The past few years have been rough for all of us. Everyone can relate to feeling burned out, maybe not in the same capacity as healthcare workers, but burned out to some extent. It’s really inspiring to see a group of women coming together to combat stress in a healthy way. Not until recently have we seen women really featured in outdoor films and celebrated as protagonists. When you try to recall outdoor films that have been recently produced, you’ll be hard pressed to think of more than a couple that truly focus on women.

We’ve had the privilege of chatting with one group of women, three ICU nurses from Bend, Oregon - Kali, Kasey, and Steph, who turned to each other and to trail running as a means of coping during these difficult times.

These nurses use running, friendship, and adventure as their antidote to burnout from working in healthcare. Together, and with the support of their friends, they’re training to trail run the highest mountain in the Alps, Mont Blanc. Over ten days they’ll cover 112 miles of rugged trail and 35,000 feet of elevation gain. UTMB, or The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, widely considered the most competative trail ultramarathon in the world, is held in the same area. From compassion fatigue and trauma at work to finding solace in each other and nature, the journey is transformative.

Through "Frontline," filmmakers at Steep Motion aim to shed light on the vital conversations surrounding burnout and the necessity of self-care and support. This film isn’t just about a remarkable group of friends; it’s about the importance of camaraderie, the therapeutic wonders of nature, and the struggles and triumphs experienced by nurses worldwide.

Read on for some behind the scenes about the making of their documentary, “Frontline”, hear their candid thoughts what they want to share with the Oiselle community.

Steph Turner

Travel has always been a part of Steph’s life. When she was one, her parents quit their jobs, sold their house and they lived out of a Dodge van- the original van-lifers. As an ICU nurse, her outdoor pursuits and friendships have become even more important after a hard couple of years.

From Steph: Often women tell me they are not a "real runner" because they only run three miles or average a 13 minute mile pace. I am always saddened to hear this. If your feet are moving and your arms are swinging then you are a runner regardless of the distance or pace you go.

I also like to tell people that trail running can often be a lot of hiking. Don't be intimidated by all of the steep ups and downs. Run what you can and it's okay to walk.

I think nurses tend to befriend each other because of the job we do. We often take care of patients in devastating situations and it is a reminder to us that life is short and to be enjoyed. For many of my nursing friends, getting outside to recreate allows us to feel alive as well as to decompress from the stress of our jobs.

My hope from this documentary is that people will become more aware of the compassion fatigue healthcare professionals are facing. While the pandemic is over I feel that nursing burnout is higher than ever. I hope healthcare professionals are more open to sharing the grief that we all suffer from the nature of our jobs.

Kali Seisler

Kali’s been playing outside forever. She began documenting her outdoor trips with her female friends in college. From ski touring to mountain biking, her adventures have kept her from burnout and allow her to keep showing up for her coworkers and her patients.

From Kali: I hope that other runners who are thinking about getting into trail running know the big secret: you don't have to run all the time. Trail running is a ton of walking. Which gives you more time to chat with friends, experience nature, check out your surroundings and most importantly (to me), be silly! I love the mix trail running provides of getting a hard workout in but also sometimes just having time to absorb my surroundings and remember how small my problems are and how beautiful the world is. If trail running or hiking isn't for you, that's okay too. I just hope everyone can find something that brings them peace and joy and allows them to decompress from their work. Being a nurse is stressful and having an outlet to decompress is instrumental in being able to sustain this career. If you can do that with friends too, even better! And if you can do it with friends that will wear costumes and tell funny jokes, well you've unlocked the key to happiness in my opinion.

Our amazing group of woman exists because we all believe having a crew of woman to support each other makes us stronger. We lift each other up, cheer for each other and standby our friends through good times and bad. Having a group a girlfriends like this is like an extension of family.

We hope that others can watch this movie and be inspired to get out in nature with their friends. We love doing hard things and completing challenges together so we can celebrate together. Having time our in nature also allows us to process our feelings, talk through life and our struggles and get feedback from a trusted buddy. The role nature and friendship play in providing us therapy is truly the heart of what this film is about.

Our amazing group of woman exists because we all believe having a crew of woman to support each other makes us stronger. We lift each other up, cheer for each other and standby our friends through good times and bad.

Kasey Hostetler

Kasey has spent her life dedicated to movement. She played collegiate soccer and has been backpacking and running ever since. She finds solace in nature and relief in friendships.

From Kasey: As women, we need to empower one another. We need to be each other's allies, mentors and cheerleaders. If you don't have a lot of other female friends, or the ones you have don't make you feel like the strong, beautiful, and worthy person you are, find new friends. In this society, women get put down and controlled enough by men in power, we don't need to do this to each other. Find your sisters out there, because they do exist, and build each other up.

Keep running fun. The competitiveness and need to one up other strong runners is pervasive amongst running communities everywhere. Strava and other forums make it easy to compare ourselves to others. Turn your watch off, bring a friend along, and just enjoy the freedom of movement and the fresh mountain air in your lungs. Enjoy running for all the reasons you loved doing it in the first place.

Your people are out there. You may be bound by a similar line of work, a similar set of struggles, or similar passions. Find them, hold them close, and make plans with them to get out and experience the world in whatever way feels meaningful to you. You'll find that you will heal and grow through these experiences, and come out on the other end a stronger, more resilient person.

What can others learn from this documentary and them?

I hope that people can see how movement and getting outside is healing. I want women to feel inspired to go outside, find a group of friends, and feel empowered to push themselves to try something out of their comfort zone. It’s not just elite athletes that can accomplish awesome things. Kali, one of the nurses, decided to give trail running a try first and foremost to spend more time with her friends. In producing this film, I realized that trail running is for everyone- you can even walk most of it if you want! I also hope that people will feel inspired to be in nature as a healthy way of dealing with their own burnout or mental health challenges.

Additionally, I hope that this film helps us to get past the headlines and better understand the struggles of people that have chosen a rather difficult career path. Frontline shows us what being on the trail teaches the women, why they made the choice to be in the healthcare profession, and how this sisterhood supports their journeys both professionally and personally.

What have been some big highlights and/or challenges of making this documentary?

The short timeline has definitely been a challenge. We decided in March 2022 that we wanted to tell their story and their trip to the Alps was in September 2022. Most films like ours have more than a year from concept to production. In the beginning you storyboard, find funding, create pitch decks, spend a ton of time with your subjects, and explore several angles. With this film, we dove in head first with filming and are now trying to secure our funding. Usually it is the other way around. Some big highlights- being out in nature with such positive, supportive women with the background of such incredible views. It was inspiring to see the transformative power of nature first hand and witness a group of women accomplish a dream together.

What impact do you hope for with Frontline?

This film is not just about nursing; it is about the human spirit, the importance of camaraderie, the therapeutic wonders of nature, and the struggles and triumphs experienced by nurses worldwide. Through "Frontline," we aim to shed light on the vital conversations surrounding burnout and the necessity of self-care and support.

We want the impact of this film to go beyond entertainment, serving as a tribute to the resilience of frontline workers, a plea for awareness, and a celebration of the human spirit's ability to find hope even in the most challenging circumstances.

Watch the trailer here:

September 02, 2023 — Nicole Southwell

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