Sandra is an amazing travel nurse, who has received many praises for her hard work & excellent patient care. As she states, she was called to this nursing profession. Her hometown is Houston, TX, but she loves exploring new locations & she is up for new adventures. She travels with her husband, and so far, they both have experienced amazing locations including Medford, Oregon.
This is Sandra, The photo that was used as a reference for this Tribute to Heroes drawing, was taken while she was at...Posted by Kristi Breitkreuz Nelson on Thursday, April 30, 2020
Keep reading to learn more about this nurse, her experience during the COVID-19 pandemic, and her top advice for first-time travel nurses.
What inspired you to start a travel nursing career?
This career has been my passion for 6 years. I’ve learned so much about caring for others and myself. I’ve met people who are filled with the same passions I have for nursing and some patients that will forever have a place in my heart. I’ve had the opportunity of working with amazing nurses and patients in Texas, Wyoming and now Oregon as a Travel Nurse.
Prior to nursing, I was Director of Sales & Marketing for a large company. I enjoyed what I did, but I didn’t think that I was called to do that. Nursing is a ministry to me. I remember asking my mom, ‘What did you see me doing when I grew up?” My mom thought of me being a nurse, because of personality, compassion & care for others. She knew I would do something where I could be of service. I finally got to the point, where I was ready to resign from my corporate job and pursue nursing. My boss at the time wanted to keep me on, paid for my nursing schooling, and encouraged me to take up a Global Communications role upon graduation. Then I got accepted into nursing school, and I realized this needs to be full time, I can’t work and go to school. Thankfully, everything aligned with my family, and we were able to make it work on one income, and I was able to graduate debt-free! I bought myself a new car for graduation because I was proud of that achievement.
My specialty is Med-Surg. Although, I have run an ER department by myself, and that department is my favorite. I have also worked in Neuro, Step-Down, Trauma, Rehab, so I can easily float and cross-train. You name it, I have done it. As a staff nurse and as PRN nurse, I’ve gained so much experience prior to traveling. Once my kids graduated, I wanted to travel more and really start taking assignments out of state.
How would you describe working as a nurse during COVID?
It was bad. My contract says Med-Surg but I haven’t done that yet. I remember being very nervous when looking for my next assignment in the midst of this pandemic, especially because I saw many nurses didn’t have the proper PPE. I didn’t plan to take on another assignment because my grandbaby is due June 1st. But as I started watching everything unfold with COVID, I could not just sit back and watch, I had to jump in. It’s like watching a fire, you want to help but also not get burned.
I took my current assignment particularly because I thought it would be a safe COVID job in Oregon. But it hits Medford, the way it has hit other places. I’ve worked in the heart center of my current assignment. But this is a true heart center, one that performs an open-heart surgery today and asks you to be the nurse on it. Most of the patients, where I’m at are stable. But within the past few weeks, when I was in the ICU (and I’m not an ICU nurse) they needed me as a second set of hands because of my trauma experience. They’ve asked, how do you know how to do those skills as a Med-Surg nurse? And I respond that my background has helped me get here.
My first COVID patient was very stable, but within 12 hours he completely crashed and was in the ICU. It is hard too because no one can be with him, at the bedside. With family members gone, you as the nurse must fill that void, and not only provide great care to the patient but also be the point of contact for the family to stay informed. They are scared and stressed as well.
By taking this assignment, I assumed that my husband and I would both get COVID. I had to reiterate to him that if I’m hospitalized you can’t be there for me. And that’s hard to grasp for anyone. So, it is a very tough situation for all involved.
What other challenges have you experienced as a travel nurse?
When you are a travel nurse, the first 2-3 weeks are an adjustment because no one knows you. The need for travel nurses is high, and assignments are typically in a small town with limited resources for staff. So you have to prove yourself when you come to a new facility. When I took an assignment in Wyoming, it was wintertime, and my friends would say that I have lost my mind. I dealt with every type of situation because the facility provides all services including psych, home health, and hospice. On your last few shifts as a travel nurse, it is hard to leave because you’ve created these special bonds with a new team. It’s definitely a calling.
What has been the best part of being a travel nurse?
First, you get to work with amazing nurses, CNAs, and other medical staff. You have a superhero effect because, despite the challenges and seeing people at their worst, you come back each and every day and give it your all. It’s an amazing feeling helping others.
Second, the adventures are unbelievable. When I took an assignment in Wyoming I did so many winter sports. And now in Oregon, I take amazing hikes, we’ve also visited the beach, with no one in sight.
What advice would you give to a first-time travel nurse?
You need to have experience before you travel. You are walking into an unknown facility, sight unseen. I see a bunch of new nurses who are ready to travel and only know the modules they have learned in school. Those modules are not enough to prepare you for travel nursing. You have to learn to be super flexible, and comfortable being outside of your comfort zone. You should also be a resilient person because you will face challenges and have to adapt quickly. Back home, I’ve worked in multiple facilities, and that has prepared me.
What have you enjoyed about working with Vero Healthcare Staffing Agency?
Vero is a newer company, but I like that I’m not just a number. When I first interviewed with my Recruiter, Michelle Breitburg, she told me that this is a chance for her to get to know me and for me to get to know her. At that point, if it’s a good fit we will move forward. She was genuinely interested in finding my dream assignment. She wanted to know everything about me beyond just what’s on my resume. With other agencies and recruiters, I’ve been left in the middle of the assignment with no contact. I wanted to change that and align myself with one person, one company that was a good fit, and I found that. I have an amazing support team who takes pride in taking care of me during COVID and that feels amazing.
When you're not working, what do you enjoy doing for fun?
I love to read. I read about 1-2 books a month. I love my kids and grandkids and spend a lot of time with them. My husband is with me on assignment, so we hike, bike, go to wineries and breweries during my free time. At my current assignment location, there are many wineries (even through COVID) they offer to-go orders so we can still explore them.