Nursing is one of the greatest professions because it offers such a variety of positions within the field! There truly is something for everyone, and it is possible to switch careers within nursing and have a completely different experience. I just went through a major transition myself, from bedside nurse, to travel nurse, now to travel nurse recruiter. I began my career as a bedside staff nurse in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) for four years. I learned so much and provided the best care for my patients alongside an amazing team; I oriented new nurses and acted as a resource nurse and an occasional charge nurse. I felt fulfilled and settled, but I also knew I had to push myself out of my comfort zone to feel challenged. I had learned of travel nursing back in high school and always wanted to try it—while I loved my staff job and my coworkers, I knew the longer I stayed, the more difficult it would be to leave. I gave my two weeks notice, packed up and drove across the country to start my first travel nursing job. What I envisioned as a year-long journey turned into two years with the best experiences. By looking for adventure and change, instead I found myself, community, and a sense of purpose. I would recommend travel nursing to anyone who is thinking about taking the leap. Switching to it is hands down the best decision I ever made for myself, professionally and personally.
For six years, my identity was a PICU nurse; I took care of some of the sickest kids in the surrounding areas. Once I began travel nursing, I learned to be flexible and adapt. Working four days in a row, I may have worked on four or more different units with all new patients everyday. I floated to nearly every unit within the children’s hospital, which pushed me to ask questions. You are never done learning as a nurse and cannot become complacent; you always have to be focused on continual growth and improvement. This assertiveness and desire to learn has helped me through my transition into my newest role as well.
One thing I really miss is giving spa-quality baths to my patients in the hospital. I would bring my own shampoo, leave-in conditioner, and soap from Bath & Body Works. I would comb through my patients’ hair, remove all the broken glass, dirt, and leaves from a car accident. Aside from titrating their drips and other life-saving measures, I could make them feel human again and give them back their dignity—along with some intrinsic french braids and a fancy manicure—before their family came to see them. I felt like I truly made a difference and could touch someone’s life, one day at a time.
During my travel nursing days, I had friends of friends come up to me to say they knew someone who was considering becoming a travel nurse and ask if I could talk to them. I loved lending my expertise to give advice and educate others on the world of travel nursing; it was only recently that I learned I could turn that experience into a career. What happened? I was on the verge of staying in one place too long to continue calling myself a travel nurse, so I started exploring other options. I was browsing the internet one day when I came across a company where the travel nurse recruiters in charge of staffing are also nurses. It made so much sense to me; who better understands the roles of nurses than the very people who know exactly what it is like to walk in their shoes for twelve hours?! I decided to take the leap and apply.
Transitioning into a role away from the bedside was a huge change. I would no longer see patients in their most vulnerable state. I would no longer communicate directly with families, whether good news or bad. I would no longer be the direct point of contact for patients, families, doctors, and the rest of the interprofessional team. However, I realized I could touch so many more lives as a recruiter. I could find the right nurses to fill the right positions. The nurses who had the skills to administer chemo to cancer patients. The nurses who could help patients recover from surgeries. The nurses who could stand by Covid patients during their course of treatment when their families couldn’t be by their sides. This filled me with so much purpose, realizing that I could fulfill the needs of hospitals and patients across the country. That I could help nurses find their dream jobs, use their skills to the best of their abilities, and live in their dream locations while providing the best care possible.
Having completely virtual training and interaction with my coworkers was also different for me. In the past, I had always trained on the unit, at the bedside, and met my coworkers face to face. It is beyond different working three to four 12-hour shifts a week and *trying* to leave work at work when I go home. It is so tough to leave thoughts of the patients who have touched me behind. It is definitely different now working five days a week. It has been six years since I have consistently had weekends and holidays off! However, it is still a challenge to leave work behind when I can get emails, Facebook messages, and texts at all hours of the day, seven days a week. I want to do my best to be there for my nurses, who work days, nights, and weekends, because I have been there and know what it is like. Finding a work-life balance can be challenging, but it is a personal choice to make time for self care and family time. Operation Happy Nurse reminds me that we cannot be the best care providers if we do not take care of ourselves first and foremost.
On occasion, I do feel a little bit of guilt for leaving the bedside during a time like this, when I have the critical care background to care for patients on ventilators; I have been a bedside nurse during the last year of the pandemic. I do realize that while I may not be directly patient-facing, I am still making a difference in my own way and helping hospitals to get the resources and personnel they need to take care of their sickest patients. I am helping nurses fulfill their mission to care for others by finding the positions, locations, and pay that works best for them.
There are so many options for nursing jobs that many people do not even know about! Did you know you can be a nurse on a cruise ship or at an amusement park? Or did you know you can be a medical script consultant for a tv show? My advice is to do routine searches, on sites such as Indeed or LinkedIn, just to get a feel for what else is out there. Or ask your colleagues! Keep an open mind and the opportunities are endless! There is always the option to keep a part-time or per diem job in the hospital to maintain your skills. My bedside days may not be behind me yet, and the beauty is that I can always return!
Questions about travel nursing? Transitioning to a new role within nursing? Leave them below! I am always happy to help anyone find their path. And do not ever feel outside pressure to either stay at the bedside or navigate away from the bedside because everyone is on their own path. You need to do what is right for you! Friendly reminder: bedside nursing is not the only type of nursing!