Saint John nurse leaves hospital career to create interior spaces for health-care workers


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Four months ago, Lisa Daye, a licensed practical nurse, quit her job at the Saint John Regional Hospital to work full time as a mostly self-taught interior stylist. 

Because she is an LPN, her story wasn’t captured by a recent survey of registered nurses in New Brunswick, but in many ways she’s a living example of what they said. That includes the stunning report that nearly half the nurses who answered the survey are looking to leave their nursing jobs. 

Daye agrees with the 90 per cent of nurses who say the quality of health care started to deteriorate about three years ago.

It was around that time that Daye got kicked in the face by a patient. This wasn’t the part that hurt the most, she said.  It was the fact that she got docked an hour’s pay so she could get an X-ray.

Daye says she loves creating a room that feels like a retreat. This is a photo of a bedroom in her house on the west side of Saint John where she experiments with ideas before pitching them to clients. (Submitted Lisa Daye)


“From that point on, I decided, you know what? I’m not really valued,” said Daye.

Now she is her own boss. Her business, Meraki Daye Interiors, focuses on creating calm, relaxing spaces in the homes of the health–care workers who became her friends over her 14-year career. 

She said 85 per cent of her clients are nurses who are still grinding it out in a health-care system that they feel is beating them down. 

Daye said it’s made a huge difference to take control of her life. Gone are the night shifts, the weekends, and sacrificing holidays with her family.  

She said she tries to create a feeling of calm by using soft fabrics, dark colours, houseplants and other accents that are comforting. For the shift workers, she adds room-darkening curtains in materials that can also dampen sound. 

Lisa Daye says the pandemic made most aspects of her job more difficult physically and emotionally. She says the restrictions on visitors were very hard on families, especially when only one parent was allowed on the neonatal unit. (Submitted Lisa Daye)

There are many stressful noises in a hospital, Daye said. 

For her, it’s the sound of certain equipment that put her on alert, including the alarms that would go off on a ventilator when a baby struggled to breathe. 

Daye worked mostly with premature infants, including babies suffering from opioid withdrawal as a result of their mothers’ addictions.  

Not all of them survived. 

“Then it’s like the hush after a snowfall,” said Daye, describing the silence that would descend on the unit following an infant’s death. 

Daye says she mostly does renovations that don’t require demolitions, but she is teaching herself an increasing number of skills, such as laying tile and flooring. Some of her do-it-yourself social media videos get thousands of views. (Submitted Lisa Daye)

Wednesday, the New Brunswick Nurses Union released the results of a survey conducted in June. 

Of the more than 4,100 nurses who responded, 47.48 per cent said they would leave now if they could, are currently looking for alternative work, or already have an exit strategy in place. 

Pandemic spurs female startups

Before the onset of COVID-19, women in North America were starting up businesses at a faster rate than men, says Eleanor Beaton, a Nova-Scotia based coach for women entrepreneurs.

“And what we saw as a result of the pandemic and the huge stressors being placed on people, particularly in health-care fields, is that it accelerated a situation that was already happening,” she said. 

Beaton said she cautions women to think carefully before leaving their paid jobs.

“The desire to start and run a business and the reality of starting and running a business are two very different things,” she said.

One of the challenges facing women is that they’re often underfinanced right from the start, said Beaton. 

Also, there’s a steep learning curve for any entrepreneur, including learning how to sell and market yourself. 

It helps, said Beaton, to have a solid cash reserve. 

Another option is to start developing a business as a side hustle. She said that’s the time to develop a supportive network to generate customer referrals and investment.

“It’s easier to do it while you’ll still have a paycheque,” said Beaton.  

Daye said she didn’t quit the hospital until she felt she could replace her income.

Two years ago, she went part time so she could develop other skills. In September 2021, she felt ready to make the leap and worked her last shift on Sept. 23. 

Daye said she also has a fallback. She can work in private nursing. 

“If the worst happens, I can get a job anywhere,” she said. “Nurses are needed in every nursing home, and I have a good reputation as a nurse. I’ve always done a good job and I’ve been good at my job.”

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