You’ve Been Furloughed, Now What?

COVID19 brought about many surprises in the healthcare world. One big surprise was the furlough of millions of Nurses, Doctors and other healthcare professionals nationwide. It’s reported that 1.4 million healthcare workers lost their jobs in April 2020, a steep increase from 42,000 reported in March 2020, according to the Labor Department. Approximately 135, 000 of those job losses were in hospitals.

What is a Furlough And What Does It Mean? 

A furlough is a leave of absence that is granted. Most employers require their employees to take a leave of absence without pay. Employees won’t work, they won’t get paid, but they’ll still have a job. Some health care professionals even though they were furloughed were able to keep their health insurance benefits.

That Would Never Happen To Me, I’m A Nurse! 

Nurses all over the nation, who received notice that they were being furloughed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, found themselves baffled. As a Nurse, you enter into the healthcare profession where there’s somewhat of a sense of job security since there will always be sick people to take care of? And what could secure a Nurse’s job even more than a global pandemic? Instead, COVID19 put a stop to all non -urgent surgical procedures, well-child pediatric visits, and any other non-urgent concerns. Per the CDC guidelines, all ‘non-urgent’ ‘non-essential’ procedures were forced to be placed on hold.

Why Did Nurses And Doctor’s Get Furloughed?

Industry officials argue that furloughs and pay reductions allow hospitals to keep providing essential services at a time when the pandemic has gutted their revenue. The revenue losses have affected more rural and poorer hospitals whose finances, even in the best of times, may have been struggling to keep ahead before the pandemic hit. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided 100 billion dollars as part of the provider relief fund that was granted to hospitals. Rural hospitals and those that were in the pandemic hot spots received $10 billion dollars.

A Wake-Up Call For Everyone In Healthcare

Hospitals may have cut back on hospital personnel to save money, however, the workload did not follow suit. At many hospitals, financial burdens were placed on front line staff which included low paid cafeteria workers, janitors, and nursing assistants. Pay cuts and furloughs made it difficult for medical staff to do their job. More patients had to be treated in less amount of time.

Many doctors and nurses argued that displaced workers could have been cross-trained to work in areas of the hospital that were overloaded such as the ER or ICU. Some hospital facilities were in fact doing this. For example, at one facility, surgeons were being cross-trained to work in the ER, in case there was a decrease of cases in the OR.

I’ve Been Furloughed, So Now What?

Yes, we are on the verge of a recession. And perhaps another ‘great depression’ is on the horizon but is all lost? Is it game over?

Not necessarily. During many past recessions and even the great depression, several innovations were made and companies born. Some of these include Mailchimp, Air B&B, Uber, Trader Joes, Disney, Hyatt, General Motors, Fed Ex and the list goes on and on.

If you have been furloughed from your job, it’s a great time to take a break, step back, and reflect on your career goals as well as your life. Were you really happy at your job? Were you living your best life? Is there something more that you always wanted to achieve and aspire to create?

Through Great Destruction Comes Great Innovation

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 left much of the city of New Orleans destroyed and devasted. 75% of the city was underwater. 25,000 health care workers were forced to evacuate. Millions of patients were in need of medical care and their medical records were also lost.

Dr. Scharmaine Lawson DNP, FNP-BC, PMHNP© FAAN, FAANP had opened up her home health business one year prior to Hurricane Katrina. She had become a pioneer in keeping in her patient’s charts on an Electronic Medical Record (EMR). Dr. Lawson was able to still visit hundreds of her patients and provide primary care services. She was also inspired to write the book, ‘House Calls,’ and now teaches webinars to inspire other nurse practitioners to follow her lead.

Look For The Non-Traditional Career Path

Even though 21 % of the US’s labor force has filed for unemployment during the COVID-19 crisis, the tech industry has been booming. Telehealth, gaming, and personal safety and fitness products are just a few sectors that have seen growth. Companies like Nintendo, Clorox, Reckitt Benkiser (makers of Lysol products), Peloton, Beyond Meat, 3M Slack, and Zoom are just a few of the companies profiting from the pandemic.

“Nurses don’t realize there are other career options where they can use their skills,” states Bonnie Clipper DNP, MA, MBA, RN, CENP, FACHE, founder and chief catalyst of Innovation Advantage. She’s the co-author of the Amazon bestseller The Nurse’s Guide to Innovation; The Innovation Roadmap: A Guide for Nurse Leaders; Artificial Intelligence and Robotics: The Nurse Leader’s Primer and The Nurse Manager’s Guide to an Intergenerational Workforce. “In nursing, we often hold ourselves back by thinking we have a narrow skillset that intended to do a certain thing. That ‘thing’ is to care for patients. It’s an amazing ‘thing’ that we as nurses do and we can branch off and do so many things off of the nursing platform. Bonnie’s advice for nurses who have been furloughed with a wide broad skillset who are looking for new career opportunities:

  • Don’t search for jobs with the title of “Nurse”
  • Search for the jobs you are interested in. It’s just a ‘cool’ super-power that you just happen to be a nurse!
  • Look broadly and think out of the box.
  • Lean into conversations that might interest you and where you possess that skill.
  • Make your presence be known.

Make A Career Move In Politics

COVID19 has brought many issues into the light. Healthcare, Politics, and Economics all have taken center stage.  Many politicians are not well equipped to handle all of these issues that citizens are facing. That’s when being a ‘Nurse,’ becomes an essential skill.

“To have leaders with professional and personal experience is so important!” Rachel Prusak RN, MSN, FNP, Oregon State Representative District 37 stated in a recent interview. Oregon, like much of the world, has faced many difficult healthcare and economic challenges. As a Family Nurse Practitioner, Rachel serves patients who are homebound and disabled. She understands first-hand what the challenges the underserved populations in her community have to deal with in the COVID-19 crisis. Her main purpose is to fight to pass legislation for affordable healthcare. In a recent tweet on twitter, she stated, “I’ve spent hours advocating for #ORLEG to continue reforming the primary care system. Today, my fight paid off. I chaired the first “Access To Primary Care” workgroup meeting. With COVID-19, it is more important than ever that everyone can access primary care.”

Sometimes things are just “meant to be,’ like Dr. Beth Haney becoming Mayor of Yorba Linda California, right before the COVID-19 crisis hit the country. Dr. Haney is a Nurse Practitioner and business owner and comes to the table with a broad personal perspective. During this COVID-19 crisis, she has been on interviews with ‘The White House,’ and ‘Homeland Security.’ Dr. Haney is the only Nurse Practitioner, alongside a Podiatrist, and the Orange County Public Healthcare Officer, serving on an ad-hoc committee appointed by the  Orange County Board Of Supervisors. The committee is geared towards assisting Orange County Businesses in recovering from the economic crisis created by COVID-19.

On the April 7th Board of Supervisors Meeting, Michelle Steel, Chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, directed county staff to begin preparations for an ad-hoc committee, that will include Orange County business leaders, geared towards assisting Orange County businesses in recovering from the economic fallout caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Haney offers some quality advice for those nurses and or healthcare professionals who have been furloughed and are looking for broader career pastures:

  • Look at your surroundings
  • Determine if you want to be there
  • Is it safe for you to be there
  • Make your move

Turn On Your Creative Charm 

Joscel James (JJ) RN, BSN’s mother, and grandmother both told him he would always have a job as a Nurse, no matter what happened in the world. As COVID-19 hit, he found his hours being cut as an Oncology nurse. JJ started making YouTube videos as ‘The Charming Nurse,’ 9 months ago, comedically educating the world about nursing. He has used the COVID-19 crisis, along with his nursing, entrepreneur, and comedy skills to create many funny videos titled “Essential Nurses, Reuse Everything, Nurses Week 2020, and Getting Ready for COVID-19.

JJ boasts that his passion is people. He is able to use the nursing profession as a platform to educate people while making them laugh as well as creating entertaining content. He encourages nurses to find their inner creative genius. “Creativity is literally whatever you want it to be!” He also states “Creativity is stripped away from nurses because we are put in a box and nurses have to follow rules and policies. It’s important to have a creative outlet. That creative outlet might just even lead you into a new career!”

Flexibility Is Key

Nurses who have not been reallocated have taken on extra tasks in their already arduous 12-hour shifts. Some are mopping floors in rooms, changing sheets, taking out the trash, and arranging rides because those people who did those tasks are gone. A ‘Jack Of All Trades’ nurses have also assumed the role of the phlebotomist drawing labs, social worker, and psychologist.

Many companies are offering nurses free online training courses and webinars to brush up their skills set. Some of these courses include ICU nursing and CCRN certification courses, ARDS and ventilator basics, and writing focused on how to get published in mainstream media. Travel companies and Locum Tenems agencies may also be another possible job alternative.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the world to reflect and take a pause. Perhaps it was needed since many times humans tend to get in a rut and don’t even realize. For many, it’s been a time to reevaluate their career goals and work environments.


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