Jennifer is a learner. She is not satisfied with average, and just when others might think they’ve reached their full potential, Jennifer sees an opportunity to excel. Whether it’s professionally as a clinician, or as a person who loves to have new experiences, Jennifer loves travel nursing because it opens her up to opportunities she might never get as a staff nurse. Three years in, she has no intention of stopping when there’s still so much to see, do and learn. This is her story and a day in her life as an operating room travel nurse.
Describe why you wanted to become a nurse.
When I was younger, being a nurse was the last thing I wanted to do. My mom was a nurse aide for over 30 years, and I really thought I wanted something different. But in the relatively small city in northern Pennsylvania where we lived, there weren’t a lot of job opportunities (other than working in a factory, no thanks), so I gradually began following in my mother’s footsteps. My first job in healthcare was working in a group home with developmentally disabled men. From there, I took classes to become a CNA. It wasn’t long before I realized I was really good at it, and after five years of working as a CNA, I knew I could do more as a Registered Nurse.
I went back to school again to get my bachelor’s degree, all the while working full-time as a home health aide. After I graduated, I worked for the same home health company as a RN until I was ready for another change. I applied to the local community hospital, and got a job as an Operating Room (OR) nurse.
Why did you become an operating room travel nurse?
I liked my job at the hospital a lot, but there was only so much I could learn at a small community hospital, and I knew certain surgeries would never come through the doors of our OR. I had a surgical tech friend who was considering travel, and we talked a lot about the benefits and exciting parts of traveling. So three years ago I decided to take the plunge.
I get to do the job I love and the politics aren’t my problem. I get to see new places, learn something new everywhere I go, and see things I’ve never seen before. I love to learn.
What made you interested in the OR travel nurse specialty?
On my second day of OR clinicals during nursing school, one of the surgeries I was observing involved two surgeons operating on the same patient at the same time, doing totally separate things that would come together at the end. The RN First Assist looked around the room, pointed to me, and asked me to hold the patient’s arms up while they prepped. Things clicked when I realized that everyone in the room was working together and doing their job to the best of their ability, and I like the team culture and camaraderie of that setting. I knew from then on that I wanted to be back in the OR.
How is being a travel OR nurse different from being on permanent staff?
When you’re regular staff, you have the opportunity to get to know the surgeons so that you can anticipate and internalize what they want and need during surgery. As a traveler, you can do that with certain aspects of surgery because you know based on the procedure what a surgeon will likely want. Your knowledge base has to be much wider because at different hospitals they use different equipment. When traveling you have to make sure you get what you need to do your job effectively, and a big part of that is asking the right questions. For example, if it’s a laparoscopic procedure, which trocars does the surgeon like? Do they use a balloon port or a hasson port? Then there’s the aspect of knowing equipment and figuring out where it all is.
Here’s what I love: I show up, I do my job. Not my circus, not my monkeys. I get to come in, take care of patients, and go home drama-free.
What is the most rewarding and difficult part of your job?
When you know that you’ve done the best you can for that patient. I like being able to talk to people who have maybe never had surgery, or are very scared during prep. I can talk them through exactly what is going to happen, and let them know I will be there the whole time. No matter what age they are – whether they’re 25 or 85 – this is comforting. This person is putting their faith in you, and you get to advocate for them when they absolutely cannot advocate for themselves.
It’s a team culture in the OR because you get assigned to one room in the morning, and those are the people you’ll be with until you leave at the end of the day. So it’s of utmost importance that everyone is doing their job well, and there is only so much in your control (which can be frustrating). I’ve never been treated badly because I’m a traveler; my mindset is that I’m here to take care of the patient, and I hope everyone else is there for the same reason. I’m here to do a job. Would I like to make friends? Yes, and I do. But even if I don’t then my purpose remains the same.
Describe your typical day in the life of an OR travel nurse.
If I’m working day shift, I get to the hospital at 6:30 a.m., so it’s nice that I only live about 10 minutes away. I lay out my clothes and set up my coffee maker the night before because I’m not a morning person. I shower, dress, grab my coffee and I head out the door. Once I’m changed into my scrubs, I go up to the board to see what my assignment is (even though this might change). If I have time, I peek in my room to see what I’ll need to get thing up and running. By 6:40 I’m at the control desk for a morning huddle, then back to my room to set up and get everything opened.
Generally, we have a patient in the room by 7:30 a.m. Every day is different – some days there may be one surgery in my room that will take 10-12 hours. Other days we might have 6-8 surgeries in a 12-hour shift. At my current travel nursing assignment I get about 45 minutes to break for lunch, and bathroom or water breaks get squeezed in between cases. When I’m not in the OR, you can find me going up and down the halls throughout the day to fetch supplies. It’s crazy, but I like it! I would hate a desk job.
How has working with Cirrus Medical Staffing enriched your experience as a travel nurse?
When I first started traveling, I got 14 calls in one day from different recruiters. It was a bit overwhelming, so I came up with a list of questions for each recruiter regarding things like insurance, compensation, and job openings. The person who seemed the most genuine, and wasn’t in a hurry to answer all my questions, was Heather Fortman from Cirrus. Any question I had she was fine with answering it, even if I didn’t end up choosing her. That’s what hooked me. She’s had my back through the whole thing. I have lots of friends who are travelers, and hear them talk about calling their recruiter multiple times and not getting called back. Or that their recruiter is pushing them to submit for a hospital they don’t want. Heather’s first question to me is always: “What do you want?” At this point we are genuinely friends, and I can trust that she has my best interests at heart.
Are you a learner who doesn’t settle for average? Call us at 800-299-8132 or email us at [email protected]. At Cirrus Medical Staffing, we care about you as a person, and we want to help you reach your goals.