‘Put Me Where You Need Me’: RN Reflects on Crisis Nursing Jobs
Earlier this year, Teri Knight, RN, walked into a California hospital during the height of a COVID-19 wave and put on full PPE (personal protective equipment).
It was the beginning of her first of two short-term COVID crisis nursing jobs. Looking back, she remembers it as an intense experience that was also intensely meaningful.
How she got here
If you’d asked Teri 10 years ago when she graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in public health what she’d be doing today, nursing— especially nursing in the ICU—would not have made the shortlist. Or even a long list.
But Teri eventually found her way to nursing school and then to a job in the CVICU at a hospital in Richmond, Virginia.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, she started seeing all of the news reports about hospitals that were overflowing with coronavirus patients. Meanwhile, she was working a desk job in occupational health, and she started to think about her background in critical care nursing–experience that she knew was directly relevant to the growing crisis.
“It didn’t feel like that was where I needed to be,” she said, referring to her administrative position.
Then in the autumn of 2020, Teri began researching travel nurse companies, including NurseChoice. When recruiter Latham Staples called her back and calmly walked her through the entire process of working as a short-term travel nurse, she knew she’d found the right person--and the right travel nursing company.
Teri gave Latham the thumbs up. “Put me where you need me,” she told him, and he began sending her some offers from hospitals that were in dire need of her skills. Not long thereafter, they’d hammered out a contract for a 4-week crisis assignment at Kaiser Permanente South San Francisco Medical Center. December 14 was her first day on the job.
“It was like a whirlwind,” she said.
Working a crisis assignment during COVID
Starting any new job can be a little bit nerve-wracking. But can you imagine starting a new crisis nursing job at a new hospital on the other side of the country, in the midst of a global pandemic? While your spouse and children are literally thousands of miles away? Not to mention that you’re assigned to the day shift after being accustomed to working nights?
Plus, there isn’t a lot of time for a regular orientation when you’re parachuting in to help out in a crisis. Fortunately for Teri, an educator at the hospital understood the enormity of the situation and pulled her and another traveler aside for a one-day crash course on working there. They covered the basics of the electronic health record system, the equipment in the ICU, and other vitally important details.
Then Teri took a deep breath and jumped right in to start working on the unit. “It was definitely intimidating, but once I was there, they supported me,” she said. “I got comfortable really fast, with the people there.”
Everyone knew they were part of a team, and Teri appreciated the opportunity to be a meaningful part of that team. Plus, there were other nurse travelers, so the staff knew how to work with her.
Teri also knew she could count on her recruiter, Latham, if she needed him. In fact, he called her regularly just to check in and make sure she was doing okay.
When the assignment wrapped up, Teri traveled back to Richmond to hug her seven-year-old twins and husband. But a week later, she was on the road again, this time to Los Angeles and another Kaiser hospital. She took another 4-week crisis assignment and wound up extending it for an additional two weeks before she headed home again.
The money she’d earned from those crisis nursing jobs allowed Teri to take some extended time off to spend with her family, which she deeply appreciated. After that, she took on a contract job in the CCU at a local hospital.
Now she’s dreaming of future travel nursing assignments with NurseChoice. She’s hopeful that she can return to California one of these days, actually. She was able to take the crisis nursing jobs without needing a state license, due to the emergency authorization orders, but now she is working on getting a regular California nursing license.
“It’s fun, and it’s been really fascinating to see other companies in other areas and how they work,” she said. “There is a lot to learn, a lot to learn as a nurse.”
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