Traveler stories

Traveler Accomplishes Lifelong Dream


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By Claire Brocato, feature writer

Neil McCollum, RN, has two great passions in his life: nursing and triathlons.

When this dedicated ICU nurse decided to compete in one of the world’s most grueling sporting events, the Ironman Triathlon, he knew that his travel nursing lifestyle would help him accomplish his lifelong dream.

McCollum started traveling with American Mobile Healthcare three years ago.

"At first I chose locations based on great outdoor lifestyles, like San Diego and Albuquerque," he said, "but once I made the commitment to train for Ironman, I decided to travel to places that would give me the best training opportunities."

The winter before the Ironman competition, McCollum took an assignment in Tucson, Arizona.

"This was the perfect place to train during the winter months," he said. "I got to run in the desert and cycle in the local mountains when I wasn’t working. It was ideal, and I was really fortunate that I had the opportunity to train in that kind of environment."

The Ironman Triathlon took place in Lake Placid, New York, a mountainous area with more than a 7,000 foot elevation gain during the course of the race. In the months leading up to the competition, he took an assignment in hilly Vermont to acclimate to the terrain. During that phase of his training, approximately 20 hours of his week was split between biking, running or swimming, as well as an additional few hours pumping iron at the gym.

McCollum’s months of intensive training paid off. He completed the 2.4-mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26 mile run in just over 14 hours.

"It was such an incredible sense of achievement," he recalled. "Finishing the race was my personal goal and I did it. It was the best feeling in the world."

With three years of travel nursing experience behind him, this adventurous nurse is not ready to give up his travel lifestyle yet. "I would like to travel for at least two more years," he said. "I’m very eager to explore the Pacific Northwest–Portland and Seattle in particular."

Besides training in the best locations in the country and visiting some fascinating cities, McCollum rates the friendships that he’s made along the way as the highlights of his travels.

"I’ve met so many wonderful people–both patients and the people I’ve worked with. I’ve made friends for life and met people I’ll never forget. And throughout it all, my travel nursing agency has taken really good care of me."

© 2003. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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