Traveler stories

Traveler Tends to Airline Passenger

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By Debra Wood, RN, contributor

Having worked during the past five years in a variety of settings from a rural New England facility to urban Los Angles, neurology-orthopedic travel nurse Ryan Keller, RN, has seen the country while avoiding hospital politics.

“I love traveling,” said Keller, a nurse with leading travel company American Mobile Healthcare. “It’s the freedom of not being tied down to one area. I can roam around the United States as much as I want to. It’s all up to me.”

Keller tries to “do a little bit of everything” while on the road and at each destination and frequently returns to his family home in West Virginia between assignments. One such recent trip offered an interesting travel adventure.

When a fellow passenger developed shortness of breath on a flight from San Diego to Chicago, Keller immediately responded to flight attendants’ request for assistance with the older gentleman.

At first flight attendants seemed skeptical that a guy dressed in shorts, a T-shirt and sandals was actually a nurse and requested verification. Keller tossed his wallet at them, told them they’d find his license in it, not missing a second tending to his patient, who was sitting on the floor at the rear of the jet.

Alert and oriented, the man told Keller about his cardiac and diabetic history. Although short of breath, the man experienced no chest pain and his vital signs were normal.

The flight attendants brought out an automated external defibrillator and a black bag full of cardiac medications, which Keller explained he didn’t need. Soon, they brought him a phone to talk with a doctor on the ground.

“The physician asked if I felt a need to land the plane right now,” Keller said. “This is all up to me to say land now or risk it. Based upon what I knew, I said there was no need to land the plane.”

Keller checked on the man and monitored his vital signs every five minutes until the plane landed about 35 minutes later. He requested emergency medical personnel meet the flight and stayed onboard until all the other passengers left and gave report to the paramedics. The man refused transportation to a hospital, thanked Keller and went on his way.

Keller worked for two years on a neurology floor after graduation. After assuming charge nurse responsibilities, at age 23, he felt the stress that comes with management and politics.

“I had no life. All I did was work,” Keller said. “I thought, ‘there has to be something different I can do.’”

About that time, a fellow nurse told him about her brother-in-law working as a traveler. He called that nurse, learned more and signed up.

“People thought I was crazy to leave my roots, my family,” Keller said. “I needed a change. And by doing travel nursing that first year, it allowed me to pay off my college loans and the vehicle I had at the time. I bought two computers and took my mother to Maui for nine days.”

Each new assignment brings the challenge of learning new equipment and charting and the opportunity to make new friends. Early in his travel career, Keller partied more. Although he still goes out, these days, he appreciates the solitude of life on the road.

“I don’t know other people’s lives, and they don’t know mine,” he said, adding that he likes the freedom to know if he doesn’t like the environment, he can leave in three months.

Traveling also appeals to Keller’s sense of adventure and desire to see the world.

“It’s definitely worth the experience. It doesn’t matter whether you do it for six months or five years,” Keller said. “To those willing to break loose a little and just enjoy life and see what else is out there, I highly recommend it.”

© 2007. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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