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Not your average stay-at-home grandma: Career advice from a veteran travel nurse

Travel nursing career advice from Fran Shew

This year, RNnetwork commemorates 20 years of connecting skilled nurses to the travel nursing assignments they want. Veteran nurse Fran Shew has worked with RNnetwork for more than 14 of those years. She has completed 20+ travel assignments, including assignments in radiology, ICU, and her current work in the cardiac catheterization lab. In her years of service, Shew has honed her craft in travel nursing and shares her travel nursing career advice for new and prospective travel nurses.

On seeing the country…

Shew originally pursued travel nursing as a means of seeing the country. In her experience, it’s been an ideal way to continue working while still exploring new areas.

Travel nursing in Albuquerque New Mexico, Balloon Festival

“I specifically accepted an assignment in New Mexico, because I wanted to experience the hot air balloon festival in Albuquerque. It was incredible; one of the most memorable things I have ever seen,” says Shew. “I’ve hiked in the phenomenal beauty of Montana. I’ve accepted assignments close to family members in various states when I needed to be near them. I would never have that flexibility if I was on staff.”

Shew loves the ability to travel, see new places and meet new people — “and I’m getting paid to do it!”

On rewards…

In addition to the incomparable benefit of travel, Shew credits travel nursing with helping her develop professionally.

“Travel nursing has made me more open minded at work,” says Shew. “It’s helped me recognize there are different ways of doing things, and not just one way to accomplish a goal. Our number one goal is to take care of the patient. We should pursue whatever avenue it takes to make the patient comfortable and well taken care of — it doesn’t matter if it’s my suggestion or someone else’s.”

By gaining exposure to many institutions, practices, processes, and colleagues, Shew has elevated her own learning and practice.

On challenges…

One of the biggest challenges of travel nursing is the time away from family, friends, and home.

“The longer I work as a travel nurse, I’ve found my home base has changed over the years,” says Shew. “My best friends aren’t there anymore and I’ve lost loved ones over the years. While I’ve been fortunate to make friends all over the country, it’s not the same as a home base.”

As a result, Shew makes a concerted effort to travel often to family to forge and solidify those bonds. She makes arrangements for a long weekend with family every eight weeks, including a recent trip to help out with the birth of a new grandchild.

“One of my concerns is that I would miss my grandkids,” says Shew. “My kids know I’m not a stay-at-home grandma, and they have been so supportive of my decision to travel. The flexibility travel nursing affords means I can travel to see my kids and grandkids, and spend that precious time with them.”

Visiting family

On experience…

One of the most important pieces of travel nursing career advice Shew would share is to enter your travel nursing career with solid experience.

“A lot of younger nurses are hitting the travel world,” says Shew. “I had 15 years under my belt before traveling. I would recommend nurses have at least 2-3 years in their specialty before traveling. When you arrive at a new assignment, they expect you to get to work. They will train you on their processes, but as far as your nursing skills are concerned, they need you to hit the ground running and contribute right away.”

Shew also recommends travel nurses show respect for the processes and procedures at each new assignment.

“It’s important to remember you’re not there to change things; they don’t necessarily want to hear how other hospitals are doing it,” says Shew. “If you have a good suggestion that can improve a patient’s care, that’s great. But also be prepared to accept if they don’t take your suggestion. In my experience, once you prove you’re there to work and to be a contributing member of the team, people are receptive to your help and will help you get situated in your new assignment.”

On partnering with a great company and recruiter…

When Shew initially began exploring travel nursing as a career path, she met with 3-4 travel nursing staffing companies.

“Something just led me to RNnetwork,” says Shew. “I couldn’t really put my finger on it, but it just clicked. I’ve never regretted that decision — obviously, since I have been there more than 14 years!”

Shew also praises the work of her recruiter, Dorothy Etchells, and the close relationship they share.

“Dorothy is absolutely amazing,” says Shew. “You work so closely with your recruiter and speak often on the phone. We’ve developed a deep friendship over the years. We are open with each other and have shared experiences. From a work perspective, she knows I’m a hard worker and don’t often complain. So, if I do raise a concern, she knows there is a reason and has my back.”

Fishing in Maryland

On the future…

As she looks forward to retirement in the next several years, Shew still has many places and experiences on her travel nurse bucket list.

“I look forward to slowing down a bit, but there are still so many areas I would love to explore,” says Shew. “I’d still love to get to the Northeast, Napa Valley, and Hawaii. As long as I have areas left to explore, I figure I’m being paid to do these things and that’s a great way to have these adventures.”

“I just love travel nursing,” continues Shew. “I’ve done it so long, and it is so fulfilling. In good times and in hard times, travel nursing is my constant. It’s the one thing I’m sure of. And I love it.”

To get started on your travel nursing career, give us a call at: 800.866.0407.

For our 20th anniversary, we’re interviewing some of our tenured nurses. Click here to see them all!

About the author

Allison Riley

Allison Riley is a public relations professional with more than 10 years experience in healthcare and corporate communications. She lives in New York City with her better half and two wonderful daughters. She and her girls are currently contending for world's slowest recorded stair climb to a fifth-floor apartment, and she enjoys writing so she can just finish her sentence already.


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