Travel nurse Karen Lu shares the story of her nursing career in the Philippines, her travel nursing career, the benefits, and why nurses should try travel nursing.
I was born and raised in the Philippines, where I received my nursing education. At first, everything was overwhelming. I started out in a nursing home facility, but I felt that I needed a more challenging role. I applied at a level 3 trauma hospital as a progressive care nurse. I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I was up for the challenge. The challenging work environment of this unit spurred professional growth by broadening my critical thinking skills.
Continuously striving to get better
My desire to learn kept me wanting more, so after two years, I applied for the hospital’s internal float pool. Being in the float pool gave me a greater understanding of the different areas of nursing. I became immersed in a variety of different situations that shaped me into the nurse I am today. I worked in ortho/trauma, medical oncology, surgery, progressive care units and even floated to the ER to care for overflow patients. Being a float pool nurse prepared me to become a travel nurse. I worked in different units each night, among diverse coworkers, in a variety of scenarios and situations. This helped me realize we can always learn something new in nursing!
Time for a change!
At this point in my life, a decade-long relationship ended. I needed a change. I needed to pay off debt, yet I wanted to travel more. In my heart, I’ve always wanted to see the U.S. and the world beyond. The question was, “How could I travel around the world while making a living?” Travel nursing was the answer I’d been looking for. With almost nine years of bedside experience behind me, I took the leap into travel nursing — and the rest is history.
I was lucky enough to be paired with a recruiter at RNnetwork, who is awesome. Adriana knows I’ve long wanted to live on the West Coast and has gotten me the travel nursing assignments that fit these parameters. One of my first assignments was in Utah, and it was a dream come true! When Adriana told me I got the job, I was elated. Southern Utah is a hiker’s paradise, and no words can describe the feeling of living there. Working there and being able to explore and hike the National Parks in the area was incredible. My only regret about travel nursing? I should have done it sooner!
Change may be scary — but worth it!
Looking back, change and not knowing what is out there is always scary, but you’ll never know until you try. There are always advantages and disadvantages, like any other jobs. But for me as a travel nurse, the pros far outweighed the cons: The ability to travel and work at the same time, more schedule flexibility, not having to keep up with facility-mandated trainings, meeting new people, and learning new skills. The only cons? Nursing is already a difficult schedule. Traveling away from home can make keeping in touch with friends and family can be difficult — but not impossible! Not knowing where everything is like you would at a home facility, and not knowing policies and procedures for individual facilities. It can be in a different time zone than you’re used to. Looking for housing can be challenging.
I don’t know what the future brings for me, but for now, I will continue travel nursing and maybe down the line I’ll get to find my new home state or find a new love — who knows! I just remind myself of something my adoptive father told me:
“You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
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