By Susan Schneider, contributor
Dianne Lewandowski, RN, is a pediatric nurse who has a youthful voice and laugh her patients must love. She has been a travel nurse for eight and half years and at 61, she has no plans to settle down anytime soon.
“I consider travel nursing a working vacation,” said Lewandowski. “I love my freedom and the chance to explore the country and expand my skills at the same time.”
Lewandowski explained that she had been on staff at a well known medical center for many years, Shriners Hospital for Children in Portland, Oregon.
“It’s a wonderful hospital,” said Lewandowski, “But I got to the point where I felt there was no where to go. And because the hospital is primarily focused on orthopedics, I wasn’t being exposed to a wide range of pediatric specialties.”
Lewandowski learned about American Mobile Healthcare after sending in a business reply card she found in a trade journal. She signed on with the travel agency and has worked for them ever since.
“I’ve had two wonderful recruiters. The first one left because of family reasons and I was then assigned to Michelle Cacaci. She’s been great too. She’ll call and ask me what I’m looking for in my next assignment and then tell me the available positions that fit what I’m looking for.”
Lewandowski’s criteria for choosing assignments are location, compensation and opportunities in her specialty. She prefers working at a pediatric hospital rather than a general hospital with a pediatric unit because the scope of Peds services is broader and more in-depth.
She is certain traveling has helped her hone her skills because of the variety of cases she’s been exposed to and the many opportunities for skills advancement that have presented themselves.
For example, when in San Antonio on assignment, she was offered the chance to participate in the hospitals’ PICU program in exchange for signing a six month contract. She jumped at the chance even though PICU isn’t necessarily an area she wants to specialize in.
“It was invaluable training. It made me more aware and able to pick up clues to problems children in the general Pediatric Units might have that haven’t been detected yet. It stretched my skills and abilities.”
Lewandowski said that in addition to increasing her professional skills she is enjoying meeting new people. She said it is easy to make new friends because there are so many other nurse travelers around and they are generally, by nature, outgoing, friendly and looking for others to do things with.
“I was online in a nursing forum and another traveler asked some questions that I was able to answer about the Northwest. We decided to meet for dinner and have since become good friends. We go to museums, movies and lunch frequently. It’s very nice.
“I also made friends with a traveler from Australia which was fun. I feel like I’ll have friends wherever I go.”
One of the places Lewandowski enjoys visiting is the island of Kaui in Hawaii. She goes every year with her parents for three weeks. It’s a tradition she said she wouldn’t be able to uphold if she was a staff nurse and tied down by a hospital’s structure.
“I like being able to set my own schedules and vacations,” said Lewandowski. “Some friends think I’m crazy, but when I’m on an assignment that allows self-scheduling, I’ll sign up for six days on in a row, so I can have eight days off. Then I can take overnight trips and get to know an area I’m interested in even more thoroughly. I’ll go stay in little motels by myself and explore. I treat myself to little vacations all the time. I love that freedom”
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