Vero Travel Nurse, Shawna H., Shares Her Saipan Experience

post by Kristina Thomas

Meet Shawna H., a Dialysis Travel Nurse, who recently took a Vero travel nurse assignment in Saipan. She enjoys working with her Recruiter, Simon Turnheim, and describes him as personable, transparent, and quickly responds to her questions.

Shawna has been a nurse since 2004 and has specialized in Dialysis for 8 years now. She has a vast background in Med-Surg, ER, and Pre/Post Op. She’s from Billings, Montana, but loves to travel. When she’s not traveling, she’s studying to become a Nurse Practitioner.

What inspired you to take a travel nurse assignment on the island of Saipan? 

I met another Vero Travel Nurse, Monica, who referred me. We met on an assignment in the Virgin Islands. Saipan seemed like a great new place to see. She told me all about her current assignment and even helped me find housing. When the opportunity came, I took it. She showed me the ropes which has been great.

Can you describe your experience thus far? What has been the biggest adjustment? 

I love this island. Micro beach & Pau Pau beach are my favorite places. And I am very impressed with the staff and patients here. People are very mellow, and friendlier. All the staff work together and are ready to jump in and help each other. The patients are very grateful to have dialysis. It was weird at first because typically you don’t mingle with your patients outside of the clinic. But here, it’s a small-town vibe. You will see them and get to know them.

In the states, I was isolated and stopped doing a lot of things due to COVID. But here, there is no community spread, which is refreshing. They strictly enforce wearing masks inside. I see most people even outside, with their masks on. And many businesses require a temperate check before entering.

From the airport, I was driven by a police escort to a resort, and under quarantine for 5 days. It’s serious, they take your room key from you to ensure you don’t leave. They feed you amazing food 3 times a day, and I had an ocean view. So, it’s been refreshing that I can enjoy all of my favorite things again, such as getting my nails done, massages, checking out museums, and restaurants, not to mention the beautiful beaches & hiking trails. It is like a jungle here, but there is plenty to do outside.

What things should nurses keep in mind as they prepare for this assignment? 

You can find a lot of what you need through Facebook Groups. I have Verizon, but it’s expensive with the international plan and doesn’t have good service. For phone service, look up First Net through AT&T, or try IT&E once you come to the island. IT&E has a $30/month plan. There is free Wi-Fi everywhere for you to use.

People use cash a lot. The bank of Guam is where you’ll want to go. ATMs allow for $300 transactions at one time. Things are affordable here. I’m able to get massages at least once a week. I also have a good Acupuncturist, who acts as my Chiropractor. And I love some good, affordable sushi, which this island has! There's also a fun fact about the bread here. I’ve had purple bread before and tried vegetables that I didn’t even know existed, placed inside of my bread. They like to put all kinds of things inside of the bread, so it is always a surprise.

You found housing through your travel nurse connections. Do you have recommendations for other travelers? 

There are many Facebook travel nurse groups to check out. Just put yourself out there and ask for help. Someone in there will have the answer you need. That’s your best resource to find housing. You can also visit Airbnb.com, this might be more expensive, but because there are limited tourists on the island, you could get a good deal. If you’re seeking an assignment stateside then you should check out Furnished Finder.

What advice would you give to a nurse who’s interested in traveling? 

My #1 piece of advice is to talk with a well-seasoned travel nurse before you jump into your first assignment. They speak your language and can give you great recommendations. Also, get your own health insurance, it will be less expensive. There are a ton of great Travel Nurse Facebook Groups to explore and find useful information.

Also don’t be intimidated by all the paperwork you have to fill out to get started with an agency. Once you do it for the first time, it all becomes easier. Stay organized so you can quickly upload what you need. For example, track every EMR system you use, and update your resume with it. Also, write down your manager’s contact info because you will use them as a reference.

And last, remember that everyone isn't right for this job. Try it out. But keep in mind to enjoy this work, you need to be flexible and open to change. Every hospital does things a little differently, so be adaptable. At the same time, led by example because there could be an opportunity to share new ideas of how to do a process better. Some locations encourage you to speak up. But instead of getting on your soapbox right out the gate, just keep your side of the street clean. You are there to help. Remember, you are going into a facility because there is a staffing issue, for whatever reason, so things might not be perfect. But if you stay positive, supportive, and helpful, then you'll make a difference.

What is one thing you absolutely cannot travel without?

Besides the basics, something fun that I always take with me on my adventures is my monkey, Stuart. A friend’s daughter gave it to me. As a travel nurse, my job and location are always changing. It is the consistent little thing that brings me comfort. It’s fun because I also take pictures with him at some of my favorite locations, monuments, you name it. I think everyone should find something like that to bring them some comfort and consistency in our ever-changing lifestyle.

If anyone wants to connect with Shawna directly, she encourages travelers to reach out via email: shawna.hartnett@gmail.com

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