As a solo travel nurse for almost 4 years now, I’ve seen a lot of the country. I grew up in a small town in Vermont, and after graduating from UVM, I said, “See ya New England, I’m going to explore!” First job in Boise, ID and from there, all across the country. My contracts have ranged from towns of a few thousand to cities of millions of people. Honestly, loved them all! I love tearing up trails on my mountain bike as much as trying the latest cocktails and dressing up. I’m a get out there, see the sites, do all the things kind of girl. And yes, naps are key.....
Thinking of taking a travel contract in a smaller town or city? Do it! I did and found myself surprised with how much I learned as a nurse and about myself as a person. So here’s my hot take on making the most out of a travel contract in a smaller town or city.
First things first: Get out and walk through your new city! Though I am a big fan of biking, the pace of walking allows for more time to absorb the culture of your new spot. Always pop in to a local coffee shop, get a cup of your favorite joe, and ask the barista, “What’s your favorite thing to do here”. I am never shy, (Go Leos!) so for me this is one the easiest ways to get some off the beaten path ideas to explore. Shy? No problem: Google to the rescue! I usually look up the top ten things to do in the area, see what the reviews say, and make a list that I hang by my door this becomes my little checklist for the area; when I am done with the checklist of “to-do’s” I always feel like I am really getting out there and doing all there is to see and do!
Outdoorsy or active? Head to the local sports or bike shop. I ask the staff about group runs or rides, and favorite trails. My go-to line: “Hey, I literally just moved here and have 3 months to do all that there is to do here. Any recs for XYZ activities?”. I also let them know my level of skill because nothing is worse than showing to a “fun” group run and learning it’s a 10 mile, 3,500ft elevation gain route. Facebook, Instagram, and Meetup also provide planned events. Sticks and mud not your thing? Joining a gym with regular classes also helps create structure and community. Volunteering opportunities are always a great option, too! Go play with the shelter pets, cook meals for the Soup Kitchen, or see what the local theater company is working on and if they need extra cast members.
One thing I love about smaller cities is the community feel! It can be scary going to a new place, big or small. In smaller spots it can feel like “Oh, there goes that new nurse..” and all eyes are on you. Well, that’s your opportunity to put on a smile and wave. In the smaller spots, the locals are so tight-nit that they pick up on your excitement to see and do all that there is in their hometown, that they want to give you the best recs! Another pro to a smaller city is that your patients are people usually from the immediate area Each patient is like a little history book of the area—multi-generation farms, local founders, etc. I also like it when I am out running errands or exploring in the town, I bump into my former patients or their family members. Directly impacting a small city community and then seeing them out and about, continuing to do well makes me feel like the happiest nurse in the world.
As far as being a nurse in a smaller hospital setting, I felt more connected to my work and skills. There are not as many in-house resources that a big city hospital might have. I remember I had a new wound on my patient and asked the charge for the pager number for the Wound Ostomy Nurse; she goes, “Oh, honey, you are the wound nurse here”. She then helped walk me through how to use their algorithm to figure out the best dressing and how to establish the wound vac myself. Never would I had gotten that experience and gained skills in a bigger hospital. It was the most fun “arts and crafts” time, patient edition, I've had in a long time! I also then honed my skills in phlebotomy, medication preparation, swallow evaluations, and physical and occupational therapies. I found that I felt more connected to the ancillary team members because I could just walk down the hall to their offices and ask for demonstrations, questions or clarifications right then and there. The entire hospital, from ENVS to the MDs and everyone in between, felt like a team and I was a part of it!
I admit I was a little nervous going to a smaller hospital and city, especially coming off an assignment at a teaching, level 1,1,800 bed hospital in a huge city. But I am so glad I took the leap. I became a better nurse, a better version of myself, and very much a part of my adopted little city.
Written By: Rebecca Romac, Travel RN & MedVenturist