pioneering programs like Level I Cardiac Care, F.A.S.T. Stroke and the use of robotic technology to provide access to hospitalists and specialists. For more information about Lincoln Hospital and Clinics go to www.lincolnhospital.org.  


Mission Statement: “We are a community centered organization with small town heart, dedicated to providing and coordinating personalized healthcare.”


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