“My name’s Steve; I’m the new guy.” That’s how I introduce myself every 13 weeks or so. My preceptor gets a light-duty shift or two–that’s roughly the orientation period for a traveler. I learn best by hearing and doing rather than just watching; plus, I really enjoy Emergency Department patient care.
How has traveling affected me? It’s been almost a year and a half already! Traveling DOES pay more than being a staff nurse, and the extra income has enabled my wife and I to eliminate some debt. I’ve also bought some tools. I tell my wife the boat and motorcycle are tools.
I’ve worked in a small town and a big city in Minnesota – had a fantastic experience. I had a momentous experience, in New Mexico (which is where they make motorcycle riding weather.) And now I’m privileged to spend most of Winter 2018 in Vermont, where one of my coworkers is a bona-fide Vermont Syrup maker!
Before accepting this current assignment, I was told repeatedly, “this is a very traveler-friendly facility.” I’ve really enjoyed my first taste of New England! My favorite hospitals are the ones where the staff makes me feel like a part of their team instead of just a pinch-hitter who’s there for a few weeks, and in my fairly new traveling stint I’ve been at some good ones.
How does a travel nurse broaden their experience instead of being pigeon-holed into one subset of nursing? In my case, it was by being willing. “Psych patients are my favorite flavor,” I’ve said often. For many of them the ED is their entry point into the world of mental health care; many others use us as their primary provider. ERs see a lot of psych patients. That doesn’t necessarily make an ER nurse cross-trained to psych, but I enjoy caring for and managing those patients.
At one assignment, the psych unit was short-staffed and I obtained permission to float there for my days off at the ER; that was my first in-patient psych experience and it came by being willing to expand my knowledge and skill set…quickly. As a side benefit I hadn’t anticipated, that float experience paved the way for what would be my next travel assignment: charge nurse at a geriatric in-patient psych unit. That assignment required some quick development also, but after a two-month extension I did miss the pace and thinking of the ED.
There is no end of travel companies, and you’ll find that many travelers are on the roster at more than one. Why do I go to PPR first when it’s time to shop for the next assignment? Their motto is, “We put you first,” and at one assignment early in my traveling foray, my recruiter demonstrated that the motto was much more than a catchy tag line.
I like the opportunity of traveling, the chance to have some more autonomy in my schedule than most staff nurses get, and the financial benefits for my family. I do not like the extended time away from home, but my wife and kids and I have become adept at creating time and experiences together which helps to offset the lengthy absences. I enjoy the nuances that each different facility puts on standard nursing care, and I get to meet people and make some friends in very diverse parts of the country.
Whether far away or close to home, hospitals need the help that we provide. The ability to adapt to their culture and their team, the ability to absorb a hyper-condensed orientation quickly, and the willingness to enthusiastically jump into new experiences to help them treat their waiting patients.
With (usually) a year of experience in your specialty, you can pack a bag and strike out on an uncharted adventure of your own.
By Steve McElmurry – PPR Travel Nurse