Travel Nursing: The Journey comes To A close.
Driving lonely highways at night can lull you into thinking about not only to where you are destined, but where you've been.
One really bad experience that crossed my mind while driving, I had had just as my assignment was coming to a close.
I will call her "Sylvia." Sylvia was in her mid-80s, living alone with her 9 cats in a lovely home atop a hill above a Maine highway. She was alert and oriented, very staunch in her routines, but a very sweet lady. She was recovering from hip surgery. It had gone well. She faithfully did her Physical Therapy exercises. Nursing monitored her incision, vitals and meds. She was healing nicely. Sylvia had a compassionate heart and verbalized to me her "soft heart for homeless cats." It was no surprise she had so many. They were all quite friendly, appreciative of the warmth and food in such severe weather, and having a place where they each got attention. But- there was a big issue with odor from the litter boxes. She had 3 of them. She kept them in her bathroom. Hence, cat feces were all over the floor, as the litter boxes were so unattended.
Due to her mobility guidelines, she was not allowed to hyper-extend her hip, thus making it impossible to care for her cats. Sylvia had a Home Health Aide, but she wasn't required to, nor did she desire to clean the boxes, so they got worse. I asked her if there was anyone in her neighborhood or perhaps a family member that could assist her with the cats?
"No," she said with a clouded expression, "and I'm not getting rid of them either."
The odor was so bad, I was told later, that it set off an alarm in the house. It resulted in the Fire Department showing up. I learned later that the E.M.S. and many others were aware of the situation but that she had the right to stay put with her cats if she wished. Just being in her otherwise immaculate home was enough to make my eyes water and want to open all of the windows! It seemed a wise idea to check with the Social Worker we had on staff. Did she have family? She had a daughter who lived far away and wanted nothing to do with the situation.
"She's already in the System," I was told. "Leave it alone."
I documented everything. Over the next week, it got so bad, I literally could not enter the house. "Sylvia," I pleaded with her, "Please let us either move you to a safe place temporarily while this is handled, or have someone take care of your cats for you!" She looked at me in annoyance and stated flatly, I'm staying put. The cats are staying put. I plan to die at home with them. There's a man who lives downstairs in the basement apartment. I'll ask him," she said. Whether or not she did, I'll never know. Sylvia got her wish. She was found dead the next morning.
The windshield began to get pelted with cold rain from the dark sky. A bolt of lightening lit the road ahead, I could see the dark gray clouds pluming in different shapes as I thought of Sylvia.
"The sky matches my mood," I told myself as tears of frustration and grief hit me.
I sometimes wonder what kind of scruples if any, Travel Nurse Recruiters possess. Such was the question on my pending Wisconsin assignment.
"Will I be passing meds or doing blood glucose checks?" I asked the person who introduced herself as the Nursing Administrator. She was interviewing me over the phone for an Assisted Living position.
"Oh no, " she replied warmly, "We have trained personnel to do that."
"And," I continued," if someone does not show for a shift, will I have to do their load as well as my own?" I queried.
"Why no," she answered. "Our Nurse Managers will handle that or they will pull the shifts themselves." I had not worked Assisted Living before so I had no idea with the duties would be. Apparently the Administrator didn't either, so I asked for a job description.
The Recruiter wouldn't tell me the name of the company, nor the duties, only the pay.
"They really want you, she said eagerly, "Shall we accept?"
"I still need a job description. It's too vague," I stated.
"O.K., I'll email her and get one for you."
I never received it.
A week after I left Vermont to head to Wisconsin to see about living arrangements for this alleged job, I got the bad news. they really wanted me for a C.N.A., not a nurse, although they were willing to pay R.N. wages. Were they kidding???!
What really irked me about the whole thing was that the Recruiter knew darn well what the job was, but failed to properly present it to me. This after breaking my neck trying to get my credentialing sent to them (in the middle of nowhere), and driving hundreds of miles so I wouldn't be late.
The house didn't work out. It was too far away from Hudson where my job search was focused. So, now I not only had no job, but no place in which to live.
While on the road, it gave me a chance to think how each assignment went and what the environment was upon my arrival to each one.
I emailed my old Manager at a different Travel Nurse company to ask if my perceptions were accurate.
"Thank you for the email and update. I am sorry to hear the position did not work out for you the way that you'd hoped. Yes, a lot of facilities that are looking for travelers are in turmoil and the regular staff will not stay. It can be very tough at times and, with your very caring and patient-driven work ethic, it can work to a disadvantage with some assignments. I know you will do an outstanding job back in Minnesota and wish you all the best. If you need any advice in the future, or I can help out in any way, do not hesitate to contact me."
In the past 2 weeks since returning home, I had been forced to use my savings to pay for hotels and gas while driving around the state in an attempt to find a place to settle that I could afford so I could focus on finding work. My Traveling pay had not yet been deposited.
I began to get concerned, as it was winter. While my financial obligations were current thankfully, I was not destitute - yet. But I had no family that I could count on to help me. The only one who could have and would have would have been my late mother.
I was tired, still a bit ill and discouraged. "Father," I prayed, "Please tell me what to do?"
I remembered then the teachings of my Church, and how we are commanded to care for one another especially those in need.
Taking a deep breath, I phoned my Pastor.
In addition to offering prayer, he put me touch with a Monastery in St. Paul. Although I am not Catholic, I was accepted. The Pastor knew the Sisters well.
They were kind and caring. I was able to stay 2 days only because after that, the rooms were spoken for, as a Retreat group was coming in that same weekend.
It was a time of rest and re-group.
Upon my leaving, I stayed in touch with the Sisters and asked them to continue to pray for me, which they did.
I suddenly received a text from my Pastor, stating that "Julie, a member of our Church, would be contacting me very soon."
I waited for the call.
At an invitation to dinner, Julie and her husband asked me to share with them my story. After they heard what I had been through, she took my hand and said, "We will help you find lodgings until you find work." They did.
They were wealthy business people who loved the Lord. They felt it was a calling for them to act in circumstances such as these. I was most grateful.
Over the course of about 2 weeks, I was the guest in 3 lovely hotels. Through their connections, Julie and her husband secured me some gift cards for gas, food and anything else I needed until I started some decent hours.
I had my mini computer with me and had been applying since New England, so I was hopeful.
Through another contact from Church, Julie helped me find a temporary studio apartment, month to month. A Security deposit wasn't required.
It wasn't long after that that I secured a P.R.N. Home Health R.N. position while seeking fulltime duties.
In the meantime, I also had an interview with an organization where I am still employed.
I was in the studio 2 months, and then rented a room in a lovely home on a lake. Within the same year, I bought a house.
Over-loading the nurse, lack of Orientation, attempts to get the nurse to work outside of his/her contract and then chide her/him for not giving in, bad reviews to her employer with no merit, having to shell out money up front for travel, housing, etc., inferior equipment, air pollution, stench, illness, sadness, abuse, dog bites, fatigue, exhaustion, hospitalization, no Managerial support on site, missing supplies from storage, undiagnosed mental illness in clients, hoarders, smokers, parasites, miles and miles of driving, if anything- this industry should offer Hazard Duty Pay.
I gave it everything I had. I was in my late 50s. If it had not been for Gods' mercy shown in the compassion and kindness of caring strangers and Christians, I might have froze to death sleeping in my car.
My adventures in Maine and Iowa are some that I shall never forget. Good, bad and shades of gray in between.
I have found that my training as a nurse here in Minnesota is done at a higher standard than in some parts of the country. Therefore, my expectations of others are just as high. It was a rude awakening to find the companies that my Travel Agencies and those with whom I had been assigned did not hold to those standards, which made my job very hard.
One of the first questions I was asked during my interview was "Where did you go to school?" Many out of state places are very happy to get nurses from the mid-west. Not to take away from others who may have attended some very fine schools, but that just seems to be the reaction I have experienced, that's all.
There is beauty, exploring this land of ours, both in its' nature, and in our people from all walks of life. A testing of skills, courage, perseverance, compassion and empathy, but....
There is a dark side of Travel Nursing. It reveals itself on the job, not in the contract.
In truth, looking back on where I have been on this journey, I can see that Gods' hand was protecting me. He was there with me. He never promises smooth sailing, but He does promise He will never leave us. He walks through it with us. "Tried by Fire," was how it felt. But it was eye-opening to say the least and I have grown because of it.
I know that there are others out there who love Travel Nursing. They are happy with what they do and love the companies for whom they work.
There are some good ones out there....somewhere.....
About Have Nurse, ASN, LPN, RN Pro
Cynthia is a grandmother, Christian, U.S. Army veteran, former combat Medic. She loves people, nature, Victorian homes and dark chocolate!
Joined: Feb '18; Posts: 484; Likes: 810