Has anyone ever told you that you “can’t” do something? The majority of you probably just nodded your heads. Stacey, one of our team ER nurses, was told the same thing when she asked a question in a travel nursing-focused Facebook group: can I start travel nursing as a new grad with less than one year of experience? But Stacey didn’t let that stop her! On today’s blog, we’re asking Stacey why she jumped into travel nursing and what it’s been like so far since she took that risk. Though no travel nurse’s story is the same, a story like Stacey’s can help guide other nurses in similar situations who are looking for guidance!
Though Stacey is fairly new to travel nursing, her medical experience started over two decades ago. She began her career in the medical industry as a paramedic, but always dreamed of being a nurse and traveling to new places across the country. With several kids of her own and after inheriting her sister’s children after she sadly passed away, there was no way Stacey could jump into travel nursing right away. Being away for 13 weeks at a time just wasn’t feasible for her family. Travel nursing was a dream to save for Stacey’s future, or for when her kids were old enough for college, at least!
Meanwhile, being a firm believer in providing relief and assistance to underprivileged and under-served communities of the world, Stacey made short trips to volunteer as a paramedic in third-world countries. These eye-opening experiences helped prepare her for the future ahead, improved her communication skills with other medical staff, increased her consideration for patients, and strengthened her ability to adapt to different settings. It also tested her ability to travel and still be able to support her family.
With her children now grown and the support of her husband, a recently retired EMT, Stacey was able to attend and finish nursing school, get her feet wet in nursing by working as a flight nurse, and use her free time to research how to start travel nursing. She began her research by joining a Facebook group where nurses ask questions to other nurses and recruiters about traveling, which is how she connected with our very own Wendy Washburn, a senior recruiter and leader on our nursing team. Because Stacey didn’t have years of travel experience, other recruiters responded to her inquiry by telling her she needed experience, and that working as a flight nurse did not make her “ready” for travel nursing. Wendy was the only recruiter who gave a positive response, encouraging Stacey to jump in now and explaining that opportunities depend on different areas and facilities’ needs. After being insulted by other recruiters for being positive, even calling her “scary” and “insane,” Wendy became even more motivated to help Stacey find a travel position, and confirmed Stacey’s desire for being supported.
Stacey was right about that – Soliant, and Wendy especially, supported her from the start! No matter where Stacey was or what questions she had, Wendy always made sure to respond via text, email, or call with the answers. Her first assignment in the summer of 2015 was a perfect segue in to travel nursing, as she was treating patients on an Indian reservation in Shiprock, NM. Her experience volunteering in other countries definitely helped her succeed in this role, as many of the patients and the facility did not have as many resources as larger health systems.
The 13 weeks of Stacey’s first travel assignment flew by, and once she was ready to pack up and head home to Pennsylvania, Wendy called and let Stacey know that the folks at her facility requested her to extend for another 13 weeks! Stacey was flattered, surprised, and yet torn on how to respond. She loved the experience, but she missed her family. Should she take the leap to continue and gain even more experience, or take a break to see her family at home? Her first instinct was to ask the person she trusts the most – her husband. “Go for it,” he said. Because her husband was retired, he was able to take care of the grandkids as needed while their daughter is in nursing school. You guessed it – medical careers run in the family – which is one of the reasons why they’re so supportive of Stacey’s choices! Before she agreed to take the position, Stacey made sure her family realized that the next 13 weeks would include the fall and winter holidays, which are some of the most family-oriented seasons of the year. Of course, her husband said they would get through it, no problem! As you can see, in the family picture collage, they are Face-Timing on Christmas. A great relationship can get through anything, as Stacey and her husband proved!
Of course, after all the time apart and at the end of her extended assignment, Stacey felt it was time to take a break and reconnect with her family. She flew her husband out to meet her, then they took a quick trip to California to visit his hometown and sight-see. On their last sight-seeing adventure on the Queen Mary before heading home, Stacey got a call from Wendy, asking if she’d be interested in an assignment in West Virginia. Shocked but impressed with how soon her next opportunity would come up, Stacey wasn’t sure what to say. She just had a break – should she go right back into it and gain even more experience – this time in a different area of the US – while being closer to home? As you can guess, her husband was 100% supportive, especially since the facility she’d be working in was only a 2 hour commute from their home in Pennsylvania! The process this time was a bit different, since the facility requested for Stacey to start ASAP. As promised, Wendy helped her along the way. On their drive back to the East Coast, Stacey was able to complete all of her necessary paperwork and credentialing with Wendy’s help in arranging everything. As soon as Stacey arrived in West Virginia, she toured the facility and met with her new boss. As she waited by one of the elevators, a doctor exited the doors, and Stacey immediately recognized him – he was her medical command doctor when she was a paramedic! This assignment started to feel more and more like fate to her after that moment.
This mindset of assignments exuding “fate” continued in her next (and current) assignment in Meadville, PA. This facility truly needed someone like Stacey to take care of their patients, and it was only a 2 hour commute from home! Convenient enough to see her family when needed, but far enough to still be considered a “travel” position. This facility recognized staff by asking patients to fill out a gold card – called their “Wow! Experience” if their nurse/physician/etc. provided great service. Needless to say, the gold cards praising Stacey were so numerous that her manager didn’t have enough time to show her all of them each week! Not only did this make Stacey feel proud, but it makes us feel even more honored to have someone like Stacey on our Soliant team.
Stacey says the most meaningful part of the whole experience was that Wendy took a chance on her. Wendy believed in her, even though Stacey only had nursing experience as a flight nurse! Though Wendy was available for questions throughout the whole process, she delegated some responsibility to Stacey when it came to interviews. Wendy would schedule the interviews, but it was up to Stacey to “sell herself” during them. Wendy explained up front to both parties that they had the opportunity to say “yay or nay” after each interview. To this day, not one opportunity has been a “nay”. Though starting something new was a bit of a scary transition for Stacey, she emphasized that it how important it was that someone (Wendy) believed in her and would be there in case she “fell flat on her face”. Stacey believes the support she received helped her grow into the nurse she is today.
What’s next for Stacey?
Because of the positive experiences she’s had thus far and her love for traveling, Stacey wants to continue as a travel nurse for at least 5 more years. Her family, especially her husband, has adapted fairly well to Stacey’s new career since she started. Stacey & her husband are living on the road now, as they sold their house in Pennsylvania to purchase a motor home and set up “camp” wherever they travel. She’s hoping for a travel assignment in Tennessee or Louisiana next, in order to stay out of the snowy weather PA frequently gets hit with!
In the future, however, Stacey wants to settle locally to be close to her kids and grandkids. She’s already starting to plan reunions with some of the coworkers she’s met during her assignments. Her plan is to renovate a house in a nice area of Pennsylvania into a bed and breakfast. She wants it to be a place for her former colleagues to visit, reconnect, and reminisce. Many of them have already begun requesting to book it before it’s finished!
Any advice for nurses considering traveling?
Everyone Stacey talks to asks about traveling. She says, “the biggest thing is, you don’t get involved in hospital politics and cliques.” Stacey has found that as a traveler, since you’re not in one facility for a long period of time, you can “pick and choose” who you connect with and then move on. It’s exciting to develop relationships all over the country, find out who you can trust, and keep in touch with them! She’s already been to a wedding in New Mexico to celebrate a former colleague from her first travel position!
A lot of nurses fear traveling, since they don’t think they’d be treated as part of the staff. Stacey never felt that way. Management actually listened to her thoughts, suggestions, and insight into issues, because she has more experience in different areas and facilities than some of the staff who’d been in the same location for years. Having travelers on a hospital team brings a new perspective, new information, and new ideas on how to support the facility and patients better.
Stacey does admit that nursing is a hard profession. One nurse affects many lives and people’s happiness on a daily basis. Nurses work 10-12 hour shifts frequently, sometimes overnight. Most nurses barely have time to see their family members, let alone have a break, and when they do get that break – they need that time to rest and re-energize. It’s a busy, constantly moving profession. When a nurse works in one facility for a long period of time, they might feel secure in their job but could also be easily burned out. Stacey has connected with a few nurses who are clearly burned out in their current permanent position, yet they are too scared they will “lose everything” if they travel. Stacey’s response? “If you don’t have what you want now, what are you losing?” She encourages nurses to take a chance. Other nurses claim they wouldn’t be “good enough” for it, which makes Stacey laugh and respond with “look at me!” Someone took a chance on Stacey and in turn, resulted in no detriments. She admits she didn’t know what she was doing at first, but as she explains to other nurses, “you know your skills. You know how to treat the patients. By the end of the 13 weeks, you’re confident and comfortable. Then yes, you move on, but how exciting is that!” Every facility is going to have different processes that any new staff member has to learn – it’s just part of the industry. Every facility also has a system in place to make sure questions aren’t unanswered, which includes a managerial hierarchy to support different departments. Your recruiter is also another layer of support. Nurses have to know they’re not alone in this process and they can succeed if they have an open mind and can-do attitude.
Afraid you’re not “good enough” to start your journey into travel nursing? Don’t be! Follow in Stacey’s footsteps and try it out! Take the first step by checking out our newest travel nursing opportunities here.