Christine Harrison has been an ER travel nurse with RNnetwork since 2010, and she has completed more than 20 travel nursing assignments. During these assignments, she has met tons of patients, but one patient stands out.
Christine was working a fairly normal shift at her travel nursing assignment in Newport, Vermont, when a fourteen-year-old boy named Cameron came into the ER after a dirt biking accident. He had been riding down a dirt path he often used, when he hit a chain link fence that hadn’t been there during his prior trips. After hitting the fence, he had severe damage to his neck. Christine had her back turned when the patient first came in the room, but the second she turned around, she started to act.
Cameron’s mom said she had never seen a nurse work so quickly.
Becoming a travel nurse
Christine decided to try travel nursing when she began her nursing career. She was just getting started, but the nurses around her were drained and burnt out. She knew she wanted to help people, but she didn’t want to become those nurses.
“I wanted it to become something I would love doing,” she says.
She decided travel nursing would let her see the world, but still take care of people. She started at one travel nursing company, but after a falling out with them, she found RNnetwork. She took a job with RNnetwork because they had an assignment where she wanted to go, but she stayed because of her relationships with her recruiters.
A recruiter who cares
Her current recruiter is Rachel, who is more like a friend than a recruiter to Christine. Rachel knows what kind of assignments Christine likes and doesn’t like, and she openly discusses assignments with Christine. They also often get off topic, joking and talking about things like wedding plans.
“At the end of the day, I can trust her to do what’s best for me,” says Christine.
Rachel is there for Christine during her assignments, for things like adjusting travel arrangements and large things like family emergencies.
Christine was set to start an assignment in Athens, Georgia, on a Monday. But on the Friday before, she found out that her grandfather wasn’t going to live through the day. Christine told Rachel she couldn’t start her assignment. Rachel arranged everything with Christine’s hospital, and she sent flowers to Christine’s family.
Seeing the country
After travel nursing for years, Christine has already checked off lots of destinations on her bucket list. She likes balancing classic tourist areas with local secrets. She enjoyed a famous horse tour through the historic streets of Charleston, South Carolina. Then, she visited Sullivan’s Island, a local’s spot.
In her time between shifts in the emergency room, she enjoys reading, paddle-boarding, kayaking, and trying new restaurants, wineries, and breweries.
She has a good rotation of going North in the summer, and South in the winter. During one of her assignments in Augusta, Georgia, she met her best friend, April. Ten years later, they’re still big parts of each other’s lives. Traveling lets Christine see the country and explore new cultures, but equally importantly, it lets her see her family and friends.
Advancing her career
Travel nursing has opened doors for Christine, and she has learned a variety of skills that make her valuable to each of her assignments. Christine has been offered lots of full-time positions, but none of the jobs have been as great as traveling.
One of her favorite assignments was the one in Newport, Vermont, where she met Cameron, the fourteen-year-old patient. When Christine got him stable enough, Cameron was relocated to a trauma center two hours away. Christine lost sleep over Cameron, but there was no way for her to know if he was okay.
A month later, he came back to the hospital for more care. As she started to take care of him, she, Cameron, and Cameron’s mom hugged each other and cried.
Six months later, Cameron still had serious injuries, but he didn’t let them stop him. He came back into the emergency room with a broken wrist after doing a jump while snowboarding. Cameron asked the doctor if Christine could be his nurse. Later, he put one hand on his Mom’s hand and the other hand on Christine’s hand. He looked at both of them and said, “My two favorite nurses.”
Advice to new travel nurses
Lots of travel nurses have asked Christine what travel nursing is like, as burnout increases and the nurse-to-patient ratio gets worse. Travel nursing jobs are getting more competitive, but she says the key to being a successful travel nurse is having a good personality.
She suggests that new travel nurses should be accepting of a hospital’s way of doing things, work to understand a community’s culture, and don’t take things too seriously.
“A doctor once told me we’re blessed and we’re lucky to be in this profession to take care of people on their worst days” says Christine. “And being that smiling face that welcomes them…it’s always much more comforting to them.”