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What it’s like to work as a travel nurse in Hawaii

NICU nurse enjoying travel nursing in Hawaii

When people think of travel nursing, they often think of the exciting places it could take them, and Hawaii is often at the top of the list. After all, what could be better than travel nursing in Hawaii? You get to spend a few months exploring the island, you help people along the way, and you get paid for it. Kelly Kilcoyne, a NICU travel nurse, got to do just that on her first travel nursing assignment. Here’s what Kelly learned and some of the things she was able to experience while travel nursing in Hawaii.

Getting started in travel nursing

Waikiki shoreline

Kelly started her nursing career in Scranton, Pennsylvania. About two years in, she decided to give travel nursing a try. She originally wanted to get her feet wet by taking a local travel nursing job, but her recruiter, Sarah, encouraged her to give Hawaii a try.

It wasn’t long before she got a call at 11 p.m. from a Hawaii number. That phone call turned into an interview, which led to Kelly’s first travel nursing job in Oahu. She lived in Waikiki — a five-minute walk from the beach, where she could literally get her feet wet whenever she wanted.

Experiencing a new culture

The culture of Hawaii is quite different from the mainland United States. It’s known for being laid back and casual, and Kelly noticed this during her work there. For example, she wasn’t “Kelly” or “the nurse,” she was “Auntie Kelly.”

“Auntie is a term of respect and endearment, especially if you were taking care of little kids, so I was Auntie Kelly and all the nurses were Auntie or Uncle,” Kelly explains.

Travel nurse Kelly Kilcoyne on the beach in Hawaii
Kelly Kilcoyne

Hawaii’s related culture meant that Kelly grew close to the parents of the babies she took care of.

“It was a mix of personal and professional because some of those babies had been there so long,” Kelly says. “The parents know everybody by name. You know the parents and all the family members, and you know what time of day they like to come. You’re excited to tell them news like, ‘Oh, he took his first bottle today.’ It was always really nice.”

In the continental United States, we’re used to driving just about anywhere within a state, but because Hawaii is made up of islands that are, by definition, separated by water, parents often had to fly back and forth to visit their babies in the NICU.

Making new friends

One intimidating part of travel nursing can be the challenge of making friends while on assignment. Before her assignment, Kelly was worried she would feel like an outsider in a tight-knit community. However, Kelly found that there were other travel nurses in Hawaii, and she quickly made friends with the other travelers. It was nice to have a social group to hang out with when she was off shift. Kelly said she still talks to the friends she made in Hawaii even though it’s been more than two years.

Kelly was able to make friends outside of the travelers too. She got to know the staff and other nurses of the hospital very well. And one day, she just joined a group of strangers for a game of beach volleyball. It all goes back to that laid-back attitude of Hawaii. Hawaiians are known for being open and welcoming, so it’s a great place for travel nurses to go.

Exploring the Islands

Kelly and Oahu waterfall

Although the culture of travel nursing in Hawaii is great, that’s not usually the main reason people want to take a travel nursing job there. They want to lounge on white beaches, hike volcanoes, and chase waterfalls. Kelly had three months to do all of that and more when she wasn’t working.

When she had four days off, she flew to Maui and drove the beautiful-but-white-knuckle Road to Hana. She also snorkeled, where she got to see tropical fish, bright coral reefs, and sea turtles. On her shorter periods of time off from work, she explored Oahu. She hiked to see incredible waterfalls, watched surfers, or just lounged on the beach.

“Some of my favorite days were just unwinding because I could walk to the beach. I got myself a library card, rented a couple of books, and just brought a little chair to the beach and a little drink and snack and I’d just relax,” said Kelly. 

Kelly learned to appreciate Hawaii in its small moments as well. She talked about watching the sunset as she drove into work for the night shift. Then, at the end of her shift, if things were stressful, she could come home, change into her swimsuit, and then sit by the ocean to decompress. 

In any assignment, travel nurses should take full advantage of wherever their job is, but this is especially the case with Hawaii. Kelly recommends, “Just jump into it with both feet. Hawaii was so wonderful, and I did so many wonderful things. But for every awesome thing I did there was still five other things I could have done.”

Looking for your next travel nursing adventure? Give us a call at 800.866.0407 or view today’s travel nurse job opportunities.

About the author

Kathleen Stone

Kathleen Stone is a writer for RNnetwork from Salt Lake City, Utah. In her spare time, she loves going to the desert, trying new foods and being with family.


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