An Adventure of a Lifetime-Travel Nursing in Alaska
Here’s a great story of a nurse who took the initiative and had a great adventure coupled with her work as a nurse. A fun read I first published a couple of years ago!-CVL
“Travel nursing has provided me with unique opportunities to run away and see the world,” said Kristine.Scardina, RN, BSN, a 19-year nursing veteran and travel nurse for seven years. “Nursing is who I truly am and travel provides numerous opportunities to see the country.”
Employed by Cross Country Trav Corps she’s currently assigned to the Providence Medical Center in Anchorage, Alaska, her first assignment in the Northwest. “I tell people I’m on paid vacation three months at a time,” she said with a laugh. “Who else but a travel nurse can afford to come to Alaska for three months? I love my job, being here and I try to see as much as much of Alaska as I can.”
Earlier in her career Scardina worked for agencies such as RN Network and On Assignment when her travels took her along the east coast of Virginia, West Virginia (WV), Florida and North Carolina.
Progressive Care Units
Scardina’ s speciality is Progressive Care Units (PCUs). These step down units are not only a good combination of critical care and medical units but also provide opportunities to care for a variety of patients with different types of illnesses. Although PCU patients don’t require intensive care they aren’t well enough to be placed on medical or telemetry units as they need more nursing monitoring and nursing skills, like administering IV medications and starting and monitoring IV drips and observation while on heart monitors. “Working on a PCU unit helps me to develop my critical thinking skills because patients are still pretty sick and I have to figure out what’s going with them.”
As patients aren’t sedated or on breathing tubes nurses have more opportunities to converse with them and these talks help to allay patient fears and to become more aware of their fears and psychosocial needs.
Due to her varied nursing experiences Scardina has also been assigned to focused PCU units where patients with one type of health conditions are cared for instead of those who have a variety of health conditions. “I’ve worked on a renal care unit for patients with specific renal disorders, neurosurgery and ear, nose and throat surgical units where there were many opportunities to learn more about EENT surgery and post op care. Everything I’ve done has been within my scope of practice and I’ve become more familiar with issues like patient ratios, different types of medications, measuring blood sugars and wound care. These experiences have enhanced who I am personally and professionally.”
Some Travel Insights
“Travel nursing is the same wherever you go when you follow Joint Commission Rules and Standards for Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), “she said. “Nurses gain a variety of nursing experience and physicians tend to treat you as a collaborative member of a team. This career has given me a wide range of opportunities to learn a lot about different types of nursing without having to take a permanent job. No matter where we work it’s important for nurses to view each patient as a unique human being rather than just a patient in a bed because this view contains everything that’s most important in nursing.”
She is adamant that research is needed to gain good information about this career before one takes a travel nursing assignment. That includes talking with multiple recruiters to find a company that best meets your travel goals. “I look for a wide range of travel experiences through three month assignments that can be extended as needed,” she said. “It’s important to network with other nurses in the field too.”
Locations May Surprise You
“I’m a big city girl from Miami, Florida,” Scardina said. “So, if I opened a map to decide where I wanted to go I’d probably choose either NY or California. I’d never would have chosen Weirton, WV. However, while working there I found that I absolutely loved the place due to its diverse community and European flair. A steel mill town, Weirton residents come from Italy, Greece, Hungary and Poland. I found people to be friendly and they didn’t’ treat me like an outsider.” You just never know about a place until you’ve been there. Luckily a thirteen week travel nursing assignment is a perfect amount of time to “try out” a new locale without making a huge commitment. Travel nursing in Alaska certainly wasn’t on the radar when she began this journey!
It isn’t all perfect, of course. Scardina cited some problems she’s encountered during her travels. “Short staffed situations can be a bit harrowing at times,” she said, “especially when you have six patients to care for and no patient care technicians to assist you.”
Scardina has worked in hospitals where they had an interim manager rather than a full-time unit manager and the interim manager may not be visible to nurses. “In that type circumstances we nurses relied on ourselves,” she explained. “ You’ve got to adapt to the environment where you are assigned and the circumstances that occur during your stay.”
All in all, though, it has been a wonderful and positive experience. “Three months paid vacaction” she repeats. Indeed!