For Brooke Cohen, RN, what seemed like a normal day on assignment at a pediatric oncology unit in Oakland, California turned out to be much more.
“I was working the 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. shift and the kids were telling us that a surprise visitor was coming,” Cohen recalled. “We didn’t really think anything of it, I just thought it was Barney or something.”
The bubbly Ohio native, who was on her first travel nursing assignment with travel staffing company American Mobile Healthcare, was completely star struck when world renowned funny-man Robin Williams crossed her path.
“I was giving a patient some medicine and I walked out of the room and he walked past me and I just stood there with my mouth wide open,” Cohen said. “Everyone started laughing and teasing me that I was, ‘So Ohio.’”
Williams was visiting the children in the pediatric oncology and hematology units at the Children’s Hospital in Oakland, something he does frequently, when Cohen met him.
“He visited with the kids in the playroom and read them stories,” she said. “He did a really good job; he got a photo with each kid and passed out pictures from his movie, ‘Night at the Museum.’”
All of the nurses and even some of the parents visiting their children on the floor found Cohen’s surprise at the sight of the celebrity so charming that they encouraged Williams to have his photo taken with her.
“My manager called me in and said, “Robin wants a picture with you,’” Cohen said. “I got completely embarrassed, especially when he said to me, ‘You’re like I was when I saw Britney Spears.’”
Cohen was shocked that her fellow nurses didn’t seem that surprised at the sight of such a major star, but this was her first assignment in California, where celebrity encounters are fairly commonplace. v
“The pictures of me and
With a nursing career spanning several decades, Kathryn (Kat) Madigan, RN, has only managed to gain more enthusiasm and passion for her career with each passing year.
“I’ve been in nursing since my Navy days back in 1971,” Madigan said. “I mostly did cardiac care and then I was a perfusionist for 14 years; then I went back to the OR to work on trauma cases.”
An operating room nurse currently on assignment in San Diego with travel staffing company American Mobile Healthcare, Madigan has been an avid traveler her whole life and lives each day with a “can-do” attitude.
“All of my jobs have included traveling. For the better part of my career I have traveled,” Madigan said. “I like the diversity, I like the self-imposed challenge that traveling offers.”
Madigan has completed assignments in Phoenix, Arizona; San Diego, California; Detroit, Michigan and Laurium, Michigan, during her four years of travel with American Mobile but had to search around to find the right agency that was a match for her active lifestyle.
“I was fortunate enough to have picked the wrong company at first and that mistake pointed me in the right direction,” Madigan said. “I’ve been very happy with American Mobile.”
Madigan credits her positive traveling experiences to Lance Bowman, recruitment manager at American Mobile who has worked with her since the start.
“I got to talking with traveling companies and wasn’t too thrilled,” Madigan said. “I kept getting calls from travel nursing companies and before Lance, it was like pulling teeth. He held my little hand while I whined and complained.”
Originally from Detroit, Madigan cannot get enough of the gorgeous California sunshine and abundance of activity she has experienced while on assignment in “America’s Finest City.”
“I’m lovin’ it here in San Di
Initially intending to spend some time with her family in Missouri, California trauma surgical nurse Lesley Bradley, RN, signed up with leading staffing company American Mobile Healthcare, but as sometimes happens, fate got in the way, and she has stayed on in the Golden State.
Even though she has stayed in the same region, Bradley finds traveling offers greater advantages than accepting a staff position. Traveling brings a housing benefit and insurance, and she avoids any of the politics or staff meetings.
“It gives you freedom,” Bradley said.
Bradley worked at various hospitals in Los Angeles. She enjoys the warm climate and activities—going to the beach, swimming in the ocean, attending concerts. In fact, she met her boyfriend at a concert and has now accepted an assignment in San Diego to be closer to him.
“I want to try out different hospitals,” said Bradley, indicating she had her choice of assignments at five different hospitals in San Diego. “It’s interesting to see how each hospital runs.”
If she likes a facility, she may extend her contract for an additional 13 weeks. She knows the paperwork and does not have to complete competency exams or sit through another orientation. She prefers spending her time actually caring for patients. Bradley catches on quickly.
“You have to be universal and be able to make changes,” Bradley said.
Bradley decided to become a nurse after watching nurses care for her grandmother. She’s been practicing for five years.
“Nursing is so rewarding,” Bradley said. “It’s interesting to see the injuries patients come in with, especially working with trauma. You get them better and back to their normal life. With trauma you see the rewards.”
Patients typically come in after car accidents or being the victims of violence. Some are in pretty rough shape. Through good medical and nursing care, they often are able to return to their lives.
“It really takes you back when you have a 2
What seemed like a routine conversation with a patient and his wife turned out to be much more for Jen Burkholder, RN.
While on assignment in Washington, D.C., with leading travel staffing company American Mobile Healthcare, Burkholder found herself as the nurse to a very close friend of 2008 presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton; although she didn’t know it at first.
Having a deep passion and enthusiasm for politics and health policy, Burkholder casually asked the wife of the patient her opinion on the upcoming presidential election and the issue of universal healthcare—something she often brings up with her patients. To her surprise, they were not only supporters of Hillary Clinton, but they knew her personally as well.
“I was so excited when I found out that my patient and his wife knew Hillary,” Burkholder said. “After I explained to them that she was my hero, the wife said, ‘Well you know Jen; you’re just going to have to meet her.’”
The patient’s wife kept her word and was able to get Burkholder a coveted front-row ticket to a fundraiser that Hillary Clinton was speaking at in the area.
Burkholder couldn’t believe her luck. She’s been a fan of Hillary Clinton since the third grade, and even took her most recent travel nursing assignment in D.C. to be completely surrounded by politics.
The issue of public health and politics has always been a passion of Burkholder’s, and her next goal is to attend graduate school to study public health.
The event that Burkholder had the opportunity to attend was the “Generations of Women for Hillary,” fundraiser which brought in almost $1 million.
“It was a dream come true that I had the opportunity to meet her (Clinton) and people who knew her,” she said. “Not only did I get to meet her, but I got to sit at a front-row table and mingle amongst
Since starting his travel nursing career four years ago, Aaron Moore, RN, has been all over the United States in pursuit of all things outdoors.
“I love exploring and I love the adventure that comes with being a travel nurse,” Moore said. “Nursing gives you the free time to go out and do what you love to do.”
Now on assignment in Omaha, Nebraska, with leading travel staffing company American Mobile Healthcare, this self-described outdoorsman couldn’t wait to gain his clinical experience so he could begin his career as a traveling nurse.
“I was going to school to enroll to be a paramedic before I thought about a career in nursing,“ Moore said. “They had me talk to a nursing instructor, who was a guy, and he told me I would love being a nurse. He was actually the first one who told me about travel nursing and then I worked in trauma ICU for two years before starting on my traveling career.”
Being able to help people and have a positive impact on the lives of others is what Moore enjoys most about his career as a travel nurse, and he also enjoys the freedom and flexibility that a mobile career offers.
“One of the most rewarding parts of my traveling experience so far is that I have gotten to spend so much more time with my wife, Christina, than was possible prior to traveling,” Moore said. “In looking at the other job opportunities that are out there, this is the only job that allows you to have a vacation every 13 weeks—travel nursing is a working vacation.”
“I love hiking, camping, fishing and kayaking; I like anything that involves being outdoors,” Moore explained. “Every time we go to a new place we find these activities to do.”
Adventure and excitement never seem to elude Jeanne Alford, RN, a critical care nurse on assignment with travel staffing company American Mobile Healthcare.
Currently on assignment in Capitola, California, Alford has been all over the Southwest in search of friends, fun and fierce adventure. After working at the same facility in South Bend, Indiana for more than 25 years, Alford decided it was time for a change and packed her bags to head out West.
“I retired from my marriage of 30 years and then retired from the hospital, and then I asked myself, ‘What was I going to do?,’” she said.
Traveling was the first thing that came to mind.
When Alford’s travel assignment took her to New Mexico, she embraced every opportunity to learn as much as possible about the state and its people.
“Whenever I had a few days off, I would travel around the state of New Mexico and explore,” she said. “I never knew what we were going to do or where we were going to go. I had such a wonderful time in New Mexico—so many things to see and so many things to do.”
During her stay in Albuquerque, Alford had the opportunity to visit 16 of the 19 Native American reservations in the state. “At the Zuni reservation we stayed at a wonderful bed and breakfast,” Alford recalled. “At the Acoma Reservation we were able to tour a pueblo on the mesa that has been there since 400 A.D.”
During her visit to the Acoma Reservation, Alford also had the opportunity to walk the trail where the Acoma women hiked with pails of water on their heads down incredibly steep stone steps.
New Mexico proved to be more adventure than Alford originally bargained for, as she soon found herself 183 feet above ground exploring the famed Pueblo cliff dwellings.
“The cliff dwellings were absolutely spectacular,” Alford said. “We had to go down a ladder to get out. When we were coming down I almost went over the edge.”
It would be a challenge to find a nurse who is more enthusiastic about travel nursing than Susan Hearin, RN, BSN.
“I love my life!” said a pumped up Hearin. “I love the flexibility, the travel and the friendships that are the bonuses of travel nursing. I am a true traveler—I don’t own a home, I don’t own furniture.”
Hearin said she likes the feeling of freedom that being a traveler affords her.
“I don’t have the routine everyday responsibilities that I would have if I were living in a permanent home,” she said. “I always feel like I’m on vacation.”
As a labor and delivery nurse, she also enjoys working in a variety of professional situations and collecting lifelong friends along the way.
“I’ve never had a bad assignment,” Hearin declared. “I’ve always been accepted so easily and have never felt like a stranger. When I walk into any hospital, give me a couple of days, show me where some things are and I’m ready to work. It’s a plus that as a temporary employee I don’t get caught up in the politics of the unit. I’m just passing through and helping out. But, I do bond with my co-workers and fellow travelers and cry at the end of every assignment when I have to say goodbye.”
Not that she says goodbye forever. She and other travelers have formed what she calls a “Secret Gypsy Society” and follow one another around on assignments. One will call two others to say, “I’m working in a great place, come join me.”
As a single mother of four children, now adults, Hearin, 55, worked in traditional labor and delivery jobs until the last of her children went to college.
“When he left home, so d
Today, Tammy Jones-Conn, RN, says she likes to “get up and see where the wind blows me,” but that was not always the case. Jones-Conn worked as an LPN for 15 years before earning her nursing degree three years ago at Spencerian College in her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. She was happy in her first job as an RN, working in a Level I Trauma Unit at the University of Louisville Hospital, with no plans to follow any other career path.
“I had never considered travel nursing,” Jones-Conn said. “But I have a cousin who is a travel nurse and because of the unusual nature of the job, my mother was intrigued by it. She encouraged me to give it a try.”
Following her cousin’s lead, Jones-Conn signed with leading travel nurse staffing company American Mobile Healthcare and also has the same recruiter.
“Our recruiter, Marina, and her assistant, Jennifer, are great,” Jones-Conn said. “In fact, I’ve referred two other travelers to them.”
Jones-Conn is the mother of an 18-year-old autistic son and is able to travel because of the excellent support system provided by her parents and other family members who assist in his care. One of her assignments was at home in Louisville and she is hoping for another local assignment opportunity.
“I need to be close to my son,” she said. “He is between group home placements now, but once he is resettled, I’ll be on the road again.”
Jones-Conn describes herself as curious and impulsive, but shy.
“The life I lead while on assignment is pretty ordinary,” she said. “In a new town, I like to drive around to see what’s there, go shopping and hang out in libraries and book stores. I live to read. My mother is a librarian and I think I got the reading gene from her. I also spend a lot of time on the Internet, looking at nursing sites and forums.”
Jones-Conn, currently in the midst of her fifth assignment, said her favorite was in Lewes, Delaware.
“I lived alo
Medical-surgical nurse Jennifer Metz, RN, caught the travel bug early, spending her childhood summer vacations camping or driving across the country with her adventurous dad. Now as an adult with grown children, she’s back on the road in search of an ideal place and for the perfect photograph.
“This is my time,” Metz said. “I’m young and healthy and want to enjoy everything.”
Metz began traveling with American Mobile Healthcare about five years ago and has accepted assignments in California, Florida, Hawaii and Arizona. She left behind everyone she knew and felt a bit of trepidation, which soon passed.
“I cannot imagine staying in one spot anymore,” Metz said. “I feel like I get restless—time to move to see [new places] and meet new people.”
Having spent 42 years living in a cold climate, Metz thought she’d begin looking for a warmer place to settle down, have a garden to tend to, but once on the road, moving around became appealing in its own right.
“After a couple of months in one spot, I feel the need to keep going,” Metz said. “I have become a wanderer. It fits.”
Metz totes a camera wherever she goes and has amassed a digital library containing thousands of images chronically her travels. A hiker, she seeks out beautiful parks and nature centers.
In Maui, she whale watched and drove around the island on a one-lane road with the ocean on one side and a mountain cliff on the other, just hoping another car would not appear.
“It was a beautiful ride,” Metz said.
Walking Florida’s beaches and watching the sunset was a favorite pastime while based in the Sunshine State. Between recent assignments she drove
Christine Cooper, RN, dedicated her life to children—her own three and the youngsters she cared for as a pediatric nurse. But as she approached her middle years, Cooper wanted to experience more. Travel nursing offered opportunities to enrich her career and her life.
“I had to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do,” says Cooper, 49, who travels with travel staffing agency American Mobile Healthcare. “I was used to doing for everyone else. I had a job I knew everything about. Traveling has opened my eyes to a lot of things. It’s been a really great experience.”
Cooper set her sights on traveling as her three children started coming of age. She researched what specialty nurses were most in demand, so she would have more assignment options. A pediatric nurse, she transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit and worked there for nearly three years in preparation for traveling.
“Once my children were grown and got their schooling, I decided to have my own adventure,” Cooper says. “I was scared to do it in the beginning. I had had a staff job for 10 years. It was a big move to leave everything behind.”
Cooper chose her first assignment in San Luis Obispo, because it offered a chance to live at the beach.
“It was an awesome experience,” Cooper says. “The housing was a vacation rental.”
She took long walks along the water, connecting with her thoughts and enjoying the solitude. She deemed the six months a time to read, recharge and do nothing, except pet her 16-year-old cat.
“I am enjoying that I have time to myself and can do what I want when I want to do it,” Cooper says.
After six months, Cooper moved on to Torrance, California, to be closer to home. Again she accepted housing near the beach, but was within an hour’s drive of family and friends.
Next up, she moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, abou
For Tim Aldrich, RN, winning the “Nurse of the Year” award at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in New Jersey was a great honor, but also a huge surprise. That’s because Aldrich was the first travel nurse to ever win the hospital’s prestigious annual award. In previous years, the award was strictly reserved for staff nurses.
“I am the first traveler in history that has won the award,” Aldrich proudly noted. “Last year I was nominated but had only been there for six months, so I wasn’t eligible. This year, it was a unanimous vote and the medical director of the ER made it clear that he didn’t care I was a traveler. So I was the first traveling nurse to win!”
Aldrich has worked as an ER nurse for seven years and has been a travel nurse with leading travel staffing company American Mobile Healthcare for six of those years.
Having taken assignments in Florida, Arkansas, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and New Jersey, Aldrich knew from the beginning of his career that he was destined to be a travel nurse—and a very successful one at that.
“When I was working as an ER tech years ago, I worked with a few travel nurses who all shared their positive and exciting experiences about traveling, and convinced me that I had to do it once I became licensed and had the required experience.”
With just over a year’s of experience under his belt, Aldrich kept his goal in clear view and set off to be a travel nurse. “I’m a traveling man, I love to travel,” he said. “I just don’t plan on being a staff nurse.”
After being on assignment in Newark, New Jersey, for over two years now, Aldrich has gained much more from his travel nursing career than just his name on a plaque from the recent award.
“I’ve really grown to accumulate a strong ‘best family’ here made up of all my co-workers at Beth Israel,” he said. “I’ve grown close to all of the residents and nurses here. We hang out on the weekends and do fun things like have cook-outs and BBQs.”
When Aldrich isn’t working in the emergency room, he is spending time with his family and friends, or heading outside to mountain bike, jog or spend time on
It’s not everyday someone can fulfill a lifelong dream to take off for months and bicycle across the country. Limited vacation time typically stands in the way. Interventional radiology and critical-care nurse Kevin Miller, RN, found a way to make it happen, taking his nursing skills on the road.
“Travel nursing gave me what I needed,” said Miller, 53. “The bike trip was a dream. I had wanted to do something like this for a long time.”
Miller signed on with American Mobile Healthcare, in July 2006, and headed for Washington State, where the bike event with a cycling association to which he belonged would commence. He accepted a couple of assignments as he prepared for the trek.
He and other members of the association biked 4,295 miles across the northern United States. They visited Glacier National Park, the Great Lakes, and the Erie Canal before ending the journey in Bar Harbor, Maine.
“I always wanted to do it. It was great,” Miller said.
Several riders called on Miller’s nursing skills to tend to scrapes and strains. On the first day, one of the riders fell and was injured. She returned to the trip, and Miller took out her sutures about five days later.
Miller spent a month in Florida, visiting family, before returning to Washington State for his next assignment. Although he was born in Washington and has a brother in Seattle, he grew up in Idaho and California. He wanted to become acquainted with the Pacific Northwest.
He served for three years in the Army, working as a corpsman and clinical specialist in Germany. Returning to the states, he lived in Florida for 30 years before becoming a traveler.
“I always loved traveling and was always looking for that little town to possibly settle in,” Miller said.
Licensed Washington, Idaho, Montana and Oregon, Miller plans to spend another year or more traveling in the Northwest. He is working on li
When Jay Hall, RN, began traveling six years ago, he never expected it would change his life and introduce him to the Middle Ages.
“Traveling gives you the chance to meet new people,” says Hall, who travels with staffing company American Mobile Healthcare.
Through friends Hall made at his first assignment in Ocala, Florida, he became active in the Society for Creative Anachronism, an international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts, skills and battles of pre-17th century Europe.
“I started going to meetings and found I like it,” Hall said. “We go to a lot of events. The good thing about being a traveler and doing contracts is you can set up dates you want off and have that written in.”
Hall has made armor, fighter clothing and other garb. Some members spin yard and make their own material, but Hall uses modern fabric.
He and his buddies practice weekly, prepping for battle and preparing victorious strategies. Members meticulously research customs, garb and other facts about the Middle Ages.
“The people who usually are members have a strict code of conduct, based on chivalry, treating people like they ought to be treated,” Hall said.
During battle, the men use rattan rather than steel swords, increasing the safety factor. Still people can be injured as in any other contact sport.
“It’s fun for me,” Hall said. “It also causes you to have a whole lot of friendships. You learn that if you’re going to win the battles, you have to work with the people there with you.”
Hall describes his relationship with members of the society like family. He connects with them almost daily. He knows what is happening in their lives and he in theirs.
When Rebecca Devine, RN, finished her 18-month obligation to the Philadelphia hospital, she was ready for an adventure. She signed on with American Mobile and, in January 2008, began her journey.
“My parents always took me traveling when I was a child and I loved it,” stated Devine, who grew up in Ocean City, New Jersey. “Travel nursing is like being on a luxury road trip. Moving from my assignment in Denver to my new assignment in San Diego, I drove through the Canyonlands in Utah. I’d never been out West, so it was a completely new experience. As a travel nurse, I get to see things I’d never have seen as a staff nurse working in just one hospital.”
In addition to the thrill of seeing new places, Devine thrives on being active. Her schedule of working three 12-hour shifts per week enables her to spend the other four days taking advantage of the outdoor activities that are specific to the area in which she is living. While on her first assignment in Denver, she went snowboarding every day she wasn’t working; in San Diego, it was surfing. And, now, in Seattle her activity of choice is hiking.
“I do something here every day because I want to experience all these new things—like going pumpkin picking today,” Devine said. “I still hope to go to Hawaii, Alaska, and eventually, New Zealand as a travel nurse.”
Devine has nothing but rave reviews for travel nursing, not just for the adventure, but also for the wide variety of work experiences it offers.
“Travel nursing has made me more adaptable, confident and competent. Each hospital has a different protocol, so I learn new ways of dealing with problems. Plus, at each hospital I’ve worked in a different area of nursing. In Denver, I worked in neurology, orthopedics, and trauma; in San Diego, oncology,” Devine explained. “And, now, I’m a med-surg float. I wouldn’t have learned all I have if I had just stayed in Jersey working in neurology.”
“Probably the hardest part of being a travel nurse is starting in a new hospital, because you
While seated by his crib, a baby’s mother reached out and grabbed a nurse’s hand as if it were a life preserver.The nurse smiled and did her best to answer questions in an effort to allay the mother’s fears.
“It’s my job to care for infants and children with critical medical and cardiac conditions,” said Kathy Bui, RN, BSN, a pediatric cardiac ICU nurse and an American Mobile Healthcare traveler. “Some children get well and go home while others may not survive a surgical intervention due to the severity of their illness. My job requires both personal strength and stamina to interact with caring compassion with children and their families both in good times and bad times.”
The pediatric ICU nurse job description involves helping to medically manage patients through collaboration with physicians, nurse practitioners, pharmacists and therapists.
“We teach parents about their children’s health conditions and provide them with emotional support,” Bui said. “This might be anything from answering questions regarding equipment utilized, or explaining what we’re doing to the patient at the time; perhaps we many need to hold a child’s or parent’s hand.”
“Depending on how sick a patient is,” she continued, “as a PICU nurse, there’s an awareness and anticipation that a patient could make a bad turn at any moment, so we have to be alert and ready to quickly respond to those changes,” she said.
An extensive travel PICU nurse career
Bui has been a travel PICU nurse for nine out of the 14 years she’s been practi