In this new article series, we explore what it’s like to be a travel nurse in the cardiac electrophysiology laboratory. Here we speak with Ashley Crilly, RN, a travel RN with Soliant Health, about her experience.
Tell us about your medical background. How long have you been a nurse?
I graduated from nursing school in 2005, receiving a diploma in nursing from one of the programs here in North Carolina. In 2005, I started on the cardiac intermediate care unit at WakeMed in Raleigh. I transferred to the EP lab about a year and half later, in March 2007.
How did you get into travel nursing? How long have you been working as a travel nurse?
My first assignment was three years ago. In March 2013, I took a leave of absence from the WakeMed lab and went to New York City for six months. I wanted to have that experience as a travel nurse, to visit a different city and see how another EP lab functioned. Although the EP field is very small, how various labs function can be so different across the board.
I later came back to WakeMed for a few years, then left again in October to travel because I really enjoyed the autonomy of being a traveler and having the ability to see different things. I think being able to work somewhere else also tests your critical thinking skills and what you’ve learned over the years in the lab.
Have you worked with other travel staffing agencies?
For my first assignment, I worked with American Mobile Healthcare. Since October, I’ve been with Soliant Health.
What initial steps did you have to take with these agencies to become a travel nurse?
After checking out the information posted online, I contacted a recruiter and talked with them about my background. A lot of times these agencies will have recruiters that are specific to cath and/or EP. Once you talk with them and let them know what you’re looking for, they can let you know what kinds of jobs are available, and you go from there. It can initially be very overwhelming when starting out as a traveler, because you’re stepping outside of your comfort zone and away from your full-time job at one facility to travel to a new facility. You’ll need to get your records together, especially if you’re applying for a license in another state; this includes doing a background check, your immunizations, a drug test, etc. It can feel daunting at first, but it helps to make a checklist.
How long are your typical assignments?
I find it generally runs 13 weeks; this number is based on the first week being an orientation period, and working for the rest of the 12 weeks. There is always the possibility that if the facility has the need, you can extend for another 13 weeks. Shorter assignments are also available.
What type of hours do you typically work as a contract staff member?
I have found that the hours for most travel jobs in an EP lab are four 10s. EP is not typically a department that takes call, so you’re not really concerned with that or with weekend hours. The nice thing about being a travel nurse is you are your own independent contractor, so hours are negotiable.
Tell us about your very first travel assignment.
My first travel assignment was at NY-Presbyterian Hospital / Weill Cornell Medical Center. Being a first-time traveler, it was a real eye-opener seeing the vast difference between a private healthcare system and a university healthcare system. In my first travel assignment I knew what my job duties were, but I still ended up learning so much because of how things were done differently in that lab. Overall it was an exciting experience, and it made me not so nervous about traveling. I found that I could go somewhere that I had never been, pick up on what I needed to do in a few days, and roll with it. This experience really tests you and you find out what you’re made of, because in a new lab you have to be autonomous and mesh with your coworkers.
What are some of the challenges that you have faced during your travel nursing experience?
When going into a job where you are both the new person and also temporary, trying to prove yourself to others can be really difficult. No matter your background, people will try to test you on what you know. You have to learn not to get offended — it’s just a “getting to know you” period.
In addition, getting on a plane and moving to a city that you might have never been to can be an adjustment. Especially in a place such as New York City, where I lived out of 2 suitcases, it can be difficult not to have the comforts of home. I think those were probably the biggest challenges for me when I started.
Tell us about the costs associated with travel nursing.
There really isn’t a lot of cost associated with it — and the compensation is great. It’s kind of like being thanked for packing up and moving across the country to help out where there is need. Your housing is provided or you’re given a housing stipend that you can use to find your own place. In many instances, if you’re moving a great distance from your home, you can also get a relocation amount.
What do you enjoy most about being a travel nurse?
It’s amazing to go and see new places! I’ve been to NYC before, but had never lived there. Most recently I worked in Kansas City, which is where I’m from. It was wonderful being able to live in my hometown for 3 months, see my parents, and be home for Thanksgiving and Christmas (which as a nurse you never get to do)! I’ll soon be leaving for a job in Seattle, which is a place I’ve never been, so that is an obvious perk of travel. Also, just having the ability to go somewhere else and see how things are done helps you realize how much you still have to learn. You make lifelong friendships and form professional bonds. I really think that even with its challenges, the good always outweighs the bad.
Who would you say is the ideal candidate for travel nursing?
The ideal candidate is someone who is flexible and willing to expand and learn how to do things in a different way. They also have to be thick-skinned — as I said, it’s hard to step into an established lab as an outsider in a temporary role, so you have to be able to take indifference from people who don’t know you yet. It helps to be an extrovert, and you have to enjoy traveling! Anyone interested in travel nursing should definitely try it.