The hardest part of travel nursing

Recommended Spotify listening: Traveler by Chris Stapleton

I’ve often been asked what part of travel nursing is the hardest. People always assume it’s the moving every three months or the long drives to get to the new locations. It’s not.

The hardest part of travel nursing is making the decision to do it.

I remember thinking it would be fun or a great opportunity, but I could never actually do it. How was I going to make friends? What if the hospital had different practices than I was used to? How could I leave my friends and family? It was just too difficult to think about.

It all came down to the fact that I didn’t want to leave the comfort of my everyday life. Who does? When you have a routine and know what’s coming next it makes life so livable. You know what days you’re going to work, you know what people you’re going to work with, and you know exactly where you’re going to be laying your head when you get home. It makes life easy.

But I challenge you to think about that. Is life supposed to be easy? Are we meant to become hollow versions of ourselves following the same routine just because it’s what we know and what makes life stress-free? Think about it. Do you remember your drives to and from work?…The grocery store? I sure didn’t. And that scared me even more than making the decision to uproot my life, change my career path, and leave everything I knew behind.

The thought of a mundane life fueled my signing a contract in Colorado Springs, CO. The strength it took me to sign that contract was something unbelievable. I made my recruiter stay on the phone while I read every single word of every single line of every single clause in that online document. I told him it was just to verify that I approved of the terms, but I had no idea what I was looking at. If I’m being honest with myself I was looking for any reason to back out of the decision I was making. I was looking for any small word that stood out to me so I could go about my already established easy life. The word itself didn’t matter…it’s what it signified. In its presence I would have been able to continue down my current path of staying in my career until I found a husband, had some babies, and quit my job to be a mom. 24 year-old Hannah hated that concept, but also yearned for it all in the same. Alas, the word I was looking for I did not find—I signed my first travel contract and in that moment squashed any lingering thoughts of what I thought my normal life would look life.

The moments after were pure panic. But something else was there too—exhilaration. Before that moment in my life there were exactly zero occurrences where I could have described myself as being exhilarated by something. My life was going to turn completely upside down, and I made the decision let it-nay, I caused it. It was exhilarating.

Yes, sometimes finding housing is hard. Sometimes you forget to pack something you need and you have to buy it again so now you have duplicates (I personally have so many salt shakers I’m surprised there’s salt left in the ocean). And sometimes you have to be alone, and that’s a hardship like no other. But the hardest part about living this amazing travel life is deciding you’re ready to abandon every other conventional path laid before you, and take a massive hokey-pokey sidestep onto your own path that you get to pave as you go. The roads you have to travel may be long, but the memories and the freedom you gain from this crazy, unconventional life last so much longer.

Colorado Springs, Jan 2015
My first day in Colorado on my first travel assignment. Hank was such a pup!

And so it begins again…

Spotify: From Eden EP – Hozier

“Jobs fill your pockets, but adventures fill your soul”

I recently decided to travel nurse again after a 6 month stent as a core staff RN at a hospital in Dallas, TX. I came to the hospital as a traveler, but decided to sign on to stay permanently. I signed a lease, bought furniture, signed up for cable and internet…all the things that I hadn’t been able to do as a traveler. I was prepared to feel so at home. I just knew I was going to enjoy having all my things in one place and having a place to call my own. I envisioned myself as Joanna Gaines…my overpriced apartment was going to be so farmhouse chic. I had artwork on the walls and succulents (they were fake, of course. RIP to all plants I’ve ever touched). I knew I was going to be so very happy finally being in one solitary place.

The problem was my solitary place turned more into solitary confinement. I felt smothered, claustrophobic, constricted. I couldn’t take a deep breath. I was completely alone and standing still for the first time in years and my knees buckled with the weight. I succumbed to my depression. Other than going to work, I was in bed. The curtains that Jo-Hannah Gaines had picked out were drawn completely shut. The couches that Jo-Hannah Gaines had excitedly picked out were unused. The flowers that Jo-Hannah Gaines picked out to add that perfect touch to the finished rooms were falling apart and rotting. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t eat. I cried. I slept. Sleeping was my only escape from the world around me.

I am grateful for my Mom. I can’t imagine how helpless she felt being states away and knowing I was in such a state. Multiple times she tried to come visit me and help me, but I denied her telling her I was fine and tomorrow was going to be the day I got up (it wasn’t). She was the one person who kept me somewhat level in my spinning, spiraling world.

Eventually, I got better. I made baby steps. A co-worker (who is now one of my best friends) recommended an NP to see and I was prescribed meds. Another co-worker invited me to supper with her and her sister and wouldn’t accept any of my lame excuses for not going. It was such a small, everyday gesture, but it meant so much to me in that time. I don’t even thinks she knows what she did for me, but feeling a part of something— feeling like someone cared—that made such a difference. Looking back, I really feel like it was my turning point.

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago: A co-worker told me how proud they were of the change they saw in me. Obviously I hid my demons at work, but I guess it still showed through the fake smiles and jokes. This co-worker described a change in me that I hadn’t even noticed. How when I first started at the facility I was so negative and sarcastic. I was quick to dismiss anything that caused me any extra work. I had such a negative attitude I don’t know how anyone put up with me. But she described a woman who had grown to face challenges head-on and with a positive attitude—a woman who found it important to uplift others as well as herself. She described me as someone I never thought I would ever be again: myself.

I stopped for a second to notice my life had leveled out. I was managing my depression. It was still there, but I could choose to not let it win. I kept my apartment clean. I was cooking for myself and exercising. I noticed myself complimenting others just to make their day. I noticed how my self-worth had returned, and how I expected more of myself and more from the people I chose to let in my life. I was proud to say that I was becoming Hannah again.

Something was missing though. I had my friends, my apartment, my dog, my growing career…but I wasn’t exactly happy with it.

So I signed a travel contract.

On the drive to Virginia I felt it. I felt my soul. At first it was just a flicker here and there, but on my detour to Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park I actually felt it. I had all the windows down and the cool air smelled like forest and rain. Hank had his head hanging out of the window, and I had my family’s amazing collaboration playlist playing on Spotify. For the first time in a while I thought “I’m happy”. Then I pulled off the road onto one of the gaps the park offered. The view took my breath away. Literally the breath caught in my chest. All I could do was stand on the barrier and gawk at the mountains, and the trees, and the river in such astonishment at the world we get to live in. I felt it then. It was like my chest wanted to burst and my heart ached from the beauty I was taking in. I took a deep breath. It was my first true deep breath in months—you know the kind that stretches all the way down to the bottom of your rib cage and causes your belly to poke out. That kind. I’ve never felt more guided in that moment or sure of a decision I had made in my life as I did on the side of that mountain.

 

My depression is still here. I feel like it always will be. But I needed Dallas. I needed to stop and see just how broken I had become. I needed my depression—my demons—to show their ugly heads and burn who I had become to the ground because the person I was then wasn’t who I am. It’s a slow process, but like Fawkes the phoenix (I told you I was a Harry Potter nerd) I’m rising from my ashes and growing into a better person.

I’ve chosen a job that can fill my pockets, but most importantly it has the ability to fill my soul. I think that’s all we really can hope for in this life. That and our acceptance letters to Hogwarts.

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My Koala-fications…

Why the heck should you be reading my blog?

I’d be asking the same thing…like who is this girl telling me I need to travel/travel nurse and what are her Koala-fications??

Well…Previously I said that I’m a travel nurse, but I wanted to expand upon that topic.

I’m a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) RN. I’ve worked in NICU, PedCVICU, Ped Trauma ICU, and PACU. I started my nursing career in 2011, and in those seven years I’ve worked in Mississippi (my home state), Alabama, Colorado, California, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Texas, and currently Virginia. I’ve driven to every single place I’ve worked, so I’ve seen a good bit of the country on the way to my assignments. Not only have I had some great road trips, but I’ve mastered the ultimate Tetris game of fitting one large dog and 13 weeks’ worth of essentials for the both of us into one SUV (hellooo SpaceSaver bags).

At this point I’ve made packing up, moving, and unpacking into an art form and can successfully do so with only a few bumps and bruises (okay it’s me…we’ll say a moderate amount of bruising and one asthma attack).

Not only that, but I have worked and am working with multiple agencies to get where I wanna go. Arguably that’s the hardest part of travel nursing—who the heck do you trust to govern your life for the next 13 weeks?? (more on agencies, recruiters, and contracts later)

I do travel with my large, fantastic, shedding, clunky, big, yellow dog named Hank. He’s been with me from the very beginning—from the beaches in CA to the Potomac River in DC (note to self: Hank does not kayak well). He’s registered to me as an Emotional Support Animal to help with my depression, but even with that registration, it’s not easy traveling with animals. We’ve learned how to make it work and now he looks forward to the words “load up”.

With all that being said, not only am I an experienced Travel RN, but I’ve also become an experienced traveler as well. An assignment is only ever going to be as good as you allow it to be. You have to be a good traveler in order for all that to happen. I have all the tips for long car rides, traveling with pets, detours, housing, making new friends, and adventures. And Bonus! If you’re ever where I am and wanna hangout I’m totally down. Let’s do fun things in our new city.

So now that you know a little bit about me and Hank I hope you’ll continue reading for tips, tricks, and general life lessons in the travel nurse world. Honestly, I learn something new with every assignment, but that’s what makes it so fun. Adventures should never become second nature—otherwise, what’s the point?

Until next time…here’s a picture of my car loaded up for my first travel assignment (Hank included). It definitely doesn’t look like that anymore.

First Travel Assignment

Welcome to The Travel Hanbook

Hey ya’ll! Welcome to The Travel HanBook!

I’m Hannah and I’m happy to finally have started a blog and I appreciate each and every one of ya’ll who decide to read it!

Long story short: I’m a Travel Nurse! After being in this career for roughly 3 years and having so many folks ask me about my stories, adventures, travel tips, agencies etc. I decided it’s time to put all my experiences in a place that all could have access to—a Hanbook so to speak (get it? Because my name is Hannah…I liked it.)

Additionally, I wanted this to be a free space for me to share some of myself with you. I’ve not been very open about it, but I suffer from depression and anxiety. I’ve been in heated battles with the disease for years (once I finally acknowledged I needed to battle depression and not succumb to it). I’ve found that traveling has helped feed my soul and pacify my demons, but I’ve also found that without medication I can’t even get out of bed to make a trip to the grocery store. So, not only am I going to be discussing travel nursing, I’m also planning on addressing my mental health and steps that I’ve taken to make it better in hopes that I can help others (and maybe ya’ll can help me, too).

So I want to keep it short and sweet for my first post. In future posts I hope ya’ll can get to know me better and I can get to know you! As a rule of thumb (according to my best friend, Ansley) Hannahs are passionate about 4 things: Dinosaurs, Harry Potter, Halloween, and Christmas. Keep that in mind as you read forward because this little nerd over here behind the keyboard in her Slytherin sweatshirt will more than likely reference them more than is appropriate for a 28-year old woman.

So sit down, buckle up, and keep your hands, feet, arms, legs, and tentacles in the blogging vehicle at all times because we’re all in for a ride!

Six Flags Over Texas