Kathy DeBuhr has been a nurse “all her life,” as she says — about 40 years and counting. She has worked in a small rural hospital, in a nursing home, in the hospice field, and as a correctional nurse. Now she’s a dialysis nurse who enjoys making personal connections.
“I wanted a more personal relationship with my patients,” Kathy says of her decision to go into dialysis nursing.
Next stop: sunny skies
Kathy and her husband call Minnesota home and have owned a farm there for decades. About three years ago, she was approaching the later stage of her career. The dark, cold winters were starting to get to her. Then she had a scare while driving to work in a blizzard.
“I thought, I’m beyond that in my career,” she remembers of that time. “I don’t really have to be doing that 5 a.m. drive in the cold and in the dark. I’m going to get away from the snow.”
Kathy is known as a snowbird travel nurse and prefers taking assignments in places like Texas, with milder winters than she’s used to. Now that she’s in her 60s and semi-retired, the change of pace has offered not only refuge from the frigid temperatures, but a sense of peace when it comes to the future.
“I love being able to go south through the winter and still continue to have insurance and a paycheck,” she says of being a traveling nurse. “For me it’s a really good fit.”
Working with the best of the best
Making new friends on assignment has made all the difference for Kathy while transitioning into her new lifestyle. The warm welcomes she receives from staff get her every time: most of the nurses at the hospitals she’s assigned to are overworked and tired after having to pick up extra shifts.
“It’s wonderful,” she says. “They are always so glad to see you. They just want help. They’re very grateful and happy to see you.”
Now that she’s completed three assignments as a travel nurse, she’s getting used to saying goodbye to her new friends. Her short-term assignments this far have been 13 weeks in duration and she was surprised at how difficult it was to move on.
“That was one of the hardest things,” she says. “At the end of my first assignment, I did not realize that leaving was going to be that hard.”
Then there’s Allen, Kathy’s recruiter.
“Allen is the best recruiter in the world — even though he’s the only one I’ve ever had,” she says. “We’ve become friends over the phone. I haven’t met him in person yet. He’s got such a kind voice. I’m sure he’s just the best person. Everyone has been wonderful,” she adds.
Joy in the journey
Kathy prefers to take her travel trailer when she goes on an assignment. She uses the trailer as a means of lodging instead of a short-term apartment. She also brings her own car. This set up allows her the freedom to explore the outdoors when she’s not at work.
Feeding birds, watching wildlife, going to the beach, and generally being around water are a few activities Kathy enjoys during her time off. While she enjoys getting acquainted with new places, she still finds comfort in the familiar.
“You can’t get a Minnesotan too far from water because we have lakes everywhere in Minnesota,” she jokes.
New job, new family dynamic
Like her, Kathy’s husband is semi-retired. Her children are grown and have homes of their own. She says she and her husband have found a nice balance where he joins her on some trips, with a coming-and-going way of doing things, based on his own hobbies and schedule. Plus, he’s fond of what Minnesota has to offer in the colder months.
“He’s OK with being apart for a while,” she says. “He likes the winter weather. Winter fishing is the highlight of his year practically.”
All in all, becoming a traveling nurse has been a blessing to Kathy at this point in her life and she feels the timing was ideal for her to forge a new path.
“Now that my kids are gone, and they don’t want to hear from mom everyday anymore, it’s the perfect opportunity,” she says. “I feel very, very fortunate.”