A travel nurse tells us about her adventures on the road as a travel nurse.
Cross Country Nurses’ travel nurse Andrea “Annie” Smith has a taste for adventure, and she’s able to satisfy her cravings by being a travel nurse. For example, she recently hiked 200 miles of the Appalachian Trail! Below she shares more about that experience, what made her become a travel nurse, and why she thinks you might like travel nursing, too.
What made you decide to become a nurse?
I don’t think I can even remember when I chose to become a nurse, it was just my natural calling from when I was young. Nursing has been such a great field for me because I love giving back, helping people, and feeling like I really make a difference in people’s lives. I also could never just sit at a desk all day. So being up and on the move all the time definitely fits into my lifestyle.
Why did you decide to become a travel nurse?
I chose travel nursing because I have always loved a challenge, trying something new, and going to new places. So, having a career where I got paid to travel, learn new things, and experience other cities was amazing. My cousin is also a nurse and did travel nursing for a little while, so when she told me about it, I knew I had to do it too!
What was your first travel nurse assignment like?
My first travel assignment was a definite challenge and learning experience. The location was amazing in Newport News, Virginia. While some call it a rough area, I thought the beaches were beautiful and there was always something fun to do when I wasn’t working. I was on a med-surg floor working night shift. I had never worked night shift before, but I figured I’d give it a try. I quickly learned that I am not a night owl, but more of an early bird. So that was a struggle. While working in med-surg again was good for my skills it also helped solidify the fact that my true passion was in oncology.
What do you like most about being a travel nurse?
Being a travel nurse has provided me with the ability to figure out a lot about myself and how I handle situations. The exposure to so many different hospitals and techniques on treatment broadens your way of thinking. It has provided me with the best practice I can have as a nurse.
Tell us about your experience hiking the Appalachian Trail.
While hiking on the Appalachian Trial I learned that I can tolerate a lot physically and mentally, but at the end of the day what really was hardest on me was being alone a lot of the time. When I first started out on my hike, I found my “tramily” (trail-family). It was an awesome group of people that I loved hiking with. But then I injured my knees and had to take some time off the trail. When I got back on the trail, my tramily had hiked ahead. While I met a ton of other amazing and encouraging individuals, I never really found another tramily. So, during the days I would hike by myself for the most part. This didn’t bother me too much at first, but after a few weeks, it got old. I would be at the most beautiful place in the world but have no one to share it with. I learned while hiking that I am a person that gets true joy out of experiencing things with others. When it was downpouring rain and cold and I was miserable, it was much better to be with other people being miserable than to be miserable by myself. Then on days when it was beautiful and wonderful, I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I wished I could share it with others that I loved and cared for.
Any best or worst moments from this experience you care to share with us?
My best days of hiking on the Appalachian Trail was when I went through the Smoky Mountains. I waited four days at the bottom of the mountains for a nasty snowstorm to roll through. Then the days that I was in the Smoky Mountains were amazing! I would walk through forest filled with wildflowers and sunshine that smelled better than any perfume you can imagine. I also saw my only black bear while in the Smoky Mountains. Luckily it didn’t see me before I quickly trotted away back to camp.
By contrast, my worst day on the trail was probably the day that I hiked in frozen shoes and could not feel my toes for four solid hours. It had rained the entire day before and I was slightly hypothermic after that day’s hiking. Then all my wet clothes and shoes froze overnight as the temperature dropped into the upper 20s. Putting on wet clothes and shoes in the morning is a miserable thing. But you just have to mentally tell yourself that if you get moving, you’ll be warm eventually. Doesn’t make it any easier though.
Do you think you’ll hike more of the Appalachian Trail in the future?
While I did accomplish hiking 200 miles on the Appalachian Trail, I don’t always feel very accomplished in my hike because I didn’t get as far as I wanted. Whether I will try again on the thru-hike or not I don’t know. But I definitely want to keep doing sections and find people to do them with me. Maybe one day if I find the right person, I’ll attempt it again. In the meantime, though, I’ll enjoy doing sections of it with my friends and family.
Do you choose travel assignments based on adventures you may want to try in that specific location?
I choose my travel assignments based on the places I want to be or explore. I stayed a while in Virginia because I loved the state and its variety of opportunities for adventure. Then I went up to the Boston area because it was as close to New Hampshire as I could get at that time. I’ve most recently landed in Charlotte, North Carolina and am loving it here. Eventually I’ll want to find a city and settle down for good. But until then I will “test-drive” the different cities and towns by travel nursing.
What is your favorite travel nurse location and why?
My favorite travel nurse assignment was in Boston. I really loved the small clinic that I worked in, but I mostly enjoyed it because I was near my aunt and uncle and 3 of my awesome younger cousins. It was great getting the chance to go on adventures with them and experience Boston and the New Hampshire area like a native. Best cannolis I’ve ever had were in Boston!
What locations are on your travel assignment bucket list and why?
I have yet to make it out to the West Coast for travel nursing. But that is one of my goals. I’ve been a bit scared to go there because I’m afraid I’ll fall in love with the mountains and never come back to my family on the East Coast.
Are there any skills you think are important for a travel nurse to possess?
I think one of the best skills for a travel nurse is being confident, but also humble. Being confident in the skills that you have, and at the same time know when to ask for help. Also being confident in your ability to adapt and learn and make the most of any temporary situation.
What advice would you give a nurse who was unsure about trying a travel assignment or the travel lifestyle?
For anyone who is unsure about travel nursing, I suggest just giving it a try. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Part of that knowledge will be whether you are made to be a travel nurse or not. But for a few months of your life, I think the experiences are worth it. Life is a precious thing. We see patients every day that struggle for life and getting to gain experiences from it. So as nurses I think that it is important for us to lead by example, not take life for granted, and fill it with as many experiences as we can.