Traveler stories

Traveler Goes to the Extreme While on Assignment


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By Kristin Rothwell, associate editor

When faced with a challenge, Medical Express traveler Barrett Boitson, RN, climbs it—literally!

Considered a master rock climber, Boitson thoroughly enjoys driving out to the nearest rock that will offer a bit of daring to brave its contours and crags as he makes his way to the top.  

Currently on assignment at Stanford Hospital and Clinics in Palo Alto, California, as an operating room nurse, he has found that it’s the perfect location for taking short trips to Castle Rock State Park in nearby Los Gatos or to Hanley Rock, just 30 minutes away, to climb.

“Hanley Rock is a huge sandstone spire in the middle of Redwood City,” Boitson said. “You can put your basic gear in a mini pack, throw up a rope and play on the rock.”

For longer trips, he’s been inclined to use his central location to his advantage by packing up the car to climb in Lake Tahoe and Yosemite.

Boitson takes most of these trips with his fiancée, Sharon Morrison, PT, a traveler with Thera Tech Staffing, who took an interest in rock climbing shortly after they met.  

Originally from Calvary in Ontario, Canada, Boitson gained his first insight into climbing through friends, one of whom worked with the Canadian cave rescue team, and coaxed him to try ice climbing.

From there, he gained an interest in rock climbing, and soon began competing in Canada and the United States.

Loving the sport and its complexity, when it came time to choose a profession, Boitson, who originally planned to become a physician, chose nursing instead, for the freedom it offered when compared to doctors’ long hours and on-call duties, which would limit his time to climb.

Additionally, when he found out that nurses from Canada could become traveling nurses in the United States, he was even more intrigued. Having started out in the emergency room and intensive care unit, Boitson decided to return to school to become an operating room nurse, before heading to the U.S. as a traveling nurse.

After gaining his one year of experience in the OR, he was on his way, taking his first travel assignment in March 2004 in New Mexico, along with Morrison.

“It’s kind of like you’re going pseudo-international,” Boitson said. “It’s a great opportunity for Canadian nurses.”

What Boitson and Morrison find most convenient as travelers is being given nice housing with little upkeep so that when the weekends or a day-off comes along, they’re easily able to head off to do some climbing, bicycling, bouldering (climbing rock without any ropes) or join in some ultimate frisbee (a non-contact team sport that mixes the best features of soccer, basketball and American football).

When choosing an assignment location, Boitson and Morrison try to take assignments at the same facility and in an area that offers an abundant outdoor lifestyle. In fact, they enjoy riding their bicycles the four miles to work, which only takes about 20 minutes.

Though Boitson admits that it can sometimes be difficult to get on a bicycle after being on his feet all day, he said, “It’s a nice ride home in the clean air, and it helps erase the day.”

Having recently started his assignment at Stanford, he said the first week wasn’t easy, since it required him to learn tasks in a manner different than the way in which he was taught them. However, he likened the challenge to that of standing at the bottom of a rock he’s never climbed, looking up, realizing there’s a challenge ahead and finding the courage to ascend the rock.

“I had to do a lot of mind work,” he said. “I had to calm myself down by telling myself I’m a strong climber or, in the case of work, I’m an experienced nurse but just not in this particular facility.” 

Nonetheless, both Boitson and Morrison have acclimated well to Stanford. 

“Stanford has a great orientation program,” Boitson said. “We worked there a week before we saw any patients. Plus, they have a great preceptorship, and made it really comfortable so you can focus on patients and procedures.”

The couple also like that Stanford is open to having repeat travelers or extending travelers’ assignments.

“They’ve invested in me so I’m open to investing some time in them,” Boitson said.

As to where the couple will go next is up in the air. They know that climbing and their other outdoor interests are readily available in San Diego and Santa Barbara, California, as well as Hawaii.

Since they traveled to Hawaii shortly after they met, Boitson said they may take an assignment there shortly so that they can be married.

He said, “Hawaii has a soft spot in our hearts.”

© 2005. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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