A Letter to Travel Nursing

A Letter to Travel Nursing
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Travel Nursing,

Over the past four years, you’ve given me immeasurable happiness.  You’ve given me numerous opportunities to meet new people, travel the world, pay off debt and save money, and live in multiple cities across the United States.  But as all good things must eventually come to an end, and all love stories falter… my time with you has come to a close.

This isn’t because you weren’t incredible.  You took me from Kansas City where I experienced devastating heartbreak to the comforts of my parent’s home as I healed and got back on my feet during my first travel nursing assignment in Omaha.

You then allowed me time off to further heal and recover as I decided to put others’ needs before my own and fly to North Macedonia to volunteer at the Children’s Hospital of Skopje with Project Hope.  It was there that I fell in love with traveling – specifically solo traveling.  I worked hard during the week, teaching the nurses how to use UVC lines, PICC lines, how to effectively prevent infection and properly wash their hands.  I taught mini-lectures on thermoregulation, infection control, VAP prevention, ROP, and more.  And then when the weekend came I took off to explore countries I hadn’t been to before.  Solo, I visited Barcelona, Munich, Vienna, Ljubljana, and Zagreb.  There were a lot of tears as I experienced the growing pains of solo travel and also in the hospital as I watched baby after baby die.  But overall the experience was amazing and one that I wouldn’t have had without you, travel nursing.

After you allowed me two months off from the bedside, I came back refreshed and renewed and ready to tackle the NICU once more.  You offered me an assignment in Santa Barbara, California and I took it without thinking twice.  It was, after all, what felt like my first REAL travel nurse assignment, away from the comforts of my home, friends, and family.

It was in Santa Barbara where I realized not all NICUs are created equal, and dating on the west coast is a b*tch.  Santa Barbara was where one date told me I looked pregnant, one date told me I looked uglier than my profile pictures, and one date took me home in a frenzy after I disagreed with him about matters that shall not be discussed here.  I paid $3,200 in rent (wow that was painful), despised the recruiter I was working with, made surface-level friends, had my best friends visit me, and truly deeply fell in love with the beauty of Santa Barbara and the surrounding regions.  To this day I still claim Santa Barbara to be my favorite travel nurse assignment in terms of location.

After deciding my bank account couldn’t take Santa Barbara any longer, you then took me to Phoenix, Arizona where I got caught up in a scam and lost $4,600 to a 65-year old con-man named Ron.  After starting out on the wrong foot, Arizona quickly swept me up in its beauty and uniqueness and I ended up falling head over heels for the state and forgetting all about Ron in the meantime.  I met more than surface-level friends, friends I still keep in touch with to this day – and had the time of my life exploring the Arizona desert.  When I travel abroad I still tell everyone, “If you visit one state in the US, make it Arizona”.

Continuing on the high of Arizona, you then allowed me to spend eight weeks in Austin, Texas again, having the time of my life.  Although I moved in with a psycho girl who was weirdly possessive of her brother, overall Austin was amazing.  It was this assignment that I worked my first strike, decided I was going to take a long break from the bedside and go on an extended solo trip to see the world, and saw the very sexy Kenny Chesney and Old Dominion in concert.  My eight weeks there flew by and I so deeply wish that my assignment was much longer.

After Austin, you taught me that sometimes what you THINK you want, isn’t actually WHAT you want or need at that time.  When one of my contracts fell through (and I was devastated), you surprised me by gifting me an assignment in Seattle.  At the time I didn’t know it but I would end up staying over a year (not all at once) and signing four contracts there.  Seattle ended up being the GOAT of all cities, travel nurse assignments, and more.  I dug in and explored the city and surrounding areas, become a self-proclaimed “expert” on all things Seattle.  It was this assignment that I totaled my third car (yeah… that wasn’t cool), decided to get dead serious about my blog and purchased my first course on blogging, and saved money to travel the world by living with my cousin.

After my assignment in Seattle came to an end, you recognized my burnout and gave me the strength and courage to take the $17,000 that I saved to travel and take 17-weeks away from the bedside to head out on the most epic adventure of my life.  I traveled solo to 17 countries in Europe and Southeast Asia.  I still well up with tears when I think about how lucky I was to have that experience.  It’s something that wouldn’t have been possible without you allowing me the freedom and flexibility to save tons of money and take unlimited time away from the bedside.

After my money ran dry, you held my hand as I once again left the comforts of my home in Omaha and started over on a coast that I wasn’t familiar with – the east coast.  This assignment was bittersweet.  You took me to Boston, a city that I was dying to explore… but I was also sorely disappointed.  While it wasn’t your fault, the weather was god awful.  Who knew it still snowed in May?  My male roommate was a complete a**hole narcissist and would say things like, “I don’t get the difference between a prostitute and a girl that I buy a drink for at the bar that comes home with me”.  While also trying to nickel and dime me for every little thing until I was blue in the face.  He made me realize that I’m done with roommates for good and I’m certainly done entertaining men with narcissistic tendencies.

What might have been your fault, travel nursing, is that you gave me a contract at a hospital that employed some of the cattiest and immature nurses I’ve ever seen.  Nurses who made it known that they were “better than me” because I was a traveler and they were staff.  Nurses who told me on my very first day of orientation, “If you don’t learn how to give report correctly, you’re never going to make any friends here”.  And nurses that would flat out ignore me in the break room if I tried to speak with them.  What I did take away from this assignment is that nobody can dim my light and I was way more qualified than half of the nurses on the unit when it came to caring for premature babies, despite how hard they tried to tell me otherwise.

Just when I thought, “Fine.  Maybe I’m done”, Seattle Children’s called and I accepted a contract back in my favorite city.  This was when I ended up staying in Seattle for a year, falling in love with bedside nursing again (thanks to the most awesome co-workers I’ve ever worked with), learning loads due to the critical patient population, and working under the best management I’ve ever seen.  I was proud to work at Seattle Children’s and I still think fondly of my time at the hospital as the best experience I’ve had as a travel nurse.

It was this year in Seattle, that everything came crashing down.  2019 came and went.  Management allowed me to take eight weeks off between contracts to tackle my burnout once again and travel to Europe to spend six weeks exploring Greece, Jordan, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia, and Spain solo.  I arrived back in Seattle refreshed just to be met with a lockdown of epic proportions.  COVID ravaged the world, making us all hunker down inside.  While what went on in the four walls of the hospital didn’t stop, the rest of the world did.  Travel nursing, it wasn’t your fault, but this was the first time I had a contract canceled.  I was let go two weeks early and forced to move back to Nebraska to wait out the storm.

While I had planned to take the summer of 2020 off to travel to Portugal to see Taylor Swift with my mom, I instead stayed in Nebraska and took mini road trips throughout the state and the midwest.  It was at this time that I recognized that I was falling out of love with you.  But in my bones, I wasn’t quite ready to let go.  You were like a great relationship that turned sour that I was waiting to fall back in love with.  (I know because I had been here many times before with previous exes).  Instead of recognizing that I was burned out – from you – I made stricter “rules” for what I would accept in an assignment.  I would only take a high-paying contract over $2,000/week and I would only work in a certain few cities that I deemed acceptable.

I waited out the summer turning down job after job that I didn’t deem worthy, until I landed what I thought was my dream job in San Francisco, California.  Travel nursing… you’re such a tease.  Of course, you knew that I had been trying to land in San Francisco since I began traveling four years prior, and of course you knew I wouldn’t be able to turn it down.  Luckily and unluckily, it was my time in San Francisco that made me realize that this was the end of the road for us.  This was it.

I arrived in San Francisco fresh off the cusp of another breakup (this time not as devastating), when I learned that a guy I had been seeing was still sleeping with his ex.  It was a breath of fresh air to be in a different city and away from the drama, even if I didn’t prefer to date guys on the west coast.

I arrived at my new assignment with the best of intentions, I really did.  But from day one I could tell that the staff and I were no match at all.  While some of the nurses were great, most preferred to do things the lazy way, speak poorly about each other behind one another’s backs and throw travel nurses under the bus. I was policied as I would try to leave after giving report because it was 7:20 instead of 7:24 and I was called into the manager’s office to discuss how my behavior wasn’t appropriate.  Luckily, after explaining my side, he agreed (without saying) that the nurses were just being catty and I was free to continue on my merry way.  It was here that I was also yelled at in front of a parent for “not respecting” an elder nurse.  She was so verbally abusive throughout my six months in San Francisco (to myself and other travelers) that I still can’t believe the hospital has held onto her.

While you did give me good memories – living near my best friend and getting to visit wine country multiple times – that didn’t quite make up for how much I hated the hospital I was working at and how sick I was of packing up and moving my belongings every 13-weeks.  In San Francisco, I decided to betray you and started looking for staff jobs.  The deceit wasn’t easy and I oftentimes went to bed, a ball of anxiety, wondering whether or not I was making the right decision.  I applied for countless jobs, didn’t hear back from most of them, and even interviewed at one hospital and got turned down.  When I was about to throw in the towel, a dream job opened up at the exact right time.

Travel nursing, you gave me grit, confidence, and joy as I spent the most exciting years of my life with you.  Being in a relationship with you has been the longest relationship I’ve had.  I learned so much about myself in the time that we were together.  I learned that while you gave me a ton of money, money doesn’t equal happiness.  I learned that the east coast isn’t for me, despite thinking that I was destined to live there.  I learned that my true love in life is traveling and you let me go multiple times knowing I’d eventually come back to you.  And I learned that the deepest, most intimate, and important relationship that you can have – is with yourself.

So with that said, I bid you farewell travel nursing.  You’ll always have the best years of my life.  But it’s time for our relationship to end.  It’s time for you to go and find another young, hurting, and impressionable nurse.  To open their eyes to adventure and wonder as you take them from city to city and show them the magic of travel nursing.  It’s time for me to allow someone else’s light to shine and someone else to see the world like I got to.  It’s time to say goodbye.

xoxo,

Kylee

 

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passportsandpreemies
passportsandpreemies

Kylee is a traveling Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) nurse with a love for solo travel, wine, and Taylor Swift. Inspiring nurses to travel both near and far, Kylee began Passports and Preemies in 2017 while volunteering in Skopje, North Macedonia. Passports and Preemies was created as a way to reach nurses and advocate for the prevention of nurse burnout by traveling. Kylee is the original creator of the “8 Day Vacay” – a vacation geared towards nurses who aim to take advantage of the potentially 8 days off between work weeks with no need to use PTO.

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2 Comments

  1. Wilson
    September 8, 2021 / 8:13 pm

    Girl! You are speaking to me!! I’ve been traveling for over 3 years and have felt this a few times. Do I keep chasing the money? Do I settle down? Where do I go staff? Do I switch specialties? Travel nursing is tough and the most roller coaster (and also longest!) relationship I have ever been in. Very thankful for it, but not sure if it is still for me. Good luck in Chi-Town! I’ll send you a DM!

    • September 9, 2021 / 4:07 pm

      Ahh I know those feelings all too well ;). Just stick to your gut and you’ll get to where you’re meant to be!

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