“He only talked for about 20 minutes, but I was certain I wanted that — to be a travel nurse,” Annette recalls. “At the time it seemed an impossible dream, with certain life circumstances as they were, but I never forgot him. And when I had the opportunity, I took it and have never regretted it.”
That opportunity came nine months into her first nursing job, when she found ads for travel nursing companies in the back of a nursing magazine and picked the first one she saw.
“I called and patiently waited for my ‘one-year mark’ as a nurse while I prepared to hit the road,” Annette, an ER nurse, says. “I’m from a small town in Georgia and headed to San Francisco with my boyfriend, who soon became my husband. We have traveled together these past 16 years making the most amazing and priceless memories!”
Annette says she loves everything about being a nurse and that it’s an integral part of who she is.
“I really love the people I have the privilege of helping; it’s as natural as breathing. Some days can be awful, and most days are exhausting, with frustrations at every corner it seems,” she says. “Then, just when you are ready to pull your hair out, a child smiles, a spouse thanks you for what you’ve done, a new nurse you’ve been precepting works her first code with confidence and skill, and you know you are appreciated and you do make a difference. This is where I belong.”
Though she and her husband, Bruce, have been to many parts of the country, Annette says her favorite assignments have been in Steamboat Springs, Colo., and Ketchum, Idaho, because of their ski trails and opportunities for hiking, backpacking, trail running and mountain biking. She reminds new travel nurses that “the real adventures happen on your days off” and encourages them to have fun, even if the experience isn’t what they expected.
“Don’t have any preset judgments going into a new assignment; just roll with how things are done and you’ll learn so many new things,” Annette says. “Don’t get offended if some of the staff initially talk to you like you’re a new nurse. Just smile, be competent and within a couple of shifts they will all realize you are a smart and experienced nurse who just needs to be taught the flow. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish by being nice while being appropriately assertive.”
One of the challenges of being a traveler is being far from family most of the year, Annette says, but notes that Skype and FaceTime have helped a lot with homesickness. She appreciates the chance to see the United States with her husband and says they’ve had opportunities many only dream of.
“Travel nursing has allowed me to grow into a very flexible, unshakable ‘MacGyver’ of ED nursing thanks to all of the amazing nurses I have worked with and learned from over the years,” Annette says, “and Bruce and I have hiked and played in some of the most beautiful corners of the USA. My career affords us not only the financial means but also the extended time off every two to three years to fly to South Africa for 4-6 weeks to visit with my in-laws. I am such a lucky girl!”