Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Shut the front door!

As a nurse, you have to leave your ego at the door of the hospital. When dealing with people's lives, there is no time to nurture someone's wounded pride when they are wrong and the risks are too high to think you know it all. This is particularly true as a travel nurse, I've decided. I had been told several times before I left on this adventure by other travel nurses, don't try to change how the facility does things. Just follow their rules and don't offer your opinion.

Today challenged my ability to bite my tongue. I was given an order by the physician, I carried out that order, and documented my actions. No problem, right? Well, I learned the nurse I work with would "never have done it that way." I didn't violate any policy, just the way the nurse would want things done. It was difficult for me to navigate through this situation without sticking my foot totally in my mouth. I had to accept that I didn't harm the patient in any way, nor did I disobey any policies set forth by the institution. But, in order to "play by the rules" I had to accept what this nurse was saying and move on. Because, again, I'm not there to fix or change anything, I'm there simply to do a job. At the end of the day, as long as the patients are taken care of, that's all that matters, not my ego.

Sorry for the random buzzing and alert tone in the background, an incoming text message interrupted my video! 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A History Lesson

If I asked you what happend on April 19, 1775 in American history, would you know the answer? No? Don't worry, I couldn't jog my memory back to high school history class either.

In an attempt to round out my Massechusettes weekend, I walked the footsetps of the nation's first freedom fighters. I started in Lexington. It was here where the first blood of the Revolutionary war was shed on April 19th, 1775. I walked the path of Paul Revere's infamous midnight ride to warn
Samuel Adams and John Handcock that the British were en route. The Battle Green, located in the center of town, isn't as expansive as you'd think. But, 3,500 colonial militia and 1,700 British redcoats began the battle here. It wasn't intended to be the beginning of the fight, but a single shot was fired, still unknown from which side, and the young British soldiers followed it with open fire. When the smoke cleared, 8 colonials were dead. News of the of the shooting began spreading through neighboring communities. The British then began their march to Concord. I traced their path from Lexington to Concord today.

Upon arrival in Concord, the British soldiers began searching house-to-house for weapons. Col. Smith of the colnials sent several soldiers over the North Bridge to seize supplies hidden at a neighboring farm. It was at this bridge that the first shot was fired by the colonials on the British troops. Being outnumbered four to one, the Brits began their retreat back to Boston. They first had to endure a gauntlet of colonial fire. The success of the fight convinced the colonial people that they were indeed prepared to fight for their rights.

I also got a peek at some literary history. Concord is home to the Orchard House, the setting for the book Little Women,written by Louisa May Alcott. The highlight of the day was my visit to Walden Pond. This serene 460 acre park was home to environmentalist and author, Henry David Thoreau (one of my favorites!). He spent two years here in solitude in a one bedroom cabin he built himself. After walking the around the pond, it was easy to see why he picked this place for reflection.

My view at Walden Pond. Talk about peaceful, huh?

I then headed north to Lowell, MA. On the banks of the Merrimack River, this city was the country's first planned industrial city and historic center of the American textile industry. When compared to the first two cities on my itinerary for the day, it was a stark contrast. There was an errie, empty feeling to the town, although it was bustling and busy at the same time. Dirty and polluted, it reminded me of a "bad part of town." Wasn't much to see, so after some delicious lunch at an organic vegetarian cafe, I headed back "home."

Hopefully I haven't lost everyone with my history lesson. A snooze fest for some, but I found it interesting, especially to see.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Windswept (get ready for a long post)

Plans changed. I was hoping to get up into the White Mountains of New Hampshire this weekend but the 50 MPH wind gusts prohibited that from happening!

So, the coast it was, although I was almost swept out to sea by the wind I think! Before I discuss the happenings of the day, there is something about New England that everyone needs to understand. Well, a few things that apply to my day at least. First, most of the states have cities with the same names. Although this isn't a novel concept in other regions of the country, here, the cities aren't separated by very much. For example, Salem, NH and Salem, MA are only about 30 miles apart. The second thing, directional signs suck. Third thing, there are A LOT of narrow, one-way streets. So what has all this taught us? You really, really, really need to pay attention when driving; particularly when you haven't been to said places before.

The day started with a quick jaunt over to Salem, New Hampshire to pick up a few things from one of my favorite stores: Lush. They sell all natural shampoo's and soaps. The closest store back home is in the twin cities, so I was pretty stoked to find out there was one only 30 minutes away! After that, I bought a new tripod, since, oddly enough I broke mine during my last trip to New Hampshire last fall.

Then, it was off to Salem, Massachusetts. Still with me? Yes, Salem, MA, home of the infamous witch trials. They aren't shy in the town about their history. Shops with cheesy witch t-shirts and other "paranormal" junk. I made my best attempts to avoid the commercialized areas of the city since it appears to have so much else to offer. I started off by submersing myself in my heritage with lunch at a wonderful little cafe called Cafe Polonia. Their menu is filled with traditional Polish food. Had the kielbasa and let me tell you, I haven't had such good Polish food since my great grandmother died over a decade ago. I spent about an hour walking around town, seeing the various historical sites including the Salem witch trial memorial. Did you know: the witchcraft hysteria began in 1692 when two Salem girls began having unexplained "fits" and accused three local women of casting spells on them. The accusations began in a frenzy with over 150 people, both men and women, being accused and imprisoned in the year that followed. In the end, 14 women and 5 men were executed by hanging and one man was pressed to death by heavy stones that were placed on his chest. Crazy, huh? There is a cemetery, dedicated in 1992 to coincide with the 300th anniversary of the trials, that houses 20 stone benches with the victims names and how they died inscribed on them. The city was also home to the famed author Nathaniel Hawthorne. There is a statue in his honor and the House of Seven Gables, the mansion that inspired him to write the novel with the same name.

After Salem, it was east 30 miles to the city of Gloucester, MA, the nation's oldest fishing port. Settled by Puritans in 1623, the city is still a working commercial fishing port. The pearl of this bustling seaside town in Good Harbor Beach. With beautiful white sand and rolling dunes, this beach was picturesque.

Once I had cleaned the sand out of my ears (no, not kidding, it was that windy), I hopped in the car and travelled 20 minutes north to Ipswich, MA. Known for its clams and cranes. The town was very quaint, filled with cute shops, the aforementioned tiny streets, and a clam shack in the shape of a clam. When I hit the middle of the town, the wind had gotten so strong, one of the power lines was draped over the street. So I detoured and stopped by Crane Beach for a few minutes.

Dusk was less than an hour away, time to head "home." But, I figured with my new tripod in tow, I would make one last stop at Hampton Beach for some sunset pictures by the ocean. I still need some practice with my low light shots, but I'm learning!

Eight hours, 120 miles, 5 cities. Quite the day for sightseeing! My plans for tomorrow will depend on the weather, but I'll keep ya'll posted! I've only got 10 weekends left to see everything I can, gotta make the most of it! (see the video below to see just how windy it was today. Watch the sand blowing over the beach, you may want to turn your speakers down!)


Friday, February 24, 2012

Settling for a slowdown...

Week two: done!

This week was S....L.....O..........W. Next week is destined to be a repeat of this week. The supervising physician is gone on vacation, and in the meantime we have three doctors "filling in" from Mass. General. We aren't seeing many new patients and this leads to a lot of downtime for me. I'm used to having projects and committee work to be doing, but this is what I wanted right? To be free of all that stress? I will admit, it is an amazing feeling to punch out at the end of the work day and not worry about being called at home to come into work, to be stressing about projects I need to finish, and other general work stressors I'm so used to.

I've been able to flex my nursing muscles lately by helping the department develop an anaphylaxis protocol. They administer IV contrast dye to scan patients in the planning phase of their radiation treatments. There is a small, ill-equipt anaphylaxis kit, but no guidelines on using it. Granted, they have a physician directly in the department, but it was the physican who decided to no longer do any contrast injections until a protocol was established. So, hopefully I can help contribute to this department in a positive way with my background.

I have plans for this weekend, if the weather cooperates, so stay tuned! Also, a big thanks to my friend DeeDee for sending me my first mail from home! I cute new apron (which is awesome considering I forgot to pack my other apron)! I love it Dee, thanks so much!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Adventures of Helga and Chelsea

As promised last week, I'm posting a few more videos of me and Sarah's trip up the coast to Maine. In our cross country trek to New Hampshire, we hit 8 states: Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana (where they charged me $30 to drive on a toll road), Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Since Sarah had never been to Maine, we figured, why not?
Up the coast we went. We were greeted by some crazy strong wind gusts off the water and light snowfall. In short, we froze our Wisconsin assess off. We stopped and ate some lobster (of course) and checked out a little gift shop next to the diner. It was there that we were introduced to "the accent." Anyone who has been to Boston/New England area, knows there is a distinctive accent. Although, I'm sure visitors to Wisconsin say the same thing. Oh, you betcha! Anyway, there were two gentlemen doing some remodel work on the gift shop and they were discussing the tools they needed. One of the guys said, "I need a wonda bah." In translation, "I need a wonder bar." And we didn't eat lobster, we ate "lobstah." Today was the first time anyone told me I had a Wisconsin accent, although he deemed it North Dakota-like.
I'd like to say I'm missing home, but I'm not sure what I think. At times I get homesick, but it passes quickly. I don't enjoy feeling like a new nurse again learning a new kind of nursing along with a new hospital, new staff, new types of patients, new house, and new state, but that's where all the excitement lies, right?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Home Sweet Away From Home

When I bought my house in La Crosse, I looked at 17 homes before I found the one. My realtor said I was pushing a record for her. So, needless to say, I'm a little picky about where I stay. Now, I wouldn't say I'm high maintenance (although, some others might!) when it comes to where I'm living, I like having the comforts of a HOME. Apartment living never was for me. So when the agency I work for presented me with the option of staying in a 500 sq. foot apartment three towns away from Exeter or in a small cottage only a mile away from the hospital, my choice was clear. Looking back, I'm glad I made the decision I did or I'd have missed out on meeting some pretty incredible people.

I took the day to walk around Exeter, peek into the various shops downtown, and make a plan for resturants I'd like to try during my stay here. It is a very quaint town, steeped in history as evidenced by the buildings dating back to the 1700's. The rest of today shall be spent on cleaning, cooking, and laundry. Crossing the country somehow doesn't exclude me from those household duties! I start week 2 tomorrow!

***I couldn't get the last video to upload with the bedroom on it, but, you get the general idea of the house!

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Salt water. Cool breezes. Big homes.
This is the New Hampshire coast in a nutshell. From the house I'm staying in, the coast is a 10 minute drive. One road leads you straight from the house to the water. From there, you can turn left or right. Today I did both. Going to the left provided sweeping views of the ocean and upscale homes. To the right, a typical tourist trap. In the summers I imagine this area to be flooded with people eating corndogs, wearing tube tops, and flip flops.
No matter where you go, there is something you will not find along the coast: space!!! Of course, they are land locked in a manner of speaking and living on the water is a pretty big perk. But, it comes at a price. The houses are stacked on top of one another and yards are non-existant. I spent the majority of my day in Portsmouth, NH. Quite an interesting town filled with cute shops, fun restaurants, with lots of one way streets and limited parking (which I found out the hard way). The sidewalks are brick and the streets are really narrow since most of them are the original streets the carriages rode on. I enjoyed the day walking around. I stopped for lunch at a great little pub right on the water and had some seafood chowder (when in Rome, right?).

Friday, February 17, 2012


Week one: done.

I can barely keep my eyes open long enough to write this post, so I'll make it brief.

My first week is over. I have already learned a ton, made some mistakes, kicked myself for them, and moved on. I'm beyond lucky to have landed in this situation. I have supportive co-workers who only want to see me succeed (although my success directly influences their workload, so there is a little incentive for them, ha!). I've met some truly inspirational patients already and my theory that only the nicest, most amazing people tend to get cancer continues to ring true. I'm constantly reminded of past patients who struggled with this devastating disease and I realized no matter if I'm in Wisconsin or New Hampshire or Alaska; patients with cancer only want to get better. Cancer sucks across all state lines.

My landlord's wife took me out to a quaint little theater a few towns over for a movie tonight and some pizza with a friend of hers. The movie was called Carnage with Kate Winslet and Jodi Foster. It was hilarious! Worth the watch. I'm going to get out and see the area this weekend. I'll post more this weekend, for now, I'm spent!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Serving a purpose

To Help. To Fix. To Serve.
Just about any nurse will tell you the reason why they decided to become a nurse is to help people. I have said it on several occasions. It is also the desire of many health care professionals, in particular, novice nurses, to fix a patient's problems. They have cancer, we want to make it go away. They have a shitty family, we want to be their support. They can't afford their treatments, we wish we had the money to pay for them. It is this charitable nature that can make a nurse very successful, but can also lead to what the industry has deemed, "compassion fatigue." AKA: burnout.
I learned this lesson, like most new nurses, the hard way. In my last job, I wanted to help people, sure. But my downfall came when I wanted to "fix" things. Whether it was my patient's problems or the problems within the institution/department I worked in. I thought if I worked hard enough, I could fix it. After operating like this for nearly 3 years, I finally determined that I couldn't help my patient's nor could I fix their problems; I certainly found out I couldn't fix the problems of the institution or my department.
Enter my decision to travel. As I said in my first post, there were several reasons why I decided to land on travel nursing specifically. However, the biggest draw was that I am only working for a particular institution for a short period of time. I'm not going there to "fix" anything. I don't need to help them with their administrative issues, managerial issues, ect. I am going to be an extra set of hands and serve the patients the best I can. I go. I do a job. I leave. Period.
"Helping, fixing, and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole."~Christina Puchalski
On a totally different note, tonight I came home from work and found a big bag of goodies on my doorstep from my landlord's wife (more about her in a video I'll post later this week!). Pasta, bread, tomatoes, parmesan, onion, garlic, sparkling soda, grapes, and four herb plants. Guess it is Italian tomorrow night! How sweet is she??!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tugging at my heart strings

I had my first "real" day on the unit today. It was a huge wake-up call. This may be the hardest undertaking of my career.
Yeah, to my fellow IVT peeps, this is tough stuff. I thought I had been conditioned pretty well working in IV therapy for my first job, but this may be harder than I thought. We saw 35 patients today. Every 15 minutes there was a patient awaiting our attention. Usually this is done all by one nurse. Talk about busy. Now factor in that I know little to nothing about radiation specifically, nor do I know anything about the hospital/area. Yeah, this learning curve is a straight line drawn toward the sky! The good thing is that the staff are willing and eager to teach me, an opportunity seldom granted to traveling nurses. So, I'm excited for the chance to learn and hope to come out a more well rounded and enriched nurse.
But, on this day, Valentine's day, I needed to send out a special message to someone. Please refer to the video. I also wanted to say a big thanks to my parents for sending me a beautiful arrangement of daisies to the hospital for my first "real" day.

Monday, February 13, 2012

First day down!

As anyone in the medical profession knows, your first week of a new job is a total bust. General hospital orientation, clinical orientation, computer orientation, payroll, park here, don't park there, ect. ect. That was my day today.

The official first day of my assignment here in New Hampshire went well, as far as hospital orientation's go. The speakers were candid and interactive. It seems everyone at the hospital is very laid back and easy going.

I thought I would be nervous, but it was a very different feeling sitting in that chair listening to the presentations. At first, my thought process was something along the line of, "heck, I'm only here for 13 weeks, I won't have to worry about half the stuff they are talking about." The spoke about retention of employees and what a great place the hospital is to work, yadda, yadda, yadda. Then, halfway through the day, I realized during the customer service shpeel, this hospital is NOT my employer, they are my customer. I am here to do a job. I need to leave the hospital and have them be satisfied with my work, because ultimately, they can have a huge and immediate impact on whether I get another job or if they offer to extend my contract.

Now, don't get me wrong. In my previous permanent job, I think I tried my best to make sure my patients were happy. But the relationship between the hospital and myself had never been perceived in this manner in my mind. What I'm trying to say, I think, is that I feel more in the driver seat in this job, like I have more control over the future of my career and what I want to do. In reality, I do. It is a freeing and frightening feeling all at the same time.

89 days left on this adventure. I can't wait to see what they bring.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

On the road again....


After all the preparation and last minute details, I was finally on the road. I'll admit, this was one of the most nerve-wracking parts of this whole experience. I mean come on, I see enough drivers in La Crosse texting, shaving, applying makeup, ect while driving; how many were we going to encounter over the course of 1300 miles???

One of my best friends, Sarah, came with me to help drive and get me settled in the new house. My car was so full we could barely see out the back window. We left La Crosse around 7:30 AM on Thursday, drove 12 hours the first day until we hit Erie, PA where we stayed for the night. It was about hour 11 that the "highway hysteria" hit. Here is a video of our excitement when MC Hammer came on the radio.

At 7:00 AM on Friday, we were on the road again with about 700 miles left on our journey. That morning, "Super Freak" came on the radio, and we got a little excited again! Yeah, we're dorks, we accept it, now move on.

Once we got out of the midwest, the scenery started to improve through upstate New York and Massachusetts. All in all, the trip went smoothly, couldn't have asked for better weather (Ohio got dumped on with snow the day after we left, dodged that bullet). We went over some really big bridges, saw some pretty mountains, and lots, and lots of Chevy Equinox driving around. Hm, can't explain that last one. This is a short video of us crossing a HUGE bridge in upstate New York.

This morning I took Sarah to the bus station in Massachusetts so she can get to the airport and head back to Wisconsin. She was a great travel companion and now we have many stories to share with each other, inside jokes, and general insane moments. I'll miss ya Helga, thanks for a fun few days, see you in May!!!

(more about Sarah and my adventures in another blog post)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Final Details

Packing, (insert sigh of disgust), sucks.

It is amazing all the details that have to go into a venture such as this. First I had all the paperwork and testing to do for the travel agency, along with a drug test at a sketchy facility on the northside of La Crosse that didn't even have real walls. Try peeing in a cup when there are people standing just on the other side of a temorary wall, yeah, not so easy.

All of that was a piece of cake compared to the packing. Just remembering the items you need for a week long vacation is hard enough, let alone 13 weeks away from everything you're used to in your own home. Clothes were easy. Toiletries, medications, and cleaning supplies, no problem. The issue arose as I stood in my kitchen evaluating my cupboards. What do I need? What can I live without? In my mind, being an avid cook, I could not survive without each an every spatula, bowl, whisk, and wooden spoon in my kitchen. So, the weeding out process began. My car can only hold so much. Now, it all sits in boxes and luggage, waiting to be skillfully packed into my Equinox. Hope it all fits, or its back to the drawing board!

I will say that this dreaded packing has been the best distraction on my last day in Wisconsin. If I allow myself the time to think about leaving, my stomach starts doing that nervous flip-flop. So, before I start dwelling on my departure, I'd best get the car loaded!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Personality Conflicts

I am organized. I like routine. I am rarely spontaneous. I am a creature of habit.

So, when I started telling people that I was going to try travel nursing, their first question is, "Why?" Any expert on travel nursing will tell you, in order to be a successful traveler, you need to be flexible. You need to be a go-with-the-flow kind of person.

What would possess a structured, routine-driven person to take on such an unknown lifestyle? I do think our personality traits help guide our decisions. It was because of my logical nature that the decision to take this risk seemed like the right thing to do.

I was caught in a rut. I knew I needed a change, no matter how scary it was. This change seemed like the right thing to do. It felt right. Although I have felt like I've been on a roller coaster over the past month, I have never turned back. Don't get me wrong, I have fears of the unknown, of the "what if's?"

But life is short. And I have always believed that you can never regret any experience, any choice if you learn something. So now I will go forth into the unknown, much like I did after graduating from nursing school, with an open mind. I hope to squeeze every bit of awesome out of this experience.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

And so it begins...

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”-Mark Twain

Life has become clouded.

After graduating from nursing school in 2009, my eyes were wide and my mind was open. I wanted to learn everything I could, to soak up new experiences like a sponge. Changing lives, saving patients, making a difference.

These are the things I think every new graduate nurse aspires to do. They are the reasons why nurses subject themselves to long hours, little pay, and lack of respect. But, recently is has become unclear to me why I love my job. My passion for taking care of people has become overshadowed by the politics of “the institution.”

I need a change. I need something to breathe life back into me. I need to breakaway from what I know and venture out into the unknown. As Mark Twain said, I can no longer vegetate in my little corner of the world and appreciate life.

Travel nursing I’m hoping is that breath of fresh air that I need to bring me back to the world of the living. So, the adventure begins. This blog is for all of those people who want to follow my trials and tribulations as I travel the nation, sightseeing in scrubs.