Jennie Rawls loves being a dialysis travel nurse. For 22 years, she’s dedicated herself to her patients, regardless of the hours she puts in.
“I may be one of the older ones, but I can certainly work circles around some of the younger ones,” she says. “I love it. I guess the reason why I can do it because it’s such a passion for me.”
When she graduated nursing school in 1998, Jennie began her career as a cardiac cath lab nurse. For a while, that seemed to be the right fit for her. “I thought cardiac was going to be the thing that I would do for my whole career,” she says. “I just loved heart patients and taking care of people that are either super sick or needed a hand to hold.”
Discovering the specialty she loves
After working in the cath lab for a while, Jennie floated between many different nursing specialties, from kidney and liver transplants to emergency surgery, and then she found her niche — dialysis nursing.
“I started doing dialysis in a clinic, and I just fell in love with it. I had the opportunity to go into acute dialysis, and it’s probably been my most favorite job so far,” she says. “I’m so passionate about it because you can really see what you’re doing. It comes to fruition as far as start to finish. You take care of someone who is really, really sick, and you can see them improve before your eyes.”
Another aspect of dialysis nursing that Jennie loves is the education aspect of it. Spending four hours in a room with a patient — with or without their families — isn’t daunting. For her, it’s just the opposite.
“You’re able to do a lot of education with family members and with the patient, because you’re in the room with them for so long,” she says. “I think it’s just that part of nursing where you make a difference. I enjoy the educational piece and spending that time with the patient on a one-on-one basis.”
Travel nursing with a family can work
When she considered travel nursing, Jennie didn’t think it was possible with her family situation. She had children at home, brand-new grandchildren, and a lifelong partner to consider. She wasn’t sure if leaving them to go on assignments would work.
“I had always thought about travel nursing, but I didn’t think that I would ever be able to,” she says. But then she connected with the right recruiter, who found her the perfect jobs in the right locations, and she was hooked.
“I just love the interaction of meeting new people and making new friends. Going to a different state and different facilities and meeting different nephrologists — I love learning the community that you work with,” she says. So far, she’s been on four travel assignments.
Working in someone else’s “home”
One important consideration with travel nursing, Jennie says, is that when you’re on an assignment, regardless of the facility type, it’s a temporary stay.
“I am in their house and I respect the rules. I think that that’s the thing a travel nurse needs to do wherever they go,” she says. “I think that’s always been successful for me because I am respectful of other peoples’ positions.”
Jennie always makes it known to the staff that she’s cognizant of her guest status while on assignment.
“I let them know I’m coming to help them and I’m going to respect their home, clean up after myself, always ask, ‘What can I do for you? What can I help you do? What do you need from me as a dialysis nurse, as the nurse coming in as a team member? What do you need from me?’”
Jennie appreciates that travel nursing allows her many opportunities to learn new things, even though she’s been a nurse for more than two decades.
“I always thought I was a pretty decent nurse, but you can never stop learning. When you do, then you need to stop being a nurse,” she says. “You can’t be afraid to ask questions.”
Not only is it important to ask for help, Jennie says, but you also need to have confidence in your abilities as a nurse. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions but also don’t be afraid to do what you know. That’s what I love about traveling. There’s always something new to learn from someone.”
Forever and always a travel nurse
“I love nursing. I love nephrology nursing. I never thought that I would love this, but it’s absolutely what I’ll do for the rest of my career, absolutely,” says Jennie. “Kidneys just rock.”
Jennie says she is not only working in the specialty field that she loves, but she’s found the career of her dreams: travel nursing.
“I feel like traveling has been the highlight of my career. It’s made me the nurse I am today, and I highly recommend it to all my friends,” she says. “It’s a bucket-list thing, but it becomes a way of life. This is my way of life and it’s what I want to do. I love it.”