Patients Say The Darndest Things

As nurses, we all have those stories that stick with us. Usually, on the verge of tears whether it be from laughter or from sadness, there are instances in your career that, for whatever reason, make their imprint in your memory. Below are some of the stories that I won’t soon forget (and also because I jotted them down in my notes app).

Alexa

I’m doing my evening rounds, making sure that everyone is tucked in and clean before the night shift arrives at 23:00. I walk into a patient’s room, and just as I do, the patient, laying in bed with eyes closed, asks, “Alexa what time is it?”

In the doorway, I respond, “9:45 pm.”

He opens his eyes, horrified, and states, “You’re not Alexa. You’re a human. Alexa is a robot and can tell you anything you want to know. She plays music too. My son made her.”

“Well, you got me there. Good night, sir.”

Swedish Lady

I had worked four days in a row, and somehow didn’t get floated AND got to keep my patients for all four days (woo!). One of my patients was this elderly Swedish lady with an adorable accent. We had been talking over the course of my time with her. She’d tell me about all her immigration to the US and how beautiful Europe was, and how I should visit one day.

While we were chatting after dinner, she had dozed off, so I turned out some of the lights and continued to tidy up the room. Then, from the hallway, someone had started to talk as they passed the door and woke her up, definitely disorienting her.

She turns her head towards the door and looks frantic. She whispers assertively, “You need to go. I heard something in the other room. My husband is home. I’ve never been unfaithful.”

I try to reorient her and tell her that she’s in the hospital and that her husband is at home. She keeps her head on a swivel until she finally exclaims, “It’s too late – get under the bed!”

Potty Break

This elderly woman needs help getting to the bathroom, and I am the only one available. She’s completely oriented, but definitely has seen better days as her mobility has deteriorated a bit, especially in her acutely ill state. She’s definitely too weak to be walking by herself, and maybe even with assistance, but she’s set on making it to the toilet. So, we muster up some strength and begin our trek to the bathroom.

As I help her into the bathroom, she’s shaky and definitely becoming more unsteady. She’s very appreciative for taking to time and energy to grant her wish. However, when we get into the bathroom and she’s about to sit down, she realizes that she can’t stay standing and pull down her underwear at the same time since she’s supporting herself with both arms, one on the side rail and the other on my arm.

She bashfully asks for help, and, of course, I obliged. Then she starts laughing uncontrollably, to the point where she almost loses her balance. I ask what’s so funny? At this point, I’m confused because this is a pretty regular scenario for me. However, she responds through the tears of laughter, “Sorry. Sorry. I don’t mean to laugh. You’re just really good at this and your handsome. I’m just laughing as I think about how many ladies have dropped their panties for you.”

I don’t think my face could have gotten any redder.

Starting an IV

This older woman accidentally pulled her IV out as she was putting on her sweater. I had offered to help her nurse out and put a new one in because she was a little swamped. The patient agrees, but makes me aware that she’s very much afraid of needles and will pass out if she watches. I told her that she can distract herself with the TV or something, and that should didn’t need to watch.

I grabbed all the supplies and proceeded to put in the IV. It was a pretty easy stick, and I didn’t have much trouble at all. As I’m working on securing the dressing, she peeks out of the corner of her eye, and says, “I know you’re never supposed to ask a man this, but is it in yet? I don’t even feel it.”

Registration

This happened when I was still in nursing school, and working in the ED registering patients and verifying their insurance.

One lady was brought in by ambulance from her nursing home. She had fallen and needed to go for surgery. I go back to her room to see if I can get a head start on her registration prior to surgery, but as I enter the room, she beckons me over and says, “There’s room enough in this bed for two, you know?”

“No, I didn’t know. That’s news to me. Thanks for your time. Someone will be in to assist you soon.”

Five Guys

This one isn’t so much a specific patient, but more so their families and other team members unfamiliar with your floor. It just cracks me up every time.

Basically, if they know the nurse they are looking for is a male by their name, and you happen to be male, they come to you so certain that you MUST be the person they’re looking for, even if there happen to be five other guys working in your unit that shift.

Again, nothing specific here, just a laughable moment that I’m sure some of you might be able to relate to a bit.

What are some of your favorite stories? Please share. I’d love to hear them!

5 Mottos That Guide My Nursing Practice

There are tons of things that contribute to your experience as a nurse. Collectively, they are what makes you unique and provides the backbone to your success in the profession. The countless hours in nursing school, busting your butt on the unit each shift, and everything in between brought you to this point in your career. Hopefully, we’re able to refresh and think back to the key points and lessons that have brought us success time and time again and continue to reproduce these outcomes moving forward. A technique that I use is having short expressions that I say to myself or to others as encouragement, to recharge, and to maintain a positive frame of mind. Below are some of the sayings that I use the most because they resonate well with me.

1. “Nursing is Nursing Wherever You Go.”

If you’ve read some of my other posts, you might have seen this written before. As a traveler, this applies to just about everything that comes with the territory: arriving at a new hospital, floating to a different floor, using a charting system for the first time, etc. It all comes down to your skills and taking care of patients. You always have your experience and judgment to fall back on. Those are aspects of nursing that are universal. I refer back to this one to alleviate the stress that comes with “being a new kid in a new school.”

2. “Work to Be Ahead Now So That You’re Only a Little Behind Later.”

Some days, you can never seem to catch up. No matter how hard you try to fight the current, it seems to just pull you back under. You don’t have time to think or breathe or pee or anything. Your work gets done almost out of desperation and in an attempt to do 15 hours worth of work in only 12 hours. Other days, there can be a bit of a lull (don’t you dare say the Q-word) and it seems like you have to force yourself from the chair at the nursing station because it’s such a rare luxury. This phrase mostly applies to these types of days because, as you may know, if there’s a lull, it doesn’t last long. I try to work to be ahead of the impending rush where all of a sudden the ED admits patients on rapid fire or everyone is trying to be discharged at the same time or the call bells are lighting up more than a Christmas tree. It also serves as a reminder that if your work is done, then you can help others, and, in turn, they may be able to help you later on as well if you become swamped.

3. “This is Somebody’s (Mom/Dad/Brother/etc.).”

This is probably self-explanatory. However, this is my goal mentality when caring for patients. It’s a variant of the “Golden Rule” – “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I try to care for everyone as I would care for my family members because they’re someone’s loved one. On days where I have needy, combative, and verbally abusive patients, I need to remind myself of this one a little bit more than I might like.

4. “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.”

I’m a little bit superstitious, and this motto follows me outside the nursing world as well. For whatever reason, it seems that I always find myself in a pickle when doing someone a favor or trying to do the right thing. Maybe it’s because I lower my guard or have different expectations or assume that karma will take over. Whatever the reason is, I say this in an effort to keep my guard up, lower my expectations, and stay vigilant. Examples of this include coming in on your day off to help but end up having a bad assignment and exhausting day or assisting another nurse and then one of your patients has an issue. It’s just an extra coat of mental armor that I use to keep me on point.

5. “All You Can Do is Your Best.”

There’s only so much you can do with the resources (e.g. time, staff, equipment) you are given. Hopefully, the resources that you’ve been given are enough to get the job done satisfactorily, but if not, you need to try your best to do what you can with what you have. We can stretch and bend and try to move mountains, but, at some point, something has to give. This saying works two-fold: 1) it holds me accountable to actually do my best and not just saying that I am and 2) it allows me to maintain my integrity because I know that I’ve done everything in my power and that I’ve left it all out there.

 

Do you have any mottos that you use in your nursing practice?

I’d love to hear about them. Please comment below so I can check them out.

2017: Year In Review

The end of 2017 marks the first full calendar year that I’ve been a travel nurse and about a year and a half in total. It’s crazy to think that this much time has passed, but here we are; another year older and another year wiser.  It’s been a wild ride at times, but all in all, it’s been a very rewarding experience. It also marks six months since starting this blog, which has come with its own unique challenges and kinks to work through. A lot has happened in terms of personal growth and life milestones. I’ve met some truly incredible people, been to wonderful places, and really tried to put myself out there. With anything that occurs over a span of time, it’s often beneficial to evaluate its impact and processes at certain checkpoints, and I see no better checkpoint than the year’s end. For this reason, I think it’s important to take some time, step back, and reflect. The following entry will, in essence, be a reflection of my experiences and a collection of my aspirations in an effort to keep myself accountable and examine my journey thus far.

Locations

Disclaimer: I do not pretend to be an expert in the following geographic locations. These are merely my impressions from the time I have spent living in these areas.

Since traveling, I have only worked in California (outside of the occasional per diem shift when back home in New Jersey on a trip). The reasons for this rest heavily on the facts that the pay rates are typically higher than other areas of the US and because the weather is just so much better than back home. This year, I split time between two of California’s biggest metro areas, Los Angeles and San Francisco. As anyone who has ever been there can attest, these two areas are nothing alike. Each is very unique and has its own character. The layout, the architecture, the weather, the people, the food, the industry, the landscape, the traffic, the attitude – all different. It has been great to uncover their personality, the things that make them noteworthy and evoke their distinctiveness. It’s been a pleasure to experience these two wonderful cities for more than just a short trip or weekend outing.

usa

california

tumblr_mu9n0y6sjH1svtp5bo1_1280The layout of Los Angeles can be best described as a bunch of smaller towns and communities that grew into one another to form a much larger city (about 503 square miles). Each neighborhood can be quite different from the next. Some of these areas are defined by ethnic groups, others by their industry, and others by a way of life. However, the overarching theme of the city is entertainment. After all, Hollywood is written in the hills and the “Walk of Fame” strolls along the pavement. The weather in Southern California is great. If you can imagine that day in late spring or early fall with no humidity and that’s about 75F where you say to yourself, “Wow, I wish the weather was like this every day,” you’ve just stepped into the weather in LA nearly year-round. For this reason, you sometimes forget what time of year it is and never get to tap into some of the heavier sections of your closet. Without competition, the worst part of Los Angeles is the traffic. It can be crippling at times. You need to map out your day in such a way as to avoid peak times and fully commit to your plan in order to prevent spending hours and hours in your car to drive only a few miles.

Bayarea_mapBy contrast, San Francisco is in Northern California and much less sprawling (about 47 square miles). San Francisco is within what’s known as the Bay Area, consisting of cities like Oakland, San Jose, and Berkley. I stayed a few miles east of the city where housing costs were drastically lower and my commute was much shorter. The Bay Area has very nice weather as well, but unlike Southern California, it will rain from time to time. Also, the autumns and winters are more like autumns and winters, but very much tolerable. The culture of SF is much different than that of SoCal. From my observations, it seemed like more of an international city where there were more tourists or those living there are first-generation immigrants. There is a strong influence from the technology industry and that is very evident. The city also has more of an accepting demeanor to it in terms of a “live and let live” mentality. Food is also a huge aspect of the culture there, so you’re always bound to find something yummy to try on Yelp. In terms of getting around the city, it’s a lot more bearable because they have a rail system, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), that you can use to get into and around SF from surrounding suburbs and cities. For those areas that the BART does not go within the city, an Uber or Lyft ride shouldn’t break the bank.

Personal Growth

Moving to a new place 3000 miles away from home is quite an undertaking. I guess I never realized how isolating that can be at times and the seemingly neverending FOMO (“Fear Of Missing Out”). It’s definitely not something that I’d consider easy, but, with time, it gets easier. I’ve gotten much better at staying in touch with friends and family, although it’s still something that I need to work on.

Luckily, I did not make the journey alone and have had the company of my girlfriend and fraternity brothers while in Los Angeles. It was great to have familiar faces in an unfamiliar place. We were able to explore together and enjoy some of what the city had to offer. In LA, I had my own apartment, which was a first for me. With that came its own challenges like furnishing and dealing with landlords. However, it allowed me to be on my own and learn to navigate through adulthood and make it up as I went along. Although I considered myself independent before, I really was now confronted with the necessity to become self-sufficient. Chores around the apartment, cooking meals, shopping, etc. It’s a huge difference from when you WANTED to do for yourself and when you NEEDED to do for yourself. It helped to align priorities and allowed me to appreciate those who had helped me before.

In the Bay Area, I did not initially have the well-defined support system that I had in SoCal. My girlfriend was unable to continue on my journey because she transitioned from a job that allowed her to work remotely into one that did not offer this luxury, and obviously my buddies needed to stay in LA to pursue their dreams in Hollywood. Out of fear that I’d be lonely by myself, I decided on staying in an Airbnb close to work where I had a private room in a home. My stay has been incredible so far (I’m still here as I write this). It’s offered a sense of belonging that I’m not sure would be present if I had decided to stay in a place by myself. The family has really welcomed me into their home, and I’m truly grateful for that. This living situation has been an interesting cultural experience as well since the father is from England, the mother is from Malaysia, Mandarin is frequently spoken in the home, and they offer me so many foods that I’ve never tried before (and LOVE). They also have two young children who are full of life and have made missing my princess of a niece much more bearable. In terms of making friends, I had to put myself out there a little more – trying apps like Bumble and MeetUp – but nothing besides work friends ever came to be. Fortunately, they’re great people and I enjoy their company in and out of work. In addition, I was able to link up with some travelers who I had worked with in LA who also happened to migrate north as well. I feel so blessed to have developed such a strong support network that I can turn to if needed.

Career

My contracts have taken me from a cardiac unit to orthopedics to chemo to a step-down unit and much more. As a traveler, you’re often first to float, and I have learned to really enjoy it. I love the variation. I appreciate the opportunity to grow as a professional and become more well-rounded in the process. One phrase that has really stuck with me is “nursing is nursing wherever you go,” and I find this to be so true, especially when you can bounce around from place to place. I’ve met some incredible colleagues, some of whom I remain in constant contact with and others I follow on social media where I can see updates in their lives as they wander into my newsfeed. Others, however, are on the opposite side of the spectrum: those I never care to work alongside or speak with if I don’t have to which is what inspired my post on dealing with toxic co-workers. Despite these few bad eggs, I’d say that the overwhelming majority of experiences at work have been positive, I’m learning every day, and incorporating new techniques into my practice.

I’m pretty happy where I stand at this point in my career. The ability to keep things fresh has allowed me to block boredom and indifference. I believe that traveling in this capacity has kept me entrenched in the nursing profession. However, when I do stop traveling, I believe the only reason would be due to the desire to pursue the opportunity to enter the ICU, which I’d need to come on as a permanent staff nurse and be trained at a facility.

Work-Life Balance

My work-life balance and overall health have improved greatly in 2017. Thankfully, I no longer feel the need to work close to eighty-hour weeks between multiple jobs to get ahead financially. In fact, I’ve worked much less than ever before and have made more than previously as a permanent staff nurse at home. Taking lucrative contracts have obviously helped in this way. But that’s the joy of travel nursing. It puts you in the driver’s seat and you can prioritize what matters most to you. For some, it’s the money. For others, it’s the location. For me, it was a little combination of both. I was able to take a HUGE chunk out of my school loans this year and still remain afloat financially without the need for overtime, a second job, or biting my nails from anxiety. I’m able to enjoy life and not always be on the clock, converting my time into a paycheck. The financial security has allowed me to live the way I want, see the world outside of my little suburban bubble in New Jersey, and be healthy – both physically and mentally.

Finances are something that no one ever talks about despite everyone having them. People can talk about the most polarizing topics pretty openly on social media and over dinner, but once it comes to the pocketbook, they shy away. I will not go into great depths here, but I just wanted to share what might be possible for you if you decide to start traveling and create a budget while sticking to sound personal finance strategies. Below you can see two graphs that represent take-home (after tax) money that actually reached my bank account.

yeartoyear take home

monthy takehome annotated

 

Blog

This blog started as a means to assist those getting started with travel nursing, mostly friends, former classmates, and coworkers. It offered me an outlet to share all the things I’ve learned after analyzing and reanalyzing and then overanalyzing the leap into a new career path. The aim was to write about more general things that would apply to many people who might just be starting to look into things. I will not deny that there are plenty of resources out there that can help get someone pointed in the right direction, but it pained me to see that many of them had hidden agendas or were backed by predatory agencies out there trying to gobble up the newbies. That’s why I try so hard to make things here very objective and unbiased in terms of employers. In some ways, this blog allows me to cope with being away from home in a positive way and allows people the chance to have insight into my life without necessarily reaching out. It also serves as a sort of therapy. I get to write about things that I might be personally struggling with and work myself through these situations, like finding housing or being the new guy. Just as a photograph captures one’s appearance at a given time, one’s thoughts and state of mind are captured through their writing. Hopefully, this blog will ultimately act as a breadcrumb trail throughout my career as a travel nurse and showcase the growth that I wish to undergo as a nurse, man, and writer.

Goals for 2018

  • Write at least two blog posts per month
  • Travel outside the U.S. at least once
  • Buy a home in New Jersey
  • Volunteer in developing country and/or disaster event
  • Improve my working proficiency in Spanish

Why Do I Travel?

Behind everything we do there is a why that gets us out of bed in the morning and fuels our passions. This why gives us our destination, but it is our responsibility to create the path to get there. Many times, like in a coloring book maze, it is easier to start at the endpoint and work backward to until we reach the starting point. The why gives us our mission, but it does not name for us the tasks. It defines what we truly want (spending more time with family, traveling the world, etc.). It allows us to refocus on the things we do and ensure they align with the goals we set and, eventually, meet. Our why will change many times throughout our lives as we also grow and change. In our pursuit of achieving these things we have set out to do, it also might be beneficial to have sub-goals along the way so that we do not become discouraged by failure.

Imagine, for example, you and your friend want to run a marathon. On your first day of training, you decide to run 26 miles. On your friend’s first day of training, she decides to run 5 miles, then eventually move up to 10 miles, 15 miles, and so on. Who do you think will likely be more successful? It will likely be your friend because they set smaller, more realistic goals in order to reach their overall goal of running the 26 miles. There are countless models for success when training for marathons. Many of which people have created, tweaked and adapted to their personal preferences. Much like this, I saw a life in travel nursing as a model that I could use to my advantage.

For me, my overarching why is to be the very best form of myself possible. As a result, I identified areas of my life which are important and needed to be improved upon. Self-worth is the sense of value as a person. For me, my profession in nursing is how I contribute to society in terms of my job, but I am also very fortunate because I have the opportunity to impact others on more levels than just showing up and punching my time-card. I have a responsibility to do more than that. Maybe it’s this pressure that I place upon myself and one that no one else expects of me, but nonetheless, this pressure is still present because I feel if I have not made someone else’s situation better, then I have made it worse by not improving it. Therefore, my nursing practice was something that I wished to enhance. I also understand that you are your most important asset. Without your health, you have nothing. So, my personal health – physical, emotional, mental – became a focus for my betterment. In much the same way that I needed personal health, I knew that financial health is important to provide for myself and loved ones. Lastly, I wanted a broader appreciation for various cultures, climates, thoughts, people, and places in order to better understand others and their viewpoints. In all, these aspects of my life have funneled into my goal of being the best I can be and helped me make my decision to become a travel nurse.

Nursing Practice

I got my start in nursing as a pediatric home care nurse. Everything was 1:1, mostly neurological issues (i.e. cerebral palsy, seizure disorders), and I loved it. The pay wasn’t great, but the kids were. They made going into work enjoyable and that helped me fall in love with nursing. They were all full of life and it was my pleasure to help them thrive the best they could. I spent my first six months as a nurse in this setting, focusing on my nursing skills – medication administration, g-tube care, airway management, etc. After I got the hang of things, I felt it was time to move into a new space in order to challenge myself. I eventually landed in a telemetry unit of a community hospital.

On telemetry, I was faced with a new set of challenges. I now had to learn to manage multiple patients with a whole new set of diagnoses. I needed to hone in on facility protocols and procedures to provide more safety to my patients and uniformity throughout the hospital. I needed to learn how to work as a part of a team, the art of delegation, and to coordinate with physicians, therapists, dietitians, social workers, case managers, and discharge planners. Through this opportunity, I was excited to learn as much as I could. The more I could learn, the better. I attended classes related to caring for our patient population. I pursued national certifications as soon as I could in order to better my practice. However, after awhile, it felt as though I was stalling out in my progression. I loved the people I worked with and the patients I was taking care of, but, in a sense, I wasn’t feeling fulfilled. Not to say that I was peaking or anything, but I knew that I was reaching the ceiling as far as possibilities were concerned unless I wanted to transfer. But, that also wasn’t what I wanted. It’s not that I wanted higher acuity patients or more of a management or quality-based role. I wanted patients of similar acuity with new and different problems. I knew that as painful as it was for me to do and leave my work family, I needed to leave the community hospital setting and branch out into new areas to acquire new experience. After speaking with multiple colleagues who had worked as travelers or were currently on assignment and doing hours and hours of research, I knew that the benefits would be worth the risk.

Now, as a traveler, I’m able to take my experience and apply it to new settings. I soon learned that nursing is nursing no matter where you go. Whether you’re floating to a new unit or it’s your first day in a new facility, your nursing care remains top-tier despite having different tools and systems at your disposal. I became even more confident in my skills and assessments. My clinical judgment became even more important, especially when I hadn’t quite committed protocol to memory or gotten the hang of a new charting system. I realized that ultimately you are your most significant asset and important tool. All of your new patient interactions build upon ones you’ve had previously. In a way, the patients you take care of today extend their thanks to those who allowed you to care for them yesterday as they’ve enabled you to care for them better. I, for one, am truly grateful for these experiences.

On day one of traveling, I found out that I would be caring for patients on telemetry, but on a neuro unit. To be honest, this startled me a bit as it was not something I was expecting. However, I knew that this new patient population would help improve my practice because I was expanding my knowledge base. On this unit, I took care of patients with hemorrhagic strokes, neurological and spinal surgeries, craniotomies, halos, and more. All of which I would have never really seen at my home community hospital. At other facilities, I’ve taken care of VATS patients, those with specific cancers, and some post-trauma. Again, had I not traveled, I may not have had the opportunity to care for these patients and increase my level of comfort.

Financial Position

A driving force of many things leads straight to the wallet or pocketbook. As many of you reading this, in order to fund my nursing school, I had to take out loans. (Granted, I probably didn’t have to accrue as much debt as I did by going to an out-of-state private university, but that’s another story for another day.) Of course, as a teenager with no credit, my family had to help as cosigners, but I was determined to tackle the balance on my own. With more than $120,000 in the hole after my college career, I knew my journey had just begun.

As stated previously, I started in home care and worked as much as I could. Many times working multiple shifts, six to seven days per week. No matter how much I worked, it didn’t seem to help bring that massive number down. I continued to live like a poor college student and budget meticulously. As I earned more money, I dumped it all into my loans.

When I got the hospital position, I continued to work both jobs as much as possible. The increased pay rate at the hospital helped, but I knew there was still room to grow. Luckily, the facility had a way to increase your pay rate through national certifications and clinical ladder progression. I saw this as a way to increase my pay, improve care for my patients, and elevate the organization. It was a win-win-win. However, after speaking with a few travelers at my facility and doing some research, I knew that travel nursing would be that extra boost needed to jumpstart my future.

Travel nursing has many financial benefits, including high pay rates and tax advantages. Of course, “high pay” is relative to the area and the level of need for the facility, but if you can live economically and budget, you will typically come out ahead. High pay paired with the tax-free stipends for housing and meals, leads you to keep more of the money you make. (I will go into this further on future blogs). As a personal example, after my first year traveling, close to 50% more money hit my bank account after taxes while working close to half the amount that I had been per week while taking off nearly a month entirely. Of course, there are additional expenses required when traveling, but if you maintain your tax-free eligibility and do your research into the area, you almost always come out ahead.

Well-Being

Too much of something, even if it’s good, is typically not so good. Just think of peanut butter. There’s that fine line between “OMG this is amazing” and “My stomach is killing me, I’ve had too much.” As mentioned earlier, I had been working a lot. I believe 27 days in a row and 70-80 hour weeks was when I realized that I needed a change. I was 25 years old and was burning myself out. I was a machine. Wake up, workout, go to work, try to have a social life, sleep, repeat. It got to the point where even in my dreams, I was at work. The more I worked, the more money I made, but it ultimately didn’t seem worth it. I was drained all the time, struggled to be with friends and family, and when payday came, more and more money was coming out of my checks for taxes. There was a positive correlation between work put in and money out, sure. But overall, it just didn’t seem worth it. It was also obvious that I was ignoring my health. I couldn’t cut corners at work so I would cut corners at home. I stopped working out as much, stopped preparing food to bring to work and instead grabbed something from the cafeteria or fast food place.

When I started traveling, I stopped working as much. My first contract was for 36 hours a week, and the facility didn’t really like to pay for overtime, so that was it. No more, no less. At first, I didn’t know what to do with all my free time, but I soon learned how to use my time productively in other ways rather than working. I got back to the gym, meal prepping, playing basketball. Hell, it was southern California in the summer – there was plenty to do. I noticed my stress levels drastically decreasing and was able to think much more clearly when I wasn’t constantly on the clock. As an added bonus, in California, the mandatory ratios for patients to nurses was significantly lower than what I was accustomed to in New Jersey. I now had 3 to 4 patient at a time whereas I used to have up to 7. There are also scheduled breaks which I could have only dreamed of. When drafting a contract, you can put your required time off so you can go on that vacation you scheduled, and if you’re feeling a little lazy, you can take a break between assignments. This all just made work more pleasant which definitely impacted my life in a positive way. With the combination of working less often and more desirable work conditions, I was able to make some much-needed tweaks to my work-life balance and get my health back in order.

Cultural Experience

Everyone back home is just like me. If I had to guess, I’d say 98% of my town is at least one of the following: Irish, Italian, Roman Catholic, white, or Republican. And, I might be lowballing that number too. I value people’s differences. When everyone and everything is the same, it’s boring. I love to learn about people and new places. I got my first real taste of differences in people when I went away to college. Again, much of the physical make-up was the same having gone to school in the North East, but at least people were from different places. I found myself fascinated with everyone’s hometowns, what crazy words or phrases they’d say, or their accents. Like seriously, who calls a water fountain a “bubbler”? Also listening to a kid from Boston go on and on about how Tom Brady is one of the most important people to ever walk the planet followed quickly by a New Yorker who thinks otherwise was quite entertaining. Although this was all great, I knew I wanted more exposure to the world and to explore away from my comfortable little corner of it.

I’ve spent the last year working in Los Angeles, and it was a shock from the start – I still can’t tell if I’m impatient or everyone is just slow. In all seriousness, being immersed in this city, which is basically a bunch of mini-cities that grew in together, has been wonderful. I’ve gotten to learn about many cultures, enjoy their food, and stare blankly and nod when they speak to me in their language. Korean BBQ  – they supply the food and skillet, and you cook it. Taco trucks on the street with everything in Spanish. My barber is an Armenian guy who speaks some English but not enough to have a real conversation and I know absolutely no Armenian. We don’t really speak except for exchanging hellos and me saying “number two on the sides, trim the top,” followed by our good-byes. However, I value these conversations because as I sit in the barbershop and get my hair cut, I’m able to absorb a little of their culture even though I don’t understand what they’re saying. I’ve also been able to practice some of my Spanish, which is something I’ve always wanted to do for myself but also for the comfort of my patients. I still follow my little script, “Hola. Me llamo Tomás. Soy enfermero. Yo hablo español un pequito,” but I’m able to actually communicate a bit more which is always nice.

Key Points

  • Travel nursing allows me to improve my nursing practice, world exposure, and financial and personal health.
  • You can expand your nursing experience in different settings using previously acquired skills.
  • Less money out in taxes means more money for you thanks to tax-free housing and meal stipends for those that qualify.
  • Take that vacation without having to worry if your PTO will be approved.
  • Explore new places and be immersed in their culture while on assignment.