By Debra Wood, RN, contributor
Christine Cooper, RN, dedicated her life to children—her own three and the youngsters she cared for as a pediatric nurse. But as she approached her middle years, Cooper wanted to experience more. Travel nursing offered opportunities to enrich her career and her life.
“I had to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do,” says Cooper, 49, who travels with travel staffing agency American Mobile Healthcare. “I was used to doing for everyone else. I had a job I knew everything about. Traveling has opened my eyes to a lot of things. It’s been a really great experience.”
Cooper set her sights on traveling as her three children started coming of age. She researched what specialty nurses were most in demand, so she would have more assignment options. A pediatric nurse, she transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit and worked there for nearly three years in preparation for traveling.
“Once my children were grown and got their schooling, I decided to have my own adventure,” Cooper says. “I was scared to do it in the beginning. I had had a staff job for 10 years. It was a big move to leave everything behind.”
Cooper chose her first assignment in San Luis Obispo, because it offered a chance to live at the beach.
“It was an awesome experience,” Cooper says. “The housing was a vacation rental.”
She took long walks along the water, connecting with her thoughts and enjoying the solitude. She deemed the six months a time to read, recharge and do nothing, except pet her 16-year-old cat.
“I am enjoying that I have time to myself and can do what I want when I want to do it,” Cooper says.
After six months, Cooper moved on to Torrance, California, to be closer to home. Again she accepted housing near the beach, but was within an hour’s drive of family and friends.
Next up, she moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, about an hour from her father. On her days off, she visits with him, walks the urban trails or reads.
“I have all these books I haven’t read in 20 years,” Cooper says. “I devour books.”
Cooper makes friends at work. They quickly make her feel like a valued part of the team and invited her to join them for breakfast.
“People are so friendly,” she said. “I’ve had no bad experiences. People go over and above to be helpful.”
Traveling has increased her self-confidence, broadened her clinical experiences and given her the opportunity to discover new ways to do things.
“Every day I learn something new,” Cooper says. “Clinically, there are many approaches to solve a problem. Working at a staff job for 10 years, you tend to get in a box. ”
At her original hospital, many babies developed infections, now she has learned ways to cut that risk. She keeps track of what works best and can incorporate those things in her care delivery.
Flexibility and an attachment to few material things ease any tensions associated with moving from place to place. Everything she owns fits into her compact car.
“I have little with me, and I love it,” Cooper said.
Cooper plans to travel for two or three more years, as she looks for a place where she might want to settle down. Until then, she hopes to return to California, then head to the Midwest to get to know her extended family.
“I’m totally enjoying it,” Cooper said. “It’s very rewarding.”
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