I started my nursing career in the operating room (OR) and have never worked in another nursing specialty. As far back as I can remember, I have always wanted to work in the OR because of two television shows: Dr. 90210 and Grey’s Anatomy. My parents could not understand why I wanted to watch surgery shows, even when the “gory parts” were blurred out. I fell in love, as did many Americans, with the storylines weaved around the background of hospital ORs in Grey’s Anatomy. I was forever changed by watching these shows.
In the early years of my career, I was learning new skills and surgical lingo every day. I was fascinated by each surgery and loved getting my questions answered by the surgeons and residents. I had so much to learn to be an excellent surgical nurse and I felt like a sponge, soaking up every new experience I could.
If there was an incoming trauma patient, I wanted to be in that OR, learning in the high pressure situation how to save the patient’s life with surgery. If there was an impending ruptured brain aneurysm, I wanted to be in that OR to watch the finesse and training of the neurosurgeon under the most intense pressure I had ever felt in my life.
As the years passed, I started to feel less challenged each day. The surgical cases did not spike my blood pressure the way they used to when I was a novice. I enjoyed what I was doing, but not in the same capacity. The days began to feel monotonous.
Many times in my career I had day dreamed about trying travel nursing. I wanted to travel the United States and see all the beautiful locations I could lay eyes upon. There was such a strong pull to try it, but I felt it was never the right time.
Flash forward in my career: my husband and I had just moved to Atlanta, Georgia after spending most of our lives in Delaware with our families. I had worked in a couple different hospitals around Atlanta, but I was still having that nagging feeling of wanting to try travel nursing.
In a string of events, my manager at the time resigned from her position. I admired and respected her, and felt deeply upended knowing that she would no longer be working with me every day. I couldn’t picture the OR the same way without her. I began looking at travel positions through various travel websites. I read as much as I could about all the pros and cons of being a travel nurse.
For weeks on end, I browsed posted travel nursing positions and day dreamed about what it would be like to live and work in different locations. I didn’t know how I would ever make traveling happen because I was a newlywed and my husband’s job was in the Atlanta area.
Spoiler alert: I am now a travel nurse!
Why Did I Take Those Final Steps?
ONE: Making the Extra Money
I cannot even pretend money is not the number one reason that propelled me to become a travel nurse. As many other students in the United States can also relate, student loan debt was affecting my everyday finances. I long for the days when I will not have student loan debt. I knew I could not have been a nurse without going to college, but I wanted to pay off my student loans faster.
Travel nursing, depending on the contract and the travel company, can pay twice if not more than what a nurse makes in a permanent position to do the exact same job. Some companies were very transparent with how much an OR nurse could be paid to work for their company by completing a travel contract. I suddenly saw a very real way to make money faster than I had ever made money before: travel nursing.
TWO: Traveling Close to Home
Living in Atlanta, I had access to many OR jobs in the South and around Georgia. I knew if I traveled, I didn’t want to be far away from my husband and dog. There were so many jobs, I could have picked a local travel assignment (a location less than 50 miles from my home) or a regular assignment (farther than 50 miles from my home).
I decided to accept an assignment in Augusta, Georgia, about 2 hours from where I was living. The close location allowed me to work during the week in Augusta, and travel home to the Atlanta metro area when I was not assigned to work. My manager at my travel assignment was extremely flexible with the schedule and blocked all of my days in a row to make commuting easier for me.
THREE: Refreshing My OR Nursing Career
My career in the OR suddenly felt new and exciting again, even after only applying to travel companies. I was excited to learn new ways to do things, to meet new people, and to see new areas of Georgia. I had a feeling that trying this new path would be exciting; and it definitely was exciting.
There would be new things to learn and I would be completely out of my comfort zone. I knew I had to find housing and figure out a new healthcare system, and how to get to a new OR, and where to change into OR scrubs. The list of things I had to learn was long – and like the nerd I am, I was stoked to have a new challenge.
FOUR: Getting Out of My Comfort Zone
Most of my OR career has been focused on orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, vascular and thoracic surgeries. I had gained years of experience scrubbing and circulating in these specialties and training new nurses in each service. Starting in a new travel assignment, I was going to have to dust the rust off of things I had learned years ago as a baby OR nurse. I had not worked in gynecology, urology, colorectal, plastic surgery, or kidney transplants for several years since I had been comfortably working in my favorite surgical specialties.
As a traveler, I knew I was not guaranteed an assignment each day in a specialty I was going to feel comfortable working in. I was going to have to go where I was needed. I’m so glad I mentally prepared myself for this scenario because I was uncomfortable many days as I tried to remember different equipment, instruments, and steps of surgeries I had not seen in years.
I have to admit, I didn’t always have the best attitude when it came to these challenging surgeries that forced me to be uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable forced me to mature in my ability to be a well-rounded OR nurse, and rely on my years of experience to work through any difficulty I came across in surgery. I could not have gained this skill set if I had not been willing to make myself uncomfortable as a traveler.
FIVE: Meeting New People
Forcing myself to meet new people, without the comfort of other friends as support, was another way of moving out of my comfort zone. It can be intimidating to meet new people or be forced to interact with people you do not know.
The other travelers I have met and the friends I have made are one of the best parts of traveling. I have truly enjoyed listening to people’s stories, figuring out what made them take the leap to travel, and finding new people I would not have met if I had stayed in a permanent position. I have made friends that I know will last long beyond a travel contract!
Interested in Traveling?
There are so many options right now for anyone interested in travel nursing.
What’s the worst that could happen? After a 13-week contract, you can go back to your permanent position with more money in your bank account.
Start researching travel companies to find one that fits your needs! Ask questions! Do your research! Follow travel nursing blogs. Join Facebook groups for travel nurses.
Stay tuned to Nurse Splane Writes for more articles related to the OR and Travel Nursing!
Until next time!