By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
Lots of negativity floats around in the world of travel nursing. Browse through any online forum and you could easily get scared by people discussing contract cancellations and less than friendly coworkers.
Travel nursing is an amazing experience, but constantly hearing about others’ negative experiences can make potential travelers really start to wonder if travel nursing is worth it.
When I look at my travel nursing career thus far, the good far outweighs the bad. Sure, I could tell you a few stories that would make you cringe, but today I want to focus on one that makes me smile every single time. I want to tell you about when my dear Bess the Blazer failed me one final time, and how the coworkers at my travel job treated me like I was more than “just a traveler.”
My husband and I are a travel pair, but it can be hard to find jobs close to each other. On our first assignment, we stayed in central Wisconsin and both commuted about 45 minutes to get to our respective jobs.
We are big on paying cash for cars, so one of our vehicles was a 1998 Chevy Blazer we affectionately named Bess. As with any used car, we had had a few mishaps, but overall nothing was glaringly wrong with her. We also bought the top level AAA plan in case of breakdowns.
Bess decided that my commute to work one October night was going to be my last time with her. As I got closer and closer to my exit, I noticed the acceleration wasn’t working quite right. I was flooring it to get the car up to 65 mph. I knew once I got to my exit I had about 20 miles of country highway, and I wouldn’t need to go more than about 50 mph, so I banked on getting to work and calling AAA in the morning.
About five miles off the exit, 40 mph was my new maximum speed. I called my husband and let him know he would need to start heading my direction as I was not sure I would make it to work.
Ten miles from work was the last small town I passed, and the speedometer capped at 30, then 25, then everything started smelling like gasoline. I realized I probably needed to pull over so I could at least make it to a parking lot instead of being stranded on the shoulder of the road.
I called my unit and was literally terrified of the response I would get. As a traveler, I had never called into work or been late because I was always so scared of the staff’s reaction or repercussions on my contract.
The unit secretary answered and I explained I was stranded 15 minutes from the hospital and there was no public transportation in that area. I apologized profusely from the moment she answered the phone.
Before I could finish freaking out, she calmly said, “All right, I’ll let the charge know. Don’t worry! There’s nothing you can do.”
That logic hit me like a ton of bricks. There was nothing I could do. Car troubles happen even with newer cars, and in a rural area, you can’t exactly call an Uber to come to your rescue. I knew my husband would get there within 15 minutes and I’d be about 30 minutes late to work, so I just had to wait.
I was even more astounded by the reactions once I finally made it to work that night. Three nurses had to stay over to give me report, and none of them complained. No one seemed secretly annoyed they had to stay, they just gave me report like I had shown up on time.
Later that night I was on the Enterprise website looking at rental cars. My husband had been able to tow Bess back to where we were living, but he worked the next morning and his commute was 45 minutes in the wrong direction. Luckily, Enterprise opened at 8 a.m., and I figured the town was small enough that even if I had to walk a couple of miles it wouldn’t be too bad.
The charge nurse came up as I was browsing cars and asked if I was planning on getting a rental for the next couple of days. I explained to commute situation and she looked at me and said, “Okay, but how will you get to the car rental place?”
I told her I planned on walking and she looked at me like I was downright crazy. “You can’t walk! It’s like three miles! I’ll just give you a ride over in the morning.”
Although I am probably the worst person in the world at accepting help I knew at that moment the best response was a simple thank you. I was so grateful to not have to walk through the cold Wisconsin morning in my Danskos with my work bag in tow. After feeling like I had gone through about three panic attacks over the course of my shift along with the normal stressors of work, I knew I would make it home safely and have time over the next few days to figure out the car situation.
I am not sure that all of the coworkers that acted the way they did that night truly comprehend how much it meant to me. As a travel nurse, you spend a lot of time feeling alone and don’t have a large support system in each location. By simply being nice and treating me the way they would all treat their friends or other coworkers, they made my stressful situation one hundred times easier to handle. I am forever thankful for that.
If you are on the fence about travel nursing because of the negativity you hear about, know there are good assignments and good people out there waiting to welcome a traveler. There will be people you meet who impact you in ways you wouldn’t expect, and the kindness you receive as a stranger helps to balance out any of the bad days.
Alex McCoy currently works as a pediatric travel nurse. She has a passion for health and fitness, which led her to start Fit Travel Life in 2016. She travels with her husband, their cat, Autumn and their dog, Summer. She enjoys hiking, lifting weights, and trying the best local coffee and wine.
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