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How travel nursing enables you to become the driver of your life and career [Video interview]

In the sixth of a series of travel nurse video interviews, travel nurse Bob Goldnetz sits down for an interview with travel nurse Kyle Chadwick to learn about why he started travel nursing and how it’s helped him get where he is today.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Bob:

I’m Bob Goldnetz. I’m with RNnetwork, and I’m joined with Kyle Chadwick, a good friend of mine I haven’t seen in a while. We met in Salt lake through a friend of a friend that had some nice outdoor adventures through Reno Casino, hangout session, and a pretty good wedding – not mine or yours, but a pretty good wedding. Thanks for joining me. It’s super informal. I just go through and cut it, but I guess tell me a little bit about yourself and kind of your journey into becoming a nurse.

Kyle:

I’m Kyle Chadwick. I grew up in central Kentucky outside of Lexington in a small town and ended up going to a bachelor’s program of nursing at Western Kentucky University. I originally was doing physical therapy, and our school did not have an accredited program, so I kind of went and talked to my counselor and she was like, all of your prerequisites line up for nursing, do you want to be a nurse? And I was like, sure. That’s how I became a nurse. I started out, went back to Kentucky, and worked at the University of Kentucky in their trauma ICU for about a year and a half before I started travel nursing. And then I got into the travel nursing world — did that for four years — and now I am up in Oregon kind of settled down a little bit.

Bob:

Nice. I actually didn’t know the physical therapy thing. I was the same thing. My mom was a nurse, and I was like, nursing seems good; she seems like she’s very satisfied; and it’s semiflexible and she’ll always have a job. I was like, I don’t know, physical therapists seem pretty happy. And then I got a job as a PT tech, and I was like, man, they don’t really spend much time with the patients, and I really looked into and I went pre PT and then I realized I was going to have to do like 150K in loans and three years back in school. I was like, I could come out making a decent amount, kind of more than a PT, or I could go to PT school and not work for three years and be in a bunch of debt. That’s kind of interesting. I think the path I chose was kind of perfect looking back. I just kind of stumbled into it as well.

Kyle:

Yeah. I thought I wanted to be a physical therapist because growing up I played all the sports and PTs helped me. I thought it would be great. I love sports; I could be around sports. Of course I wanted to be some professional sport physical therapist, which rarely ever happens when you become a physical therapist. And then whenever I got into nursing — I don’t really have anyone in my family like you do that’s a nurse — so I just kind of went blindly, and I love it. There’s definitely some bad days in nursing, but I told someone just the other day that the good days outweigh the bad. Every time I go to work, I generally have a good day.

Bob:

As a country strong man from Kentucky, was there any backlash towards being a male nurse? Did you run into any of that?

Kyle:

Not necessarily. Of course, whenever you would go into patients’ rooms sometimes and they’re good ol’ boys or country family they’re like, oh hey doctor. I’m like, oh no, I’m your nurse. Any male — it’s really strange — they assume is a doctor and of course you tell them, no I’m the nurse, and they say, “When are you going to med school?” “I’m content with being a nurse, and I’m happy with my profession, so I’ll take care of you and let the doctors make the orders.”

Bob:

That’s my favorite when I walk in and they’re like, you’re not what I was hoping for; you’re not as cute as the last one.

Kyle:

I disagree.

Bob:

Had you always planned to travel nurse or did something just kind of happen for you to take the leap?

Kyle:

I was at UK working at the trauma ICU. I don’t know, Kentucky — you’re from Virginia, so you’re probably familiar with it — our starting pay was very low. With a bachelor’s degree, I think I was making like $23 and some change fresh out of school, maybe even less, and then a couple bucks for night-shift differential. The acuity they would give you — for instance out here in Oregon, a lot of things are singled by the union, so there are staffing laws, ratio laws. For instance, if you’re on CRT out here in Oregon, it’s one to one. In Kentucky, you would have CRT double on pressers, and they’d be paired with another patient on pressers, so you’d have two pretty sick ICU patients, or busy ICU patients, not necessarily sick, and you’re making 20 something bucks an hour. And so, I got floated to a step-down unit, and I had never heard of travel nursing, and I floated to the step-down unit, and the girl next to me was a travel nurse, and I was kind of picking her brain about it, and she talked about the money, the freedom to travel, the relocation every three months, how you could go kind of wherever you want to and see and do new things, and that was always something I’d wanted to do. I think that night a lightbulb turned on. I contacted a travel company, and within a month I think, I had already signed my first contract to go out to west Arizona. I turned in my two weeks.

Bob:

That’s quick. Mine was pretty similar. I heard about travel nursing in nursing school and knew I wanted to, but I had to get in my experience. I had never met any until we had a couple in the unit, and I remember I was picking their brain. I was on their site filling stuff out, and my manager walked by, and she was like, “Close that tab.” I got caught. I know you’re currently at a staff gig, but take me through a couple of your assignments.

Kyle:

I’ll give a brief overview. I started out in 2016 in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. It’s kind of landlocked; there’s not many cities around there, so once you’re there, you’re kind of stuck unless you drive three or four hours. Then from there I went up to Salt Lake for six months for a Cerner rollout. I believe that’s when I met you. Early 2017 and I met Jared actually in orientation, and I was sitting in orientation, and I was like, “Do you want to go snowboarding tomorrow?” And he’s like, “Sure,” and we ended up being roommates. And then I met you through him. It’s interesting how travel nursing works. You just meet good likeminded people through it.

Bob:

I would say the networking is probably one of the best things about it. Everyone is just looking for the same things, just good people, stuff to do, places to go, and everyone is just like an open soul.

Kyle:

Yeah. So, I spend six months in Salt Lake for that Cerner rollout, and then from there I went to Reno for nine months; I extended multiple times. I really enjoyed it here. And then from there I went to Los Angeles for almost a year, which I didn’t think I would do. And then after Los Angeles I went and had a surgery, an operation, so I took a few months off, went back to LA to get my feet wet after taking a few months off nursing. Then I went back to Reno for nine months, Salt Lake for six months, and now I’m up in Portland, Oregon for about a year and a half.

Bob:

Nice. That’s kind of like mine. For some reason, I kept going back to Salt Lake. I don’t know if it was the community there or just the mountains, the skiing, snowboarding, biking, but it was just a very easy city to do a lot of things at once.

Kyle:

Most definitely. I think that’s a big part of why I would go back, but also the people you already had the acquaintances with, knowing the management, knowing how the hospital flows. I guess that was some of the hard parts of starting at a new hospital is you’re always the new guy; you don’t really know the flow of their hospital; you don’t know where things are. If you go back, you can kind of learn how the hospital flows, how the doctors like things done.

Bob:

Put your staff on vacation and come back.

Kyle:

Exactly. And everyone remembers you, so it’s easier — it’s more comfortable whenever you show up. If I found a place I liked, I would try to extend as long as possible, and then if I had to leave for whatever reason, I would leave for a while and come back if I could. As long as you work hard and do a good job, usually they’re willing to have you back.

Bob:

Yeah, a lot of times I’d go to these places and people are always like, “Do you get mistreated?” I’m like, “No.” I guess some places have that stigma or mindset that travelers are lazy. I feel like I work harder, so I don’t catch any grief.

Kyle:

Absolutely. I feel like some travel nurses give other travel nurses kind of a bad name. Not all of them, but I’ve heard this in the past from staff nurses as well as other travel nurses, but some people kind of get there, single patient or a pair, and they kind of stay in their little cubby if their patients are stable and don’t really branch out to help. I was more of if my patients were stable, get up and see if I could help with a turn or you’re poking your head out the door. “Yeah, I’ll help you clean up your patient,” or “Can I bring you some meds? What can I do to help out?” And then I feel like that helped out a lot to one, get to know the staff and two, they would be willing to offer you help if you needed it.

Bob:

Yeah. Do more than less and you kind of, “Man, that Kyle guy, he really helped me out of that [inaudible]; he’s just nice to be nice.” Kind of pay it forward a little bit.

Kyle:

One hundred percent. I feel like that’s the best approach.

Bob:

You lived in your RV. Do you still have it?

Kyle:

Yeah, I actually sold that maybe a month ago. The RV was nice, it is nice. There’s a lot that goes into it that people don’t think about, and then it can be expensive. They’re made pretty cheaply, even though they’re . Imagine you’re in a big fiberglass, styrofoam box living. It’s not very sturdy.

Bob:

I think there’s that whole — because I tried to build a van and do a little van life thing and I was like, this is really difficult. I can see some of these pictures are really nice, and if I had a coffee mug out full of coffee, then you can’t move that, and you can’t really go anywhere, and then that table has to be slid in if the beds out. I think a lot of things are definitely glorified. I think they’re certainly worth it if you go do it but you have to be very, very tidy, and you definitely have to be ready for some grind if stuff breaks.

Kyle:

So, I went bigger than a van. I bought a travel trailer and a truck, so it was 32-feet long, which is quite large. It had a queen-size bed, a dinette, little loveseat, a full kitchen, shower and a bathroom, and then two bunk rooms in the back. Even with all that space, once you move in your gear, your camping gear, your hobby gear, it takes up so much room and your clothes, and there’s not really closet space, typically. You put your bike there because you don’t want it stolen, so you’re keeping your full-size mountain bike in this little, tiny walkway, so you’re shuffling around it to get to the bathroom. You got your camping gear, climbing gear, everything is just scattered around, and it really fills up quickly.

Bob:

Yeah, everything kind of has to have a place, and if it moves and it’s in the way. I was the same way; my bike was more than my car, so my bike was always either inside or locked in the car. It wasn’t sitting outside in the rain.

Kyle:

You have a nice bike.

Bob:

My car was pretty cheap, so it wasn’t saying much. I know a couple of people have done that. I guess I was surprised at how expensive it was to stay somewhere. Like the campgrounds aren’t super cheap.

Kyle:

No, and then people are like, why aren’t you boondocking or dirt bagging where you go out and just park somewhere in the woods and it’s like, that sounds nice, but then you don’t have running water because the tank, you only have 40 gallons of fresh water, which is quite a bit but once you cook and shower and flush the toilet, it goes through pretty quick, and then you have to take it somewhere to refill it, so then you have to unlevel it, take it off the blocks, hook it up to the truck, make sure it’s secure, and then drive into wherever you’re going to either dump your sewer or refill the fresh water. It just becomes a headache. Everyone likes boondocking and the generator idea. It’s possible — you could do it — but for three months at a time on a travel assignment, it would be a lot.

Bob:

People are going to notice if your scrubs are a little dirty or you’re not flushing your toilet to save water.

Kyle:

Exactly. And then, for instance, I didn’t have a washer and dryer in mine, so a lot of my time was spent at the laundromat doing laundry in between shifts or after my three-day stretch. And then you want to go out on an adventure, biking or camping, or something and so you kind of run out of time. But [inaudible] based on the price of things, for instance, in Los Angeles, when I worked down there, in 2019 I went home to have an operation, and I had three months off, and that’s kind of when I was looking into RVs, and I was like, I’m going to buy an RV and go that route. So, I purchased the RV from a guy in Kentucky. I thought I got a decent price on it. I bought a truck to pull it, which they get heavy once you weigh them down, and then you got to make sure you have enough towing capacity to move the RV or you can damage your engine or your transmission. So, I bought that, and then when I moved back out, I went to LA to kind of get back into a hospital I had already worked at, something I already knew. I drove from Kentucky to LA with the truck and the trailer. For 2200 miles, I was getting 7 miles per gallon. That’s not something you really think about when you’re pulling the trailer. Even if your truck gets twenty something miles per gallon, once you add 5 – 6000 pounds on the back of it, it’s like a big sail so you’re pulling in the wind.

Bob:

And going through the Midwest isn’t too bad, but I can’t imagine pulling something through the Rockies or something.

Kyle:

I went south through the southern part of the country, and the wind from Oklahoma to New Mexico with a 32-foot trailer, that thing is just a big flat box. I was white knuckling the whole way just trying to keep it in between the lines. It was scary; it really was, especially when you haven’t done it before. It’s nerve wracking. And then if you think driving in a city and how many times you make a U turn, you can’t really do that at all. You’re pulling through wherever you go. And then backing up, you don’t have a camera. It’s just nerve wracking. But when I got to LA — it kind of limits your living situation if you’re going to live in an RV park. The RV park benefits is you have water hookups, sewer hookup and electric hookup, which is convenient because you park it and you don’t have to move. I had to live in Pomona in my RV, which is about an hour from LA, so with traffic, driving to work each day, it was about an hour there going in on night shifts and then about 45 – 55 minutes home in the morning after my night shift. And so, the RV park is pretty nice. It had a pool and a hot tub and a common area, but it was a dirt parking spot, so you’re just parking on dirt and it was $1,100 a month. So, you’re providing your own living area, and you’re literally paying $1,100 for electric, sewer, water, and a 40-foot piece of land to live on.

Bob:

That’s more than I would have thought. But that’s also a lot less time to get around LA than I thought. After seeing that historic Thanksgiving traffic two years ago or something.

Kyle:

Yeah, and even living in LA if you’re in the denser areas. I did live in a house, like I rented a house from a lady before there, and just going to the grocery store sometimes you’d be stuck in traffic for like 20 – 25 minutes, and you’re only going a couple miles. It’s just a different world out there. But yeah, those are some of the things with the RV that you don’t really think about. Do you want me to touch on some other things with the RV?

Bob:

No, it’s just funny because we thought — we ended up buying a house but I was like, we should just build a tiny house and take it wherever we want. I was pretty stoked about it until I realized how much it was going to weigh. And then say we built something, the truck to pull it would cost more than the tiny house. I was just kind of astounded, but I guess that’s why the travel trailers are a little cheaper.

Kyle:

Yeah, they’re a little lighter and a little cheaper, so I was able to pull it with a 1500, just a Dodge Ram, but my friend in Kentucky, one of my buddies that I lived with for a while — I got him into travel nursing — and he and his girlfriend bought a 5th wheel, which are the ones that don’t have the back of a truck bed like a gooseneck, and those weigh, I think, 11,000 pounds, which no 1500 or basic truck is going to pull that. He had to get a 3500 GMC Dually diesel, which was like a $40,000 truck used, plus the 5th wheel, so there’s a lot of money that goes into it to be able to pull it safely.

Bob:

Yeah. We were looking at building a tiny house which I think would have been very, very heavy.

Kyle:

Yeah, I actually looked into purchasing a tiny house because when I started looking for RVs, you get these little ads on whatever your social media platforms are, and there’s like, check out our tiny homes. I was like, those look really nice. I’ll look into it. First off, they’re expensive if you buy them prefabricated, I think like $40 – $60,000 roughly is what you’re looking at minimum, and then the weight of them was about as much as a 5th wheel, and you have less living space. But the tiny home ended up being 11 – 12,000 pounds, I would say.

Bob:

It’s like everything always seems like a really good idea like, why don’t I do that? And then you kind of look into it, and you’re like, ok, that’s why not everyone is doing that. So, now you’ve put some roots down, if you will. What led to you taking a staff gig?

Kyle:

I was doing the travel thing for roughly four years and I enjoy it, I really do. My brother owns a house here in southern Washington, and his roommate was moving out, and I was living out of my RV for almost two years. When you’re in the RV, it was good; I enjoyed it. I don’t knock it at all. I’m happy I did it, but you get home every day, you’re by yourself, and you just kind of miss that human interaction. And then also, the annoyance of having to pack up and move your trailer every time you move was a lot. I think I just wanted somewhere I could come home to and like have more of a steady roots instead of bouncing around so often, be around family. I just wanted to take a break. The Pacific Northwest is beautiful. There’s so much hiking and camping and mountain biking that I thought it would be somewhere I’d enjoy. So, I applied up here, and they interviewed me for the trauma unit, and I got a job. I had never worked at this hospital — I didn’t travel to it first — I just applied on a whim and came up here.

Bob:

Nice. It’s funny what you say about roommates. I feel like I met so many good — not even at the hospital — I met so many good roommates. In Salt Lake, I met this one guy. I met him on the Salt Lake rock climbing page, and I roomed with him, and it was a really good thing, and we ended up being pretty good friends. I lived with another nurse in Medford, in Southern Oregon, and had a blast with her and got to know some of her friends and just kind of amazing the connections just outside of the nursing facility or the nursing aspect or hospital setting you can make. It’s one of those things I’ve never thought about, the fact that now that I have a partner and have a baby like I’m probably never going to have a roommate again.

Kyle:

That is interesting; you don’t think about that.

Bob:

It’s funny the things you don’t realize that might be the last at the time. Like the last time you ever walked at a high school. Do you remember the last day you walked out of your high school for the last time?

Kyle:

I don’t. You take it for granted.

Bob:

Yeah. Have you enjoyed just being on staff, or do you think at some point you’ll be back to traveling, or what does the future look like?

Kyle:

That’s a tough question. I don’t know. There’s a lot of things that play into it. I think one thing that kind of drew me to the Portland area is they pay pretty well for staff nursing. It’s a union job, so we’re protected pretty well by the union, which some people are for or against unions. I think it’s good in nursing. There’s a lot they do for us. The pay is competitive; there’s a lot of opportunity for overtime; the ratios are nice; I never float. That was something I kind of really liked once I started at the hospital. It’s a different aspect because as a traveler I feel like sometimes until you get to know the hospital and the hospital gets to know you, they don’t really trust you with unstable patients. And then here once you get oriented and whatnot, you’re able to take some of the sicker patients. I was just kind of missing that, especially in trauma, you get the boring patients as the traveler; you don’t ever get the that are being mass transfused and whatnot. I just kind of missed that and was ready to get my hands dirty a little bit. I like that aspect of it. As far as the traveling goes, the pay is obviously better. There’s not as much meetings and stuff as a travel nurse; you’re not attending staff meetings. That I do miss because when we have a staff meeting, I just despise it. I hate coming in on my day off and listening to people whine about things that I’m not super passionate about. I guess you get paid for it, but that’s always pretty frustrating.

Bob:

As a traveler you have to do some education stuff that you don’t get paid for, and I’m like, man, it would be kind of nice to get paid for this. I feel that. It’s funny, everyone is talking about how the rates are going down, but the rates are still higher than, as you know, pre Covid. I’m stoked to make XYZ, and now everyone is like, I want to make at least 3 grand a week, and I’m like, the only place you can make 3 grand a week before Covid was like California and New York, maybe. So, this whole thing about people won’t accept — anyway, I was kind of like you were. Maybe I should start to get super specialized, so just for giggles, I applied for a CVICU that does like ECMO and all that stuff. There’s like a signing bonus of 30K over two years which after taxes would have been like $1,000 a month over two years. They were like, we’re going to offer you a position; it’s $38 an hour or you can counteroffer. I was like, I know some of my friends are making like $60, so how about $60. She’s like, I can take it to them, but they’re going to say no. I was like I can meet you at $55, but I’m like the breadwinner, if you will.

Kyle:

Would they meet you there?

Bob:

No, she called me back, and they were like, we’re prepared to offer you $40, and I was like, I can’t feed my family and pay my bills on $40. I want to be passionate, and I want to strive for the best, and I want to continue my education, but this is why people don’t stay. This is why you have travel nurses. Again, it’s not even me being greedy, like I wouldn’t be a nurse for free, for the most part, for most people, but I can’t support my family on that. I think it’s crazy.

Kyle:

Yeah. And when you think about the job we do, it’s like, a lot of people wouldn’t be able to do it or wouldn’t want to do it for that amount of money.

Bob:

We’re like the Mike Roe of Dirty Jobs in a different way.

Kyle:

Exactly. One hundred percent. I’ll tell people stories and they’re just like, you had to do that? And I’m like, yes, I did. I did on an elderly patient and it was not fun.

Bob:

Yeah, it’s funny. I’ll come home, and Ang is like, I had to change Ridge’s diapers all day. I was like, I would one hundred percent prefer to change Ridge’s diapers all day than XYZ four or five times.

Kyle:

It’s so much easier to turn a little kid compared to — I think our hospital just accepted an 800-pound patient. It’s like, cleaning that bowel movement, it’s going to be all up in all the crevices, and then you’ve got to put the strain on your back.

Bob:

Yeah, it’s kind of tough to have proper ergonomics when — I remember we had one guy that like a U-Haul; it was crazy.

Kyle:

That’s absurd. One thing about this hospital I’m at is we have lifts in the majority of our ICU rooms that can handle up to 650 pounds, so as long as their spines are clear, we can turn them by ourselves without having to lift anything except a couple pillows.

Bob:

And with you there, you can do 800 yourself.

Kyle:

Oh yeah, left handed.

Bob:

That’s quite a bit. I’m glad you’re back somewhere and enjoying it.

Kyle:

I guess as far as the future goes, I don’t know. I’m enjoying it right now. I just started a new role at my hospital. It’s pretty specific to this hospital. I don’t know many that do it, but I for instance, work in the trauma surgical ICU but in the emergency room there are four trauma bays where we land all our traumas, and it’s a role you have to apply for after you’ve worked there for X amount of time and you have so much experience. So, I applied to this role — it’s called Critical Response Nurse — so some of my shifts I’m bedside as a nurse, and then when I’m a Critical Response Nurse, CRN, I spend my 12 hours in the emergency manning the trauma bays with a couple other nurses, whether they’re emergency room nurses or ICU nurses. It just kind of depends on the day. Usually there’s two or three of us, but it can be hectic, and it kind of provided a new role for me that I’ve never done before, so it’s kept it interesting. I’ve got to do and see a lot of things that I hadn’t previously, and that’s really kept me interested in staying around.

Bob:

Did you have to take any additional classes or anything for that or is it just ED-based algorithms?

Kyle:

Mostly ED-based algorithms, but I did have to take PALS because we do peds traumas, TNCC, but you usually have to have that for work on the trauma ICU. There’s kind of two different ways we get patients in the trauma bays. We have four bays in a 31-bed ED, but we have a trauma radio, so we get scene calls from a radio, so if the EMS is at a car wreck or they get called downtown because someone got shot in the chest, when they’re getting ready to load up and bring the patient to the hospital, they page out and say, “This is AMR, whatever number, coming to OHSU code 3. This gentleman is roughly 32 years old; he got shot three times in the chest. We don’t have a blood pressure; we just intubated him; we’ll be there in eight minutes.” You’re like, OK, let’s get ready and prepare for this patient to roll in. So, it could be that, or it could be a trauma transfer, say like a 90-year-old fell and hit her head going to the bathroom, and she went to an outside hospital, and she has a head bleed, so now they’re transferring her to us. It could be very drastic difference in the patient population. It keeps you on your toes, and sometimes you only have minutes to prepare for some of the sickest patients you’re going to see. It’s pretty cool. It keeps the job interesting, I’ll say.

Bob:

I always tell everybody that I’m a jack of all trades because as a travel nurse, some of the learning curves stop, like they’re not paying you to learn; they’re paying you to be adaptable and flexible and just kind of stand in. I was coming home from work a couple months ago, and I remember seeing this light, and then this light on the other side of the road did this weird bobble and I realized it was a motorcycle that had [inaudible]. So, I flipped a U-ie, and I came around, and by the time I got there, there was already two cars stopped. The guy wasn’t wearing a helmet; he’s face down; and I didn’t really know what to do because I’m like, there’s kind of a lot of blood, so I don’t want to touch him because I’m not trying to get anything, and he’s like moving. I’m like, “Just lay still; don’t move; don’t roll over.” And he’s not following directions and moving all over the place. I’m like, “I’m not going to force you to not move when you’re covered in blood.”

Kyle:

You get some patients who are cooperative and some that aren’t and everything in between. It’s funny though. You’re telling her, “You could have an unstable spinal fracture.” And they’re just like, “I don’t care. I need water. I want to get out bed.” It’s like, OK.

Bob:

I don’t care. I need a cigarette.

Kyle:

Yeah, my favorite.

Bob:

So, it’s keeping it interesting, but I’ve talked to a lot of people in a couple different interviews, and rarely is someone like — I’m like, “What do you want to do?” And they’re like, “I don’t know. I want to be a bedside nurse for the next 40 – 50 years.” You just don’t really hear that. I think the job is a lot more intense and technology is a lot greater, and we can do a lot of things we didn’t use to be able to do. Where do you think you might be down the line?

Kyle:

That’s a great question. I don’t know. I tossed up going back to school, and the more I think about it, I’m like — I tossed around CRNA school, NP school; I’m getting close to paying off my student loan debt; I’m right on the brink of doing that, and I’m like, if I go back to school I’m going to devote the next three or four years of my life to studying and learning about something you already do and know pretty well, but you’re going to be obviously more in debt with like pharmacokinetics and understanding the disease processes a little deeper. I’m just like, not in my prime because I’m getting older, but physically I’m able to go mountain bike and snowboard and go on trips and do things with my friends, and I don’t want to miss four years of that to — I don’t know. I feel like I make decent money as a bedside nurse and going to school right now isn’t going to really propel me somewhere astronomically different from where I’m at right now as far as the tax bracket goes and my income. So, I can go do all these things I enjoy, go on trips, go mountain bike, and if I’m 40 or 50 or 36, 38 and start to slow down or something happens, and I have a family, then would I look back and think, oh I missed out on those bike trips or the snowboarding or whatever.

Bob:

The other great things is no one really tells you the possible increase dollar signs, which you do pretty well as working as a nurse or working as a travel nurse. You may not be making more as an NP or depending on what you do, even like a CRNA, you’ve got that opportunity cost of what you would want to be doing plus loans, and I guess at the end of the day, is it what you are really, really passionate about? You also have that increased responsibility, like if you go back to school, you have more responsibility. One of the things I love about our job is I might take some stuff home like emotionally or I might be tired, but I clock out, and I’m done. I’m done. No one is calling me; no one is messaging me; I don’t have to be anywhere.

Kyle:

I’m not on call.

Bob:

I think that’s one of the best things.

Kyle:

I actually work with a couple of nurses right at the hospital I’m at, and some of them have their NP, and they’re still working in the ED or bedside because a lot of places are looking for experienced NPs, and they weren’t able to find jobs right away or they’re applying and getting denied or outbid by someone who has experience — I’m sure it’s not everywhere, but they’re having a hard time finding a job that they’re interested in as an NP.

Bob:

I think it’s everywhere.

Kyle:

I’m just like, you know, if I go to school for three or four years, and then I can’t get a job, and I’m still stuck doing this with the debt of the NP school — I support people going to NP school — I think it’s great; I’m not knocking it all — but I don’t know if it’s what I want to do.

Bob:

Yeah, like you said, it just depends. One of my buddies I really look up to, he’s in his mid-40s; he owns a rock climbing gym and a summer camp, and he just freaking loves it. I just don’t know many people that are like, not just passionate, but super jazzed on what they do. I just think at the end of the day, that would be pretty cool. I’ve kind of come to the same struggle, and I think some of it is just trying to be happy with what I’ve got and where I am and again that flexibility that even though I’ve got some roots a little tied down with the nugget, the fact that I have three days off and I can go surf and it’s nice out. Even if I’m not a traveler, even as staff, you could take a week off and stack your week and get a two-week vacation.

Kyle:

Absolutely. That’s nice. I actually just applied for another thing at my hospital where you reduce your FTE, so .9 is considered full time at 36 hours. I’m going to be .75, and I will be working three days one week and two days the following week, and that’s going to be full time. My benefits don’t change, so I only have five days in a two-week period. But then if you pick up, you get time and a half, so if I work what I’m already working, I get time and a half for that extra shift on the two day week [inaudible], and my benefits don’t change, and if I don’t want to work that week, I just work five days instead of six days. So, I can work five in a row and get a long stretch off where I could literally go anywhere in the country for an extended period of time or out of the country and not take any vacation. So that’s another benefit of the job.

Bob:

Yeah. I was just thinking back to where you’re talking about like even when I was in Salt Lake, there was a girl I knew there that had her NP and was just working as a nurse because she could, and not only can some of the NPs not find jobs, but a lot of them are like, well, I could just go be a travel nurse during this Covid thing. How have you been with Covid? Have you been personally feeling any burnout, or do you feel like you’re taking care of yourself pretty good in the Oregon mountains?

Kyle:

I feel like the patients depend on my burnout. If I have a good patient that’s polite and appreciative of my care, I definitely feel like the nurse of the year. I’m like, I’m going to do everything. And then sometimes you get those patients who are just a little unruly and kind of test your patience a little bit, and that kind of causes you to get some burnout, and they’re not appreciative of the care you’re giving or expect certain things from you. But as far as Covid goes, I didn’t really work Covid here in Oregon. I did some in Salt Lake and Reno, and Covid was wild. It was crazy times. It’s nothing I’ve ever seen; nothing that anyone in healthcare has ever seen or experienced, the death and the tragedy of it all. I’m not burnt out. I was kind of up in the air when it first happened about — I was scared, you know, about going in. Some places had PAPRs; some places didn’t have PAPRs; some places had N95s. And for guys who have more of a beard, it’s like, am I sealed correctly? Am I going to get Covid and get sick and die? It was like trying to be as safe as possible while still providing care to these people who needed it.

Bob:

We didn’t really know anything. I remember walking into the first room, and they’re like, you’re going to get a Covid patient, right as it hit Arizona, and I was like, hold up, can I get the smelly tasty stuff in my mouth? I want to make sure it fits because normally I’m like, yeah, it fits, whatever.

Kyle:

Yeah, exactly. It’s also kind of crazy. I talked about this with some other nurses that isn’t it wild that before Covid we would just go in any patients room whether they’re coughing and sneezing without a mask on and we’d be like providing care for them? PPE wasn’t very common.

Bob:

It’s that, oh you’ve got a little blood on your bed, what’s going on?

Kyle:

Yeah. Oh, that’s sputum, no that’s not pneumonia. But now it’s like the standard to wear a mask every time you go in anywhere. I feel like it’s changed health care a little bit as far as how we approach any situation.

Bob:

Yeah, it is weird. Like you said, I remember when it first hit and going to the grocery store and people are wearing masks? And I’m like, these germaphobes wearing masks everywhere and then now it’s the other way. There’s all these people without masks on; it’s crazy. Just being in the hospital is very different. You talked about taking on some of these additional roles or responsibilities. What do you think might keep somebody at the bedside as a choice for longer? What do you think would make somebody say, you know, I think I would like to be a nurse for the next 40 years?

Kyle:

I think pay is going to change in nursing because they’re so short. Every hospital has so many travel nurses right now because they can’t keep their own staff, and I think eventually hospitals are going to have to quit paying money to travel nurses and start paying their staff a little more to retain them if they want travel nursing to ever cut back a little bit to where they are fewer and farther between. I think if they increase the pay. I mean, burnout is going to be — it’s a stressful job; it’s stressful. You’re trying to keep someone alive; you’re working with family; you’re working with doctors; you’re working with the patient. It’s going to be stressful. People are going to get burnt out. As far as preventing it, I think everyone just has to go about it their own way. I don’t know what would prevent it, honestly. Everyone gets burnt out at any job, I think. There’s very few people I know who absolutely love everything about their job.

Bob:

Yeah, even my tandem hang-gliding buddies are like, I’m so sick of running off a cliff.

Kyle:

Yeah, I just think there are a lot of things that go into it, but you’re always going to be able to find something that you’re not 100% content with no matter where you’re at. I don’t know what would make someone stay at the bedside.

Bob:

I think one thing that you don’t really realize is like the families can be really difficult, like all those dynamics, and it isn’t necessarily what the family wants. It’s what the patient wants or vice versa. That’s the hardest thing. The other day, I had this patient who wanted to have several visitors, and all of a sudden, I’m not taking care of one person, and instead of explaining stuff to one person, I have all these people who are asking me things and want answers and want things and have an opinion, and it can be a lot on a good day, and it could be overload on a bad day.

Kyle:

Absolutely. And also, I think a lot of America is just medically illiterate. There’s a lot they don’t understand, especially when they come into a hospital setting. They don’t know anything, and they Google it, and they get Google answers, and they don’t really understand how it actually happens and how things work. Not everyone is going to have the same outcome from the same disease. There’s other comorbidities that go into it, and families don’t always understand that no matter how you try to explain it to them, and sometimes people just won’t grasp whatever you’re telling them about their loved one.

Bob:

Yeah. Even with comorbidities and even on the side, like when I did neuro, I thought it was interesting because you could have two people with very similar demographic, age, sex, and then they have a very similar brain injury but be like completely different. Everyone is super different; you can’t give somebody an outcome on the best of prognosis.

Kyle:

One hundred percent. That’s an interesting thing about nursing too. It’s like if you were a mechanic, a Toyota comes in with a busted whatever, you fix it, but if someone comes in with a certain condition, they might have a different treatment paths than someone else with the same disease.

Bob:

I was trying to think of how illiterate I am with cars.

Kyle:

Oh, me too. That’s why I was trying to think of something to say, and I was like, yeah, it comes in with a busted [inaudible].

Bob:

They came in, and they hadn’t had their turn signal fluid changed.

Kyle:

Yeah, their headlight fluid.

Bob:

Well, cool man, I definitely appreciate your time. It was nice catching up.

About the author

Alisa Tank

Alisa Tank is a content specialist at CHG Healthcare. She is passionate about making a difference in the lives of others. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, road trips, and exploring Utah’s desert landscapes.

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