THE UNKNOWN… How does the sound of those two words make you feel? Just the sound of those two words cause some anxiousness in my soul. Don’t get me wrong. I love adventure. Going places I have never been before and seeing new things that I could have only experienced limitedly by thumbing through travel magazines and books checked out from the library, learning the whole time. But, the unknown in terms of work environment, schedule, personalities of leadership, organization, practices that go against my core beliefs about how birth can and should be, and compensation when you are trying to really understand the ins and outs of contract speak when you have dependants can be cause for measurable stress.
Travel nursing as an idea then a way of life was originally brought about for what we believed it would give our children….homeschool on steroids. The idea was rather terrifying to me. Would my eight years of experience on an LDRP unit averaging 150 deliveries a month have me truly prepared for moving from one unit to another with very little orientation? Do I have the skillset, am I a quick enough learner?
I had heard that the traits of a good travel nurse was a solid skill set, friendly and warm, conversational, able to go with the flow (when in Rome), and have thick skin. With that came the warning, “Don’t expect to find new best friends at every assignment.” I knew I didn’t have thick skin did that mean I was doomed to fail.
Often nurses leave their permanent positions because they are unhappy or feel unappreciated. I wasn’t leaving my permanent job for any of those reasons, quite the opposite was true. Each of my co-workers were like family that I grieved leaving. Knowing that even if I was to come running back with my tail between my legs things at home would never be the same.
So much at risk was it really worth it? This is about the time when “Oceans” came out by Hillsong United. It must have been written just for me because it spoke to exactly where we were at at the time. God was calling us “out upon the water where feet may fail.” He gave us this dream, he was calling us, and he would be with us. We could rely on him, when we couldn’t He could.
There were tears on departure. Having a going away party helped us get to celebrate our friendships and say goodbyes, sending us off with blessings, hugs, and fond memories. The road trip to our first assignment felt like family vacation making us almost completely forget that we were headed into uncharted territory. The first sight of the new hospital made my heart jump into my throat, remembering that we are called to be strong and courageous but most of all obedient.
The first day on that first assignment was filled with computer competencies and tests. The lady told me that if I didn’t pass them then my contract would be terminated, I had two tries, “but don’t worry everyone passes.” Yikes! There wasn’t much direction as to where to go and HR acted as if they weren’t expecting me. I had to ask which way to go and what to do next. It was obvious that I was a traveler and uncomfortable in that role, but there was no judgement in that. I found my way to the new unit and was introduced to the manager, there was a short tour and staff introductions and then a chance to help with some triages. The work was the same. There is some testing of you by the staff but you can’t blame them for that. Nurses miss represent themselves too often in travel nursing, heck, in life itself. My philosophy on that is pretty simple and has served me well…it is way better for both of us if they know what they are getting and are not expecting something I can not deliver. Otherwise, the work is the same, the meds are the same, and the charting system can be learned quickly. Some providers are old school, some are disengaged or don’t remember ever being a patient themselves, others are very involved. Most people will be patient with you and expect that you will ask a lot of questions. If you didn’t have questions that, I’m pretty sure, would be a major red flag. The providers won’t expect you to know their preferences. Just ask and they will tell you as long as your brain is engaged they respect that. Everyone has bad days, if you are doing what you are supposed to be doing and you get a sharp response don’t take it personal just let it roll off.
The difficult personalities show themselves quickly and pretty much everywhere has them. Remember you are there for your patients. Spending more time with them and charting in the room as well as finding extra things you can do for them are good ways to deal with this sort of social situation as well as doing what that person has asked with a genuine smile no matter how rediculous or petty. Also, thank them for anything they do that is helpful to you no matter how much more they could have done.
I wish I could remember every details and probably I could if I went back and read my blog posts from each of those first days, but honestly I leave out a lot of the difficult parts, feelings, insecurities, moments where I really weighed in my head the cost of showing up with the consequence of not showing up. It is like child birth in that by the end of one assignment you have forgotten the labor pains of the first few weeks on assignment as you hold the fruit of the current assignments investments in your hands. Though as the first day of that next new assignment draw near you remember what labor was like. You take a deep breath, hold it, jump in, and ride the waves. At least now I know I have the skills. It always works out.
God has blessed me and in this endeavor we have been largely successful. Sometimes I feel like people look at travel nursing with stars in their eyes. I don’t really know why this bugs me so much. I have never been one to choose the hard road on purpose, but this journey is changing me.