Traveler stories

Travel Nursing: It’s Not Just For RNs


  • Print Page

By Julie Benn, contributor

Nancy Rose already had a career. Health care was not even on the radar. But at 33 she made the decision to become a registered respiratory therapist, and the rest is history.

Now at age 39, she is having the time of her life. She has been traveling with Medical Express for more than a year and has not only seen great places in her travels but has also picked up a husband along the way.

“We met on the internet,” Nancy described of her serendipitous meeting with Tim, a fire fighter. Months later, on February 19, 2005, they were married near Estes Park, Colorado. Now she is taking some time to settle down in Des Moines, Iowa, with hubby and her 13-year-old “puppy,” Prince.

Rose has such a close bond with her Medical Express recruiter, Karena Schellpeper, that she invited her to the wedding. In fact, she praises Karena for helping the relationship along. “On the first call from me, I told her my story and [that I] wanted to get an assignment closer to my fiancé,” recalled Rose, “and she went all out for me and has ever since.  Both Tim and I are extremely grateful for all she did for us.”

For Rose, there is no routine day. As a therapist, she could end up in the emergency room, the ICU, or any other department that needs her to help people breathe. “During the winter, we get a lot of people with pneumonia,” she said. She also sees a number of patients with asthma, even those as young as newborns.

And she sees her share of elderly. In fact, it was the care her grandparents received while hospitalized years prior that made her want to “be able to take care of someone else’s grandparents like that.”

With acute compassion, Rose does just that. She said that being a therapist is a fulfilling job because she gets to be with and really listen to her patients. “It’s pure nursing, care-giving. As a traveler, I am able to put patients first. Many of them, and their families, are confused, don’t know what to do, and are looking for someone to really talk to them about what is going on. We’re not faceless doctors who come in for only a few minutes then leave. I am happy that I can sit with them, really be with them, help them not feel so lonely.”

What does it take to become a Registered Respiratory Therapist? “A lot of hard work,” Rose said. She attended the PIMA Medical Institute in Denver, Colorado, for 26 intense months. During her second year, she worked nights and went to school during the day. Nancy chose to take her schooling all the way beyond Certified Respiratory Therapist, to RRT, which is the highest level of respiratory therapy. It involved taking an extra grueling test. “School was hard, but worth it.”

Rose particularly likes to work with other travelers. “Travelers welcome and accept you when on assignment—it’s a bond we share,” she said. “It’s also fun to work with people who love what they do, appreciate their careers and life callings.”

She added that she has also felt welcome from the hospital’s staff members where she traveled. “I always felt wanted—they just really needed help. [There was] no animosity for being a traveler.”

Dedication is another hallmark of her work, considering that she crossed a time zone and state line to work in Colorado while living in Kansas. She did this for two assignments.

“I became a [therapist] and have never looked back,” said Rose. “With traveling I get amazing experience—you know what you don’t know and get to know it fast. My advice is to ask questions, but also be independent and autonomous. You’ve got to hit the ground running,” she said, “just not outside of hospital protocol and that’s something you learn is different from place to place. Be flexible.”

© 2005. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

NurseZone brings you the personal stories of travel nurses across the country. Read their profiles, travel adventures and practical advice geared for nurses just like you.