The Hard Work Is Worth It, Says Travel Nurse Jerome Saunders
By Melissa Wirkus Hagstrom, contributor
During Nurses Month, and throughout the year, American Mobile is proud to honor, celebrate and recognize the nurses who are working around the clock during this difficult time. Even with a recent drop in COVID-19 cases, frontline nurses are still working hard to battle the global pandemic.
Fortunately, hard work comes second nature to American Mobile travel nurse Jerome Saunders, RN.
This dedicated nurse first entered the healthcare field in 2006 as a transporter and technician in emergency medicine. He had received full scholarships from Baptist Hospital in Miami as well as Nova Southeastern University which required a three year work commitment after graduation.
Upon completing his degree, Saunders found there were no jobs available and he wasn’t required to fulfill the work obligation. He eventually found a job with HCA Healthcare, one of the largest private health systems in Florida, with over 50 hospitals and 31 surgery centers across the state.
This is where he started to diversify his skill set; he entered into the ICU Academy at HCA and began working in that unit. From the ICU he moved into interventional radiology (IR) and worked special procedures involving neuro and cardiac catheterization.
The Start of Travel Nursing
In 2018, Saunders took his clinical skills on the road as a travel nurse. His interest in traveling was piqued when his health system started floating him to other local facilities in the network.
“I thought, I am already traveling internally, why not do it on a bigger level? And that’s why I started traveling,” he explained.
With a background in the ER, IR, ICU and cardiac cath lab, Saunders had a strong foundation to leverage in other hospitals around the country. He is a devoted travel nurse with an unwavering commitment and strong work ethic.
“I do a lot of hours, I average anywhere from 50-60 hours on the low end to 80 hours on the high end. And that’s every single week religiously,” Saunders said. “I built my model after these two vascular surgeons I used to work with. They would start at 5 in the morning and work and do cases all the way until 7, 8 or 9 and still be on call. I thought if those guys can do it, so can I.”
The Importance of Professional Development
Professional growth and development has always been important to Saunders, and travel nursing has allowed him to expand his skillset even further.
“I’ve always surrounded myself with some of the smartest people in the health systems,” he said. “As far as evidenced-based practice, I always stay current, using the best technology and I continuously surround myself with the best in the field. As a nurse, more than circulating and just being basic, I am able to proctor these cases and assist doctors with certain decision making. It’s kind of cool and it's a good feeling when you get to that point where you are relied on.”
“And same thing with the pandemic, I played a big role with COVID here. I was pulled from cath lab to ER and ICU and they kind of used me as an intensivist there. I ran all my codes, and it was a lot of responsibility.”
The Road Well-Traveled, With More to Come
With more than three years of travel nursing experience under his belt, Saunders has taken his nursing career from Florida to Houston, Albuquerque, Iowa City and Atlanta. He hopes to travel to Hawaii on assignment next.
“I’m also going to do neuro surgical procedures with Dr. Javid Ellias in October in Ecuador, to help the needy,” he said. “We worked well together in New Mexico at Presbyterian Hospital and he asked me to be part of his team for a week.”
In addition to his professional development, Saunders has been able to grow personally too, and has made some amazing friendships along the way. “I stay in contact with a lot of people,” he said. “I’m the type of guy if you have a birthday and plan a party, I will fly in to see you.”
For nurses who may be interested in a travel nursing career, Saunders would strongly encourage them.
“Don’t be scared to take chances. You are in control of your destiny – whatever you put into it, that’s what you will get out of it. You can touch a lot of lives and make a difference on so many different levels.”
Saunders has enjoyed Nurses Month in May as a time to celebrate the profession of nursing, as well as healthcare as a whole.
“Everything we do is a team approach and we need the whole team to get anything done,” he said. “I am really big on being a team player and we are all focused on having the best outcomes for our patients. One hand helps the other and the chain is as strong as its weakest link.