“This experience made me better a nurse and a better person.”
That’s how Melanie D., a Medical-Surgical/Telemetry Travel Nurse, describes her current assignment in Guam. Nursing is a second career choice for Melanie. She was 57 when she graduated from nursing school. Initially, she began her nursing career in her hometown, of Fort Myers, FL. She soon discovered the world of travel nursing and decided to embark on a new journey.
“In Florida, there are many ‘snowbirds’. So, the hospitals always hire travel nurses to cover the high census during the winter. That’s how I discovered there was such a thing. When I became a nurse, my off days did not correspond with my girlfriends, so I would take solo trips because I always loved to travel. I started talking with travel nurses at the hospital, and I fell in love with their stories & experiences they would share,” said Melanie.
Getting Started with Travel Nursing
“Why did I become a travel nurse? Because travel is my addiction, especially pre-COVID. You cannot go on a vacation for a week and really get to experience a new location. But if you spend 3 months there, you get a better picture.”
Once Melanie was intrigued by travel nursing, she decided to do her research first. She attended TravCon, a national conference for traveling healthcare professionals. She took the newbie Bootcamp, which informed her about the industry.
“TravCon allowed me to connect with so many different people, that I am still friends with today. This past winter, I worked in Hawaii and I had three different travel nurses come visit me. I have made lifelong friends through travel nursing,” says Melanie.
During her time at the conference, Melanie learned about Vero travel nurse assignments in Guam. “After the conference, I always kept Guam in my head. One of my friends, Bonnie took an assignment in Guam, and I thought it was time for me to do the same. My recruiter, Simon Turnheim always kept in touch with me. The entire Vero team communicates with me consistently to ensure I am all good,” says Melanie. She has worked in Washington state and now is enjoying her Guam assignment.
Loving Every Minute of the Guam Travel Nurse Experience
Nurses who take a Guam assignment work hard and play hard. “Every hospital does things differently. That’s a benefit for a travel nurse because you get to learn so many new things. I’ve been able to work on different floors, such as Ortho, GI, Oncology, Trauma, Acute Care. While in Guam, for the first time, I did vents and trachs, so it has made me a better nurse and person, because I’m now more adaptable and can easily adjust to new environments. While we work hard, everyone looks out for one another. All the nurses, CNAs, really help each other every day. We have a great team,” says Melanie.
When Melanie isn’t working, you can find her hiking, and having fun in the water. She likes to snorkel and has a diving certification. To date, she has 26 dives under her belt and often jokes with her kids that she is trying to become a mermaid. “Guam is a fantastic diving location, because its surrounded by coral reefs, and has consistent 80-degree weather outside and water temperature. We see turtles, sharks, and every tropical fish you can imagine. It’s like swimming in an aquarium,” says Melanie.
Melanie adds, “I encourage anyone who’s a serious diver to get their certification while in Guam and get it early. I’ve met so many wonderful ladies through my diving trips, and now I have a new group of friends to hang out with.”
Guam is filled with gems of adventure and rich history. One of Melanie’s favorite locations is Ritidian National Park & Beach. “It’s on the tip of the island and it’s beautiful because there is no development there, just white sand and crystal blue water. Lots of trails. It is paradise.”
Melanie also looks forward to experiencing the native dance shows, post-COVID. “I hear they are fabulous. The shows and museums are closed right now. But if you research the history of Guam you’ll see that it was occupied by the Japanese, and then later acquired by the US after World War II. Some natives still speak Chamorro, too. It’s very interesting to learn about the culture. They have several celebrations and even a ship-wreck exhibit from World War II on display,” says Melanie.
How do you navigate an unknown territory that’s far from home, like Guam?
Guam is far away from most of the U.S., however, technology plays a major role in staying connected to family and friends.
“Even before this assignment, I’ve always kept in touch with everyone through Facebook messenger. We send thoughtful messages and virtual hugs to one another. I always reference the world clock because of the big time difference from Guam to the states. Pre-COVID, in between assignments is when I go home to visit my kids,” says Melanie.
Melanie, found suitable housing and transportation during her Guam travel nurse assignment, by using Airbnb and finding a roommate to share expenses.
“Prior to Guam, I was working in Hawaii, so it was easier for me to get there. Another travel nurse friend also took an assignment, so we found housing together. Most realtors on the island want you to rent for 6 months or more. Fortunately, one day while at iHop (takeout) we were talking to locals and found a person who rents an Airbnb to tourists, and right now they had a vacancy. We chose that apartment and are happy with our decision. We also got a discount on our car rental because of the slow tourism. Our rate is $400 per month, and most major chains offer discounted rates for healthcare workers,” says Melanie.
The COVID-19 Travel Nurse Experience in Guam
The facility Vero staffs in Guam is a non-COVID hospital. “You will have high acuity, because healthcare resources on the island are very limited, especially during the pandemic. The MS/Tele floor has much sicker patients than normal, which I’m sure is the same in the states right now. The people here are very compliant, and I feel very safe. Most new COVID cases are reassigned to the military base, and they can control it. The health department is very vigilant on the quarantine. We’re not exposed, we have sufficient PPE, if you walk outside without a mask people will look at you funny. Everyone practices social distancing on the island. During this COVID pandemic, Guam is one of the safest places I could be,” Melanie says.
Advice for First-Time Travel Nurses
“Some days will be harder than others, so you must be able to rebound from disappointments and focus on better days ahead.”
Melanie believes that every travel nurse should be open-minded and flexible. “In Guam, there is a large international population, so you will work with people from all backgrounds. Be open-minded, as you are an American, you are the minority here. Adapt to the location. The people on this island are amazing and very caring,” says Melanie.
Melanie, like many nurses, have experienced challenges that have helped shape her perspective. “Some people cannot handle living moment to moment, day to day. As a travel nurse, you will do that. So, this is not for everyone. Your contract could get canceled by the facility, your patient could go off on you, and you could experience the most horrible days. But for every bad one, there is a good one. I look at it as, every day is a blessing, that is why they call it the present. I focus on the good,” says Melanie.
For first time nurses, especially, Melanie recommends doing a lot of research before taking an assignment and to not be scared to drive outside the city limits of your assignment location.
“While on assignment, I like to see other nearby cities too. I’ll drive 2-3 hours to explore the area. If you love meeting new people, travel nursing is a great opportunity. If you’re considering taking a Guam travel nurse assignment, I say do it! It will allow you to learn what you’re capable of. And you will have a great experience,” says Melanie.