By Debra Wood, RN, contributor
For med-surg nurse Jaime Walker, RN, travel nursing offered an opportunity to escape Michigan’s harsh winters while exploring the country. She winters in Florida or Hawaii and summers in Virginia or Illinois.
“My favorite part of traveling is I don’t do snow,” said Walker, who travels with travel staffing company American Mobile Healthcre. “But I still get to go home for Christmas.”
Walker schedules her assignments, so one ends before the holiday. After New Year’s she’s ready to jump into a new position.
“I enjoy moving around, meeting new people and having different experiences,” Walker said. “I’ve luckily not had a bad experience.”
When Walker finds a community or hospital she truly enjoys, she stays on.
“I’ve never had someone tell me I couldn’t extend, even for a few weeks to get me where I need to be, so I get the days off,” Walker said. “It’s very flexible and convenient.”
Walker not only times her commitments to arrive back in Michigan for the holidays. She also plans assignments around vacations. This fall, she is taking a month off. With a fellow traveler she met during an assignment, Walker will cruise to Europe and see the sights in Spain, France, Italy and the United Kingdom. Then she will take the time to attend her sister’s wedding.
While on assignment, Walker does all of the “touristy things” a region offers.
In Maui, she took up surfing and photographed the area’s natural beauty.
She has returned for multiple assignments in Naples, Florida, soaking up the sun on the Gulf beaches. Her parents visited on her first trip and liked it so much, they bought a house there. Now, she enjoys family while on assignment.
Although she has practiced in Chicago, Illinois and Charlottesville, Virginia, Walker considers herself “more of an island girl than a city girl.”
After listening to a former travel nurse while working on Walker’s Michigan unit talk about her experiences on the road, Walker signed up that night and soon headed to a small hospital in a small town.
“It was the perfect first assignment,” she said. “The stuff they did was basic nursing, with no computer systems to learn.”
That placement gave her confidence to move around.
“You learn so much at each assignment. You get to the next one, and you remember doing that before,” Walker said. “On this assignment (in Virginia), I’ve learned things I had never heard of or seen, and I’ve been a nurse for seven years. I was scared at first, but everyone is always willing to let you know how to do things.”
Walker began traveling five years ago, and recommends it to other nurses.
“You run your own show,” she said. “You decide what you want to do and where you want to do it.”
Traveling gives her an opportunity to check out potential places where she might like to eventually settle down, but she’s not ready for that yet. She still wants to experience California and Alaska.
“This is an experience and a chance of a lifetime,” Walker concluded. “It’s been a whirlwind, but it’s been wonderful. I cannot believe my job.”
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