By Debra Wood, RN, contributor
From Sedona at sunset to the Berkshires in the fall to Florida’s sunny beaches in the winter, Margaret Surowka RNC, has experienced the country and savored its distinct cultural differences during her travel nursing career.
“I’m having the most wonderful time,” Surowka said. “We get to do things we would never be able to afford to do otherwise.”
Surowka always loved to travel and has visited cities around the globe, attending conventions and just for fun. But living in a city bestows a deeper understanding of the nuances that make that place unique.
“Everywhere you go, it’s different, different food, different people,” said Surowka, who has been traveling with Medical Express for two years. “It’s a fun experience.”
When Surowka’s husband retired, he hoped she would resign her hospital job, so they could travel.
“I’ve been taking care of sick kids since 1973,” Surowka said. “It’s who I am. It’s hard to think about giving it up.”
Not ready to forsake her pediatric nursing career and ready for new challenges, she decided to compromise and try travel nursing. They could still explore new places, but she would keep her hand in nursing.
“I’m glad I had the nerve to do it, because it has worked out extremely well,” she said.
At 64, Surowka is older than many of her peers, but that does not interfere with her work or the camaraderie that develops when she’s on the job.
“This is a good thing for an older woman,” she said. “I can work circles around the younger girls. I have a lot of energy.”
Surowka works closely with her recruiter to find the optimal assignment. She picked Boston last summer, so she could watch the Boston Pops live on Fourth of July, and Florida in the spring, when her mother needed some assistance.
“The best part is you can be where you want to be when you want to be there,” said Surowka, who hopes to travel to Alaska next summer.
In addition to picking places based on activities she can pursue, Surowka takes into account the hospital. She likes to practice in the country’s most prestigious pediatric facilities.
“If they have programs that are new or are doing research, I want to be there and get in on it,” she said. “I’ll never run out of places to go.”
Right now, she is narrowing down her list of places she might want to work starting in August. No matter where she selects, she likes knowing all she has to do is show up. An apartment is waiting for her. She can just move in and go to work—no fuss, no problems.
“I have been so fortunate. Everything goes so smoothly,” she said. “I go to each place with the expectation I’ll be there for three months. If it’s good, good; and if it’s not, it’s only three months.”
At each facility, Surowka learns something new, broadening her experience and knowledge of pediatric care. It takes her a couple of days to master a new hospital’s electronic documentation system, but she never lets one intimidate her, focusing instead on delivering the best quality patient care possible.
“Taking care of patients is the same no matter where you go,” said Surowka, who easily forms close professional relationships with her patients and families.
So far, she hasn’t found a place she didn’t enjoy. In part, that’s because she always makes friends. She often signs on for an additional 13 weeks, just so they can keep working together.
“It’s so exciting those first few days, to look around at the people you’re going to be working with and think which one is going to impact my life the most, who is going to befriend me and become the one or two people I keep up with after I move on,” Surowka said.
Surowka remains friends with many of the nurses she has worked with and maintains a page on myspace.com to help keep in touch. She hopes to return to Boston to work with those nurses again. But then again, she still wants to go to Seattle, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Charlottesville, Virginia.
“Travel nursing has afforded us a huge opportunity,” said Surowka, calling it a dream come true. “It’s a fun experience.”
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