Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Young Snow Bird

...is something I haven't ever thought to describe myself. But here I am, in Arizona, during the winter months, away from all that cold white stuff I have previously surrounded myself with for 29 winters. Why didn't I do this sooner? :)

I spent August through the end of October in Monterey, California at a 200 bed hospital in their ICU. Monterey is beautiful to visit, which is what everyone says when I tell them where I spent my first assignment. Try: foggy almost everyday and in the 60-degree range. Not my idea of summer, when back home (in Michigan) everyone was talking about 80 degree days and I was missing my lake. But this was my first assignment, which took all of about four months to come by. I will talk about the frustrations of landing my first assignment in another post, but needless to say, fate had her part and I am thankful to have had the opportunity.

Tucson, Arizona is the second stop on this travel nursing venture. It was all about timing (again), and my newest recruiter, Nina Velasco from Onward Healthcare, heard about this job only A DAY before my other recruiters, and that was all it took. Well, that, and my sweet phone interviewing skills.

The hospital is a 60-bed heart and vascular center, which is 14 ICU beds, and the rest telemetry. I've worked both, and honestly do not have a preference one way or another. I guess I get that from my Munson roots, where I worked in an acuity adaptable open heart unit. One day I could have a fresh heart from OR, the next could be 3 step down patients. I love nursing, and especially open heart nursing, or I should say I love taking care of the open heart surgery patient, no matter where he/she is in his/her recovery. This does not make me a *good* ICU nurse because I actually LIKE talking to my patients and their families.

Unfortunately, travel nursing and open heart nursing don't exactly go hand in hand. This is mostly unfortunate for me, because this is where I feel most at home. Open heart surgeons tend to be a little, how shall I say this...picky. They like to know the nurse recovering their patient is going to do a good job. Seeing as I'm the new kid on the block, the surgeon doesn't know me from Jack, and probably doesn't feel comfortable letting me watch over their baby for the night. Oh, and the part where I never took care of an IABP patient because we didn't have them very often, and when we did, they went to more "seasoned" nurses. Yeah, this part sucks.

But I am learning a lot, despite not being able to take care of hearts. First, I am learning to be very flexible. I think I knew this about myself before, but traveling actually made it come into practice. Each hospital has new rules, policies, procedures, charting, and PEOPLE, and you are just expected to fit in and get the job done. Sounds pretty easy, right? Well, luckily I'm a pretty nice person, smart, and learn quickly. It also doesn't hurt that I offer to help you bathe your patient, or help with a turn, does it?

Second, I miss having friends at work. I did not realize how much I would miss this (and all of my Munson peeps), until I actually left. I even miss the finicky CT surgeons I worked with! I am very fortunate to be traveling with the love of my life, but it is good to have friends at work too. Making friends while traveling is hard to do because of the usually short (3 months) duration of a contract, and the older I get, I find, the harder it is to make friends. This is not always the case, as I am lucky to have met another traveler here in Tucson. She's such a sweetheart, but unfortunately has not liked traveling due to a number of things including a car accident, a crappy travel company & contract, and a relationship not working out. I think I'm helping her keep her sanity while she finishes up her contract here.

Third, I still love nursing. This is not completely surprising to me, or those who know me, but just validates that I made a really great career choice. I am fully invested in nursing, nursing education, and continuing my own education so that I can help others achieve what it is I love so much.

So, I plan to be a snow bird this winter. It will be nice while it lasts, but eventually I have to go back to school.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Exciting life ahead...

This May, I will finally graduate, again. I say again because this will be my second degree. The prospect of putting additional letters behind my name, well it isn't all that exciting to me. It seems that other people are more excited about my graduation than I am, but that's no reason to not have a party :)
But what to do after this built up graduation? There has been something that I keep coming back to, and that is my love for traveling. It is quite convenient that I have a job that allows me to travel and work, all while getting paid more than I would if I just settled down somewhere and got a regular hospital job. Where do I sign up?
While it sounds like a dream, there are quite a few questions to be asked, and things to be secured before one ventures out across the country. First, is to find a reputable company. This is where I'm starting. Ask your fellow nurses if they know someone who has traveled, and get in contact with them. Find out which companies they have worked for, and which ones they would work for again. Repeat business is a sign of a good company. Actual or past travelers are going to give you honest information, while the recruiters are going to give you sweet talk to get you on board.
You also must decide where you want to go. Someone who only wants to go to Hawaii and work day shift will have a much harder time finding an assignment than someone who specifies "somewhere warm". Be flexible, it will only open more doors.
Other important information to find out: benefits, housing, and of course, pay. Benefits can make or break a deal for some people, but if they aren't so important to you, you can get that extra money in your paycheck. Housing is usually provided, and some companies even offer a stipend if you want to secure your own housing, or perhaps stay with someone you know (that can equal more cash in your pocket). Pay is generally something that draws nurses to traveling. I've seen upwards of $50/hour plus completion bonuses. Now what you have to do for that $50, I can't say, but I assume that you will be working hard for the money. There are also referral bonuses that come in handy when you know people that want to break into the travel nursing scene.
Keep in mind, that each state you travel to requires that state's license, unless of course you are luck enough to live in (and have residency in) one of the NLC states (see https://www.ncsbn.org/nlc.htm). Don't freak out here, YOU DO NOT NEED TO TAKE THE BOARDS AGAIN! Getting another state's nursing license is a fairly easy process. They call it endorsement. This endorsement comes with a fee, but does not incur the headache that taking a national board licensure examination does. The travel company may or may not reimburse for this fee, so find that out beforehand. There are also usually fingerprinting fees, drug testing fees, and other "fees".
Not to mention, how the heck are you getting to where you need to go?! Some people find a road trip fun and exciting, while others like to jet set across the nation. Things to keep in mind include: how long you are planning to stay, how many items of clothing and shoes you can fit in your luggage, and if you can really bear to part with you collection of unicorns.
If you are considering travel nursing, remember, this is just a brief synopsis of preliminary considerations before joining the world of travel nursing. It can be a very rewarding career choice.
Just remember, travel nurses must learn to pack lightly, and be flexible.