This month, we are spotlighting a travel pair duo from our Nursing Division who are both currently on assignment as ICU nurses in the beautiful state of Colorado. Jennifer, or “Jenny,” and Megan are childhood friends turned travel nursing pair who are dedicated, hard-working and passionate about their careers.
Without further ado, let’s introduce Jenny and Megan!
Jenny and Megan are both from the westernmost city in Florida called Pensacola and met when they were both in the fifth grade. And ever since the fifth grade, these two have been joined at the hip attending the same nursing school and becoming travel nurses together.
Being raised in a smaller city compared to other metropolitan cities in Florida, Jenny and Megan decided it was time to venture out and discover life outside of the “panhandle.” So, they chose to study nursing at the University of South Alabama, where they both received their Bachelor of Science degrees. They both considered their time in Alabama a “culture shock” due to the stark difference in lifestyles and perspectives.
After graduating, they stayed to work in Tuscaloosa, Alabama as Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurses for the first year and a half of their careers. But before they became travel nurses together, Megan decided to move back home for a staff position for a couple of months. She decided it wasn’t a good fit for her and thus began their travel nursing journey.
However, their decisions to become nurses to begin with are different. For Megan, her first encounter with nurses was from her experience with her mothers developing gastrointestinal (GI) cancer. “I remember seeing the nurses and being so impressed by them,” said Megan, “so I started having conversations with them and they convinced me to get into travel nursing.”
With Jenny, her inspiration to become a travel nurse didn’t come from any trips to a hospital but is something some Millennials may have struggled with during college – picking a major. “I switched majors a bunch of times and couldn’t figure out what to do,” Jenny mentioned. What clicked with travel nursing was the freedom to travel for work and the opportunities that would arise from being a nurse. Opportunities include becoming financially stable, the chance to build relationships with patients and experiencing life outside of Florida and Alabama.
As ICU nurses, they work with two or three patients at a time. With ICU patients, “every detail matters,” and the most important attribute of an ICU nurse is being attuned to your assessment skills. “The tiniest changes in a patient can change the course of a patient outcome and care,” Megan said.
Being ICU nurses, there is a sort of “higher standard” and responsibility to understand medicine to provide the best treatment plan for patients. Patients can reach critical points at the drop of a dime and working cross-teams is important for problem-solving. However, a challenge Jenny and Megan experience is the lack of in-house doctors while working evening shifts.
“The [on-call] physician is missing, a patient can be declining, so you have to page them and then wait for them to call back,” said Jenny. Luckily, there are certain procedures for situations like this when one is certified in Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS). Being certified in ACLS, you are permitted to prescribe medications that may or may not be part of the treatment plan if it means saving a patient’s life. Typically, the ICU team is prepared and ready for any situation that may arise.
Being an ICU nurse has its challenges, but every challenge is an opportunity to develop or refine a skill set. For Jenny and Megan, the skills they’ve developed and refined in their careers thus far include time management, delegation, communication and patience. Situations that can include unruly patients are where these skills are put to the test. “[We’ve] had a fair share of people who want to be mean or who want to hit, kick and punch,” Megan said, “but if you communicate and delegate to your team, it can be done.”
However, unlike many seasoned nurses, Jenny and Megan were part of a nursing class that was dealt a tough hand in what would’ve been a different learning experience as new nurses – the pandemic. “Most of our career has been dealing with COVID,” Megan explained, “I just feel my career would’ve been different for me if it wasn’t [primarily] COVID. I don’t have a variety of experience in patients because COVID was ravaging through hospitals, but I look forward to when it ends so we can broaden our horizons.”
For many new nurses, the pandemic has been extremely tough as it gave them first-hand experience of what lacked in the U.S. healthcare system. Things such as budgeting, lack of equal pay amongst staff versus travel, or decisions that would impact the care nurses were able to provide.
But that doesn’t mean the pandemic hasn’t brought opportunities to improve the treatment of healthcare staff. “I feel like it opened a lot of opportunities for travel nurses, and it made people appreciate nurses a lot more,” Jenny said, “we’ve been getting more recognition, which is nice, and that has been good for us in general.”
During the pandemic, the rates for travel nurses skyrocketed up to $10,000 a week in cities such as New York City or Los Angeles in early 2020. Besides the temporary increase in weekly pay, the overall treatment of healthcare staff has not improved at the pace professionals would like. However, there are efforts in progress for the better treatment of healthcare professionals, including President Joe Biden’s proposed $7.5 billion for a new Mental Health Transformation Fund.
Even with the difficult times, Jenny and Megan have been able to find the good through the bad. For Jenny, travel nursing has impacted her for the better. “We were in New Orleans for the beginning of the pandemic, and it was a great learning experience.” Jenny explains, “I enjoy learning about medicine and being knowledgeable about health and wellness.”
For Megan, “[Travel nursing] has given me the means to improve my life, especially with travel nursing being so lucrative. I can afford what I want, and I am able to live a life I want.” Both Jenny and Megan come from humble beginnings living in Pensacola, so travel nursing has improved their lives in almost every aspect.
When not in the hospital, these two explore nearby national parks such as the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado or watch a good show with a charcuterie board. Megan also has an Italian Greyhound named Teddy that she loves to take out into nature.
As for KPG Healthcare, Jenny and Megan have never had a better recruiter. Their recruiter, Edgar, has been a fantastic support for Jenny and Megan by checking in with them or even getting raises. Regardless, they both are enjoying their time with KPG and “won’t be leaving anytime soon.”
From all of us here at KPG Healthcare, we want to thank and commend the work Jenny and Megan are doing for communities throughout the country. Their hard work and dedication toward their craft are inspiring and we look forward to seeing all the success both of you accomplish with us.
Any advice for those interested in pursuing nursing as a career?
- Do travel nursing
- Get your experience and it will be worth it.
- If you don’t start in ICU, get some experience. It is vital.