After a few years of writing the odd long-winded facebook or instagram post I was stoked to be approached by NMC who offered an opportunity to share my tales from the travellin’ trail. Given my affinity for realistic positivity, knowledge sharing, and consulting my colleagues for feedback, I was excited to share what I’ve experienced and learned as I enter my 4th year of travel nursing. Some of you may know of me or have chatted with me on the social medias, but for those of you who don’t:
I am an almost-thirty, she/her, roadtripper, bookworm, bass-head, raver n festival-er, snowboarding, lazy adventuring, not-a-hiker, overlanding and 4x4ing, caffeine-free, iphone photographer, plant mom, ICU trained ER nurse, who likes breaks and is in the running for most well-travelled black cloud.
To start, I’ma spin the clock back. When I was in nursing school, second year in fact, we had someone come in and talk about different jobs available to nurses. I zoned out through most of it because it wasn’t worth any grades (school, right?) but I have the most crystal clear memory of being shown a map of Canada and watching that map zoom in on Hall Beach, Nunavut. This presenter had worked there. It blew my mind. I remember feeling like… like the little rainbow wheel on a Mac or the loading bar on a PC. I could not compute the information presented.
I had no idea “that” was an option.
First off, I was a young, naive, west-coaster who thought Prince George was “up north” and I was also early in the second year of nursing school with soooooo long to go. Time passed and “that” idea of being a nurse somewhere so far from home quickly got pushed onto the metaphorical back burner. More like pushed into a dusty corner of my brain’s cellar. Then, a few years into my career - a specialty and more experience later - and I felt kinda bored.
Not bored at work, but just.. Unfulfilled. I kept hearing stories and seeing awesome posts from travel nurses on their adventures. I remembered that presentation and unearthed (what would be) a corener-stone memory from my brain-cellar. I took this dusty idea of complete bewilderment, shaped it with genuine curiosity, and, with a bit of poetic prodding from myself (for my email signature at the time was footnoted with “If not me, who? If not now, when?) I thought: What if I did that?
And yeah, I was a queen of exploring (my backyard) but there was so much more within a few hours of me to see. And yeah, I was single, without pets or a mortgage or kids but I liked my job, my line, my coworkers, the stability. And yeah, travel nurses fill positions where they’re really short staffed, but my facility was short staffed too.
A million reasons why not to do it faced me. But I remembered something a mentor taught me, something to help in times of great indecision.
Remove all barriers to your options and just imagine you’re there.
How do you feel? What are you doing? What’s hard, what's easy? Do you indeed want to, or not want to do “the thing”?
(Seriously, try it.)
The deciding factor for me was (in the greater sense) the realization people don’t regret things they’ve done. They regret things they haven’t done. The trips not taken, the fun not had, the chances turned down, the what-ifs, the once-in-a-life-times. Given my vocation, I knew well enough that life could end or change in an instant. I also knew life wasn’t fair - that “good” things happened to “bad” people and “bad” things happened to “good” people. That to be complacent and comfortable, to wait in the dark for opportunity to throw itself onto me, was to inherently trade away an inconceivable amount of opportunity which was waiting just a smidgeon of effort and ambition away.
I’d heard of a variety of travel nursing agencies but none available at the time jived quite right with me. I did a few contracts here and there, but I felt hounded by impersonal emails from folks unfamiliar with healthcare professionals advertising locations needing nurses. A wide gap spanned between myself and these companies' travel professionals - I sought general information about quick, frequent travel (the kind of travel a travel nurse may do if they have wide open availability and an adventurous side) - and tips on travel to the rural areas I wanted to go. I didn’t feel supported or cared about.
I was ecstatic when Northern Medical Connections approached me about going to the Yukon with them (and, at the time, hinted at future opportunities in the NWT and on the east coast). NMC, an agency with nurses who have travelled at the helm! And personable travel professionals versed in rural areas! All working together with a smaller team of connected individuals who end their emails with their own name and not a generic department sign-off.
I was delighted when I met Matthew, Director of Medical Services for NMC, in Whitehorse. After a few years of working with him organizing contracts, discussing my experience in various locations and (at times) using his experienced ear as a place to vent, here he was! Working alongside me and my colleagues - part of the nursing team on the floor of a busy emerg. Sure, he was in Whitehorse for business meetings but they were calling out for empty shifts and asked if he could come help. So, of course he did.
That speaks loads about the culture at NMC. We’re in it together. Supported and stood by. A team of current, up to date people with recent first hand experience who are connected with the reality of it. These are people who lead with the team, not looking down at it.