We believe hearing from our travel nurses about their experiences firsthand is extremely important; they are full of insight and lessons learned. This is part 3 of 3 of Caitlin's experience as a Travel Nurse. We hope you are able to learn something from her own experience to better your own.
Describe how COVID-19 has impacted your travel experiences (on days off and at the job):
COVID-19 has dramatically changed my experience as a travel nurse because I chose to take a crisis COVID-19 contract. I moved in the middle of the pandemic from San Francisco to Los Angeles. I was very nervous moving as I did not know the environment that I would be walking into. Stanford hospital took very good care of their employees and I was frightened to leave my comfort zone, yet again, for the unknown. I am over 3,000 miles from home and after volunteering to care for the COVID patients on my previous unit at Stanford, I knew moving back to Kentucky was no longer an option for me. Three out of the four of my grandparents are living and are all in their late 80’s so they are part of the high risk population that we aim to protect. I met a family through Air B&B that were brave enough to take me in during these unprecedented times. The duplex apartment meant that my dog and I shared close neighbors with 3 other tenants. I’ve grown close with them during quarantine and have even been able to pick up on a new hobby and learn guitar from my neighbor. The family watches my 60 lb lab, Bad Bad Leroy Brown, while I spend long hours at work. This relieved the angst I had for leaving my furry friend at home alone for long hours.
Choosing to work on a COVID-19 unit meant that I was a vector to each person I came into contact with. This resulted in me not being able to help my uncle in the dying process when he was placed in hospice. I had to mourn his death alone as I could not attend his funeral. Initially, I felt resentful from this, but I later understood that I could use this anger and pain to be empathetic towards the patients and families who were suffering. Times became more difficult for me when the curve was flattened and I was called off from work 10 times during my contract with no guaranteed pay. However, the hospital embraced me during these hardships and offered me a full time job to become part of the Cedars community. Everything happens for a reason. The Universe or God or Great Spirit has always provided for me during times of trouble. I have no doubt that I am exactly where I am meant to be despite the difficulties that I have faced in the last 3 months.
Any advice for nurses/students who would like to get into traveling healthcare?
I always wanted to be a travel nurse, but never had the courage until my life was flipped upside down. Gain your initial experience for at least a year, preferably 2 years, and then quit your job and take the plunge. When I die, I will never look back saying, “I wish....” It wasn’t always easy and I wasn’t always happy with the decisions that I made when I chose to move, but my experience helped me love and appreciate where I am at so much more. I have lasting friendships that I will cherish for a lifetime. I have dozens of stories to share with friends and acquaintances (maybe I should write a book about them, ha). The most important thing that has happened to me on the road was that I found myself. My perspective of the world has forever been altered because I chose to leave Benton, KY. Look it up on the map. It is lovely, but I am beyond grateful that I made the decision to leave my comfort zone. I made a promise to myself to do everything that scared me. The result was paramount in becoming the woman I am today. I am very open minded and accepting now. There is no room for judgment in my world - only love and compassion. I am a better caregiver and friend to every person I meet. There is no “wrong” way to live your life. I’ve learned to follow my moral compass and take the aspects that “feel good” and fit towards the idea of the woman I am. I’ve followed what has made me happy and I believe every human should learn to do that.
Words of wisdom
If you think you have it figured out, you don’t. There is always a plot twist around the corner. One of the greatest lessons I have learned traveling is that I don’t know anything at all. I’m a sponge ready to absorb all new knowledge. You can learn from EVERY single person you meet. Make friends with the dieticians at work, environmental services, the MDs, nurse technicians, phlebotomists, X-ray techs. You will learn so much more about the intricacies of the hospital along with things you’ve never thought about before. It will make you more patient with your colleagues and inherently helpful by understanding their workload. The idea of monotony scares me, but even the most free spirited of us thrive off routine. Hold tight to that while you are on the road. Every hiker hates the way to the top, but the summit views make even the highest elevation gain worth it. I’ve learned to lean into the difficult times and seek the lesson in the pain. This too shall pass. I promise you that it always does. Even when the future seems bleak, there is always a reason to smile. If you can’t smile, help someone else do so. The result is far more rewarding than any self seeking behavior. You are never in too much of a hurry to help someone. Be kind. One day someone will show you the same mercy. We are all human. Don’t be so hard on people, but, most of all, yourself. If you struggle with self criticism, ask yourself what the 5 year old version of you would say. Little Caitlyn tells me that she is a peacemaker, a country music singer, a healer, an animal lover, and she gives good hugs. Since I can’t give my embrace, COVID Caitlyn settles for a little booty shake and shimmy. After all, life is about flexibility right?! Peace and love ya’ll. :)