Was the money worth being a travel nurse in New York during the pandemic?
A lot of travel nurses fled to NYC after the outbreak became impossible to contain. I’ve been at the same hospital as a travel nurse for 5 months now. The situation has gone from manageable to crisis overload right before my eyes. Things began to change at work early in March. It has now been 2 months and our staffing has improved tremendously. We have travel nurses here from all over the country. It is hard to physically see if there has been any improvement in the amount of COVID cases. Most of our units are still filled with positive patients. I have grown tired of talking about COVID, but the point of this post is to talk about mind and other travel nurses experiences. I will also break down the pros and cons to being a travel nurse in the middle of this crisis.
The most obvious con of this experience was witnessing so many deaths at a rapid rate. I don’t believe that this is specific to being a travel nurse. This goes for the experiences of all nurses, healthcare workers, and first responders all over the country. For travel nurses, we have to leave and be ready to work very quickly during crisis situations. I happened to already be here, so this wasn’t an issue for me. A lot of the travel nurses that I worked with and trained didn’t even get an orientation on the unit. The first night, they were given a full patient assignment, sometimes even taking 3-4 ICU patients. In the little time they were given to prepare, they had trouble getting access to the pyxis and the EMR (electronic medical record) system used here called prism. Pyxis is a machine that we use to hold and dispense medications for patients. Since they didn’t have access, I would look up their patients meds and pull them for them to be able to give them. This crisis took a very different team effort than what we are used to. Every day going into work was a new rule and no organization at all. For me having been there for longer than the other travelers, I had to work as charge nurse for new units that were opened up for the overflow of ICU patients positive for COVID. I had no charge nurse experience prior to this and quickly figured it out. My biggest issue with this situation was the lack of organization and support from management. The supervisors here are also bullies who will try to pressure you into accepting a situation that is unsafe for the staff and the patient. There were some travel nurses who made it all the way here and paid for their housing just to end up canceled before they can even start. Things become very hectic in crisis situations. Hospitals were overbooking nurses and once they realized that they had too many, they were canceling their contracts. Travel nurse agencies were also unable to guarantee that we will have adequate PPE. We had to save and reuse our masks for protection. This was concerning because after use, masks lose their strength.
1. Patient deaths at an overwhelmingly rapid rate.
2. leaving home quickly
3. Lack of on unit orientation
4. Unsafe nurse to patient ratios
5. Lack of guidance and leadership from management and supervisors will try to bully you into accepting an unsafe circumstance. If you’re uncomfortable always speak up!
6. Contract cancellations due to over hiring of travel nurses.
7. Uncertainty about having proper protection for ourselves.
Although these were stressful times, I met a lot of great people. It’s not very often that so many travel nurses can come together in one place. I’ve been able to network and make lasting connections during this experience. We had some fun times. As a travel nurse, our pay significantly increased. Unfortunately, at most hospitals, they were not giving hazard pay to their regular staff. My pay increased by an extra $2000/week for my regular hours. For overtime, I was paid at a rate of $120/hr. This kind of pay is only seen during crisis situations. We received so many donations from generous people. They sent us food from different places. We also got some skin care stuff, orchids, and a boxy charm cosmetic box! To everyone who donated to hospital staff, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Those gestures truly helped to lift our spirits and help energize us to get through our shifts! Also, as a member of the American Association of critical care nursing (AACN) we had free hotel stays donated to us. I utilized this when I worked multiple nights in a row or overtime so that I don’t have to drive too far away. Starbucks offered free small coffees to healthcare workers. There were so many deals going around for all essential workers. I was able to buy 2 pairs of sneakers from nike for the price of 1. There were free car rentals, free parking garages, free bus rides, and free hotel rooms through other services. People were celebrating us outside of the hospital. They made signs, clapped for us, and honked their horns to thank us as we went in for our shifts. It was nice to see people care about and appreciate us! The best part of it all was making a difference and being there to save lives!
- 1. Making great new connections
- 2. Significant pay increase that I wouldn’t have received if I stayed a staff nurse.
- 3. Free food
- 4. Free Starbucks coffee
- 5. Receiving donations from kind people.
- 6. Free hotel stays close to work
- 7. Discounted items specially for essential workers
- 8. Being appreciated by the public.
- 9. Saving lives!
As a travel nurse, working through this pandemic had more pros than cons. If you felt like you weren’t treated right in your staff position and you’re not afraid of taking risks of change, you should consider becoming a travel nurse!
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