The Roller Coaster of Travel Nursing

 In Blog

This week we are featuring another piece from Amy Terry. Amy has been traveling nurse with Atlas for the past two years and is a frequent content contributor. You can find her and Ryan at

If I had to compare the profession of Nursing to something tangible in the world, it would be a Roller Coaster.
You start out your career with anticipation of helping heal every patient you encounter-you yearn to make a difference in people’s lives. (So starts the roller coaster of Nursing)
The first part of your career is a slow climb up the track-this is where you learn how to get into your groove…this is where you establish your clinical and critical thinking skills. You start getting some confidence and some experience.
You feel on top of everything, things are making sense to you-you think you’ve finally got it!
All of a sudden, you experience your first code…you rush in, hoping to remember everything you need to in order to save a patient’s life…it’s a bit of a blur but you manage to do what needs to be done…
Patient is stable…wow…that was crazy… The thoughts start coming to your mind, “did I make the right decision becoming a nurse?!”
Things are stable for a while and then BOOM….another unexpected stressor occurs.

If you stay in the Nursing field long enough, you get used to the crazy ride. You learn how to anticipate ‘The Unexpected’ situations. You learn to roll with the punches and know that you will keep learning new things every day.

The Up’s and Down’s For O.R. Nurses

I’ve worked in just about every area of the hospital, except ICU. As a result, I’ve learned that every floor has their own set of challenges. No matter where you work as a nurse, you are constantly juggling various tasks, keeping up with medications/vital signs/test results, patient teaching, talking to patient’s families etc.
The area that has felt most like ‘home’ to me in the hospital, is the Operating Room.
As an O.R. nurse, I’ve been blessed to see and experience a lot of things in my 8-year career. I’ve seen the highest highs and the lowest lows.
I’ve watch the joy-filled faces of a new Mom and Dad, as I helped deliver their precious baby-during a C-section.
I’ve celebrated with patient’s preparing for surgery to get their port-a-cath removed because they were officially cancer free!
I’ve cried with patient’s families when they found out that their loved one was not going to make it off the operating table alive.
Working in the O.R. is not for the faint of heart. Things in the O.R. are fast paced and thinking on your feet is an absolute must. The O.R. nurse constantly juggles the needs of everyone involve in a surgery: the surgeon, anesthesia, surgical techs, the patient’s family, pharmacy, blood bank (and the list goes on).
Critical life or death traumas happen at the drop of a hat. You could be ready to go home after a long shift, when all of a sudden you get word that a trauma is coming in. Traumas from car wrecks, stabbings, gunshot wounds, aortic dissection, heart attack…whatever comes through those O.R. doors…you’ve got to be ready for it.

Traveling Nurse Up’s and Down’s

As we’ve discussed, the nursing profession is challenging enough as it is.
What up’s and down’s do travel nurses experience??? Everything discussed above and then some!

Here are some of the challenges Travel Nurses face:

-Housing: making sure you have a safe place to live at each travel assignment.
-Securing Nursing Licensure: not every state is in the compact state licensure. You’ve got to be on top of your game, in regards to getting and maintaining your nursing license for whichever state you work in.
-Navigating new areas: starting a new contract means learning your way around a different area. It takes some time learning your way around a new city.
-Learning different charting systems: not every hospital in the nation uses EPIC. As a travel nurse, you must learn various different charting systems (Meditech, Soarian, SIS etc.)
-Constantly keeping your resume up-to-date: with each assignment you take on, you will notice your resume getting longer and longer.
-Keeping up certifications: all nurses have to keep up some sort of certification (BLS, ACLS etc.)
-Timecards: a necessary evil of being a travel nurse is keeping up with timecards. Timecards can be tedious to keep up with but you also want to get paid for every hour you work!
-Different policies: every hospital you go to will have varying different policies-you’ve got to make sure you are up-to-date on your particular facilities policies regarding your work.
-Acclimating to new climates: If you’ve worked in sunny Florida for a few months and then take an assignment in Minnesota-chances are you are going to have to prepare yourself for some seasonal changes.

Let’s now balance out this list with some of the AMAZING pros of being a travel nurse:

-Being able to travel to ANY state in the U.S.: you get your pick of which area you want to work, whether it’s warm Arizona or snowy Colorado.
-13 weeks at a time: You have the option of changing your scenery every 13 weeks! If you get bored with an area, you have 49 other states to try!
-Making awesome friends: every travel assignment gives you the opportunity to meet new people. Ryan and I love making amazing friends at every assignment we go to.
-Making new memories: every assignment offers you SO many cool places to visit and make memories. State Parks, Breweries, Coffee shops…whatever you like to do, check it out in each state.
-Great paychecks: a definite perk of being a travel nurse is the extra cushion you get in pay.
-Sharpening your skills: the more places you travel to, the better you get in your specialty, as a nurse.
-Learning new ways of doing things: every hospital you work at will do things a different way than you might be used to. This is a plus, as you can see things from a new perspective! Being versatile is a great attribute to any facility you work at.
-Being able to show your skills: you can share your awesome skills with each new facility you work at. It’s neat being able to show someone a different way of doing things.

What are some up’s and down’s that you’ve faced as a travel nurse??

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