New Nurse Traveler Finds Professional Development During COVID
By Joseph Duffy, a contributor
May is Nurses Month, and NurseChoice honors our nation's nurses by highlighting some of the countless stories of their vital contributions, unselfishness, and uncommon diligence that help them make a difference every day.
Alabama-born Ashley Martin, RN, worked full-time in a local hospital after graduating from nursing school in 2019.
Before graduating from college, she knew she wanted to become a travel nurse. She thought it would help her grow as a person and enhance her professional development. Ashley also enjoyed vacationing, visiting new places, and meeting new people.
"Why not get paid to do a job that offers all those opportunities?" she said.
From L&D to COVID ICU
As a labor and delivery nurse at her local hospital in Alabama, Ashley said that when the COVID pandemic hit, her duties didn't change much during those first few weeks.
"We tried to stay away from COVID as much as we could and keep it away from our nursery, our babies, and our postpartum moms," she said. "I only had one or two COVID moms and babies, and then they were placed in a separate part of the unit."
But eventually, the labor and delivery unit started to slow down, so Ashley would help out in the ICU.
"At times, we were drowning in our ICU," she said. "I'm from a smaller hospital, and we're a tight-knit family. After seeing ICU nurses in action, I felt they don't get the credit they deserve. I would work in the ICU for just a few days, and I wondered how the ICU nurses could work there every day. I was exhausted mentally and physically. COVID was a rough experience for the nurses and staff."
Ashley ended up contracting the virus. Fortunately, her symptoms were minor, and after staying home for a couple of weeks, she returned to working full time.
From Alabama to San Francisco’s Moscone Vaccine Center
In the early months of 2021, Ashley heard that a friend, a nurse from Alabama, had started traveling with NurseChoice and was on assignment in San Francisco at the Kaiser Moscone Vaccine Center.
After a challenging year working through COVID, she saw working at the vaccination center as "a way to help patients and healthcare workers see the light at the end of the tunnel." So she reached out to her friend, who directed her to NurseChoice recruiter Latham Staples.
Ashley soon started working at the vaccination center, where she monitors patients who receive the vaccine and administers dosages to patients. She went to San Francisco with a travel buddy who also works with Latham.
"Latham reaches out to us every week to check on us and update us on anything we need to know," said Ashley. "He's been nothing short of amazing to work with."
She reflects on her travel assignment at the vaccination center as a great experience.
"Everyone has been joyful and overwhelmed at the center, and it's been a very cool experience to see patients who are thankful and happy to get the vaccine," she said. "I appreciate playing a part in this."
Ashely said she had been moved emotionally by her vaccination patients, especially those who share stories about losing friends and loved ones during the pandemic. She's built friendships with some of those patients.
Although California has been on varying levels of lockdown during most of her assignment, she is making the most of Northern California. Ashley said she and her friends have frequented outside dining at excellent restaurants, taken some tours of the famous city sites, visited Golden Gate Park, and gone to the beach.
Being in such a beautiful city during the pandemic has helped her cope.
"The last year has been detrimental for all of us," she said. "I didn't know how strong we were as nurses and as leaders until faced with the pandemic. This last year has shown us how resilient we have to be, not only for ourselves but for our patients and what we do for a living. It's made me see the bigger picture — that we are so much stronger than we think we are."
Nurses Month and professional development
Among the National Nurses Month celebrated in May, the third week of the month highlights the importance of professional development for nurses.
Ashley is grateful that travel nursing has enhanced her professional development and become a key part of her adventure. She looks forward to learning new procedures and technology every time she takes a new assignment.
"In Alabama, I was growing as a nurse, but once I started traveling, my desire to learn about different things blossomed. And it's not just professional information. It's also learning about new cultures,” she said.
“By traveling, I'll experience many different ways of living. I now know there is so much to experience outside of your hometown. Travel nursing has already helped me become a stronger nurse and a more well-rounded person because I'm not just defined to one culture in one hospital and one environment."
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