By Debra Wood, RN, contributor
When not helping new moms with the delivery and care of their babies, Sandi Strickland, RN, hikes dormant volcanoes, swims with dolphins and scuba dives off the coast of Hawaii.
“It’s just beautiful, lush, green, with waterfalls and clear water,” said Strickland of the site of her latest assignment with leading travel staffing company American Mobile healthcare. “It’s as beautiful as all of the pictures I have seen.”
A nurse for 11 years, Strickland has traveled on and off for most of her career. She always longed to see the 50th state, but until the canine quarantine laws changed, she limited her assignments to the continental United States, unable to bare the thought of her two Chihuahuas caged up while she enjoyed life.
“They love it here, love the heat,” Strickland said.
The pups’ enthusiasm for the island state mirrors Strickland’s. Since arriving, she satisfied a long-held ambition to scuba dive. She heads for the water a couple of times per week to watch the sea turtles, eagle rays and indigenous fish. By the end of March, she anticipates completing more than 100 dives, as she works on her Dive Master certification.
“I love the water and grew up around water,” Strickland said. “I play with octopus and see sharks, too.”
As a volunteer diver at the Sea Life Park in Waimanalo, she cleans the reef tanks and swims with and feeds the turtles, sting rays, sharks and other sea creatures. Unable to touch sea turtles in the wild, due to endangered species laws, she can pet them in the park’s tank and finds their skin rough.
Strickland also helps the water park train dolphins to let tourists swim with them. It’s a fun job but not without its risks.
“I got attacked by a dolphin,” Strickland said. “He got confused, bit my foot and dragged me across the pool. I have a nice little scar on my foot to show for it. Not many people can say they’ve been attacked by a dolphin.”
Sea Life Park annually releases about 500 animals into the wild.
“It’s cool to release them and be part of that,” she said.
P>Strickland also has explored Hawaii’s mountains, swimming under waterfalls and hiking. She hopes to stay in Hawaii awhile longer. She enjoys the hospital and the community and feels the state’s location will give her opportunities for dives in more exotic waters, such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The Massachusetts native grew up on an island in Florida and does not find living in the middle of the Pacific Ocean confining.
“Without travel nursing I would not have had all these adventures,” she said.
On assignment, she makes friends easily. She sticks with labor and delivery and with her easy-going personality immediately fits in.
“Most places are short nurses,” she said. “As long as you don’t go in with an attitude and try to change things, they are happy to have you, because they need the help.”
For nurses pondering taking the travel nursing plunge, Strickland advises them to give it a try.
“Go in with an open mind and enjoy each place while you are there,” she said. “Life is an adventure; make the most of it.”
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