Keep Up With A Day In The Life of a Travel ER Nurse

For Jordan, being a nurse isn’t just about the knowledge it takes to treat a wide scope of patients, but about the emotional grit it takes to work in the ER. Despite working in one of the most stressful units in the hospital, traveling allows Jordan to take care of herself along the way. In this interview, she tells us why she decided to become a travel nurse, and what makes it all worth it.

Beginning her ER travel nurse journey

Describe why you wanted to become a nurse, and how it’s led to becoming a travel nurse.

My mom was an ICU nurse, so I basically grew up in the hospital with her, and can even remember spending the night there while she worked. Nursing was always part of my life. Once my siblings and I were out of the nest, my mom started travel nursing, so this career path was very familiar to me.

Fast forward to my own career as a nurse: After I had worked as a perm nurse for 2.5 years, I decided it was time to explore and take on new challenges, so I started looking at travel nursing jobs.

What made you interested in ER travel nurse specialty?

I went straight out of nursing school into the ER. I was always drawn to the fast pace of the ER during clinicals because you never know what’s coming in. You can go from one room where someone stubbed their toe to another with a critical patient. I like the mix in the ER, and it’s constantly changing. You work with a wide variety of clinicians, and your doctor is always right there. The pace is different than being on the floor: it’s organized chaos.

How is being a travel ER nurse different than permanent staff?

I love being a travel nurse because I don’t’ have to deal with the politics of the hospital. I get to go in and be much more focused on patient care. I don’t get drawn into the drama and complaints that can bog down staff nurses.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Getting to be there for people at their worsts and scariest times. When a patient arrives to the ER, it’s the very first step in the hospital process, so you’re the first person there to help comfort them and reassure them about what’s happening.

What is the most difficult part of your job?

Specific to traveling, it’s going into a new hospital and becoming part of the team. Some travel nursing assignments you get there and the staff immediately accept you, and they’re happy you’re there. On others it’s more challenging to win the staff. People say this career path might be hard because you have to learn new equipment and charting, but really that’s the easy part – integrating yourself with the people you’re working with can be a challenge.

Describe your typical day in the life of an ER travel nurse.

Every day is different. I get to work, we have a huddle to talk about what’s happened that day, the bed situation, and if there’s anybody critical. Next, I’ll get my assignment which varies day to day: sometimes I’m in triage, sometimes a fast track area (for minor care), and typically I have about four rooms of patients with anything and everything…from abdominal pain, to lacerations, to psych patients, from PEDs to elderly. I can have one room with a 1-month-old baby, and 70-year-old in the next.

My job isn’t just about having a wide scope of knowledge to treat the variety of patients, but also the emotional capacity to run a critical situation, then immediately walk into another room where you act like everything is okay. It’s extremely challenging on many fronts. We also face a lot of violent patients, so it can be a very emotionally draining job. One of the reasons I love traveling is because it’s allowed me a lot more opportunities to set my own schedule. Taking time off means I can take good care of myself as well.

How has working with a recruiter enriched your experience as a travel nurse?

I love working with my recruiter, Lauren. When I first decided I was going to start traveling, I knew where I wanted to go and had already applied for my license. I started talking to a few companies, but wasn’t finding the connection I was looking for. I actually found the opportunity through an email my mom forwarded me from Lauren. I filled out an application, and now I’ve been traveling with her for over two years. Some people say that if you don’t have more than one recruiter you’re not doing it right, but Lauren has always come through for me, even when jobs are slim. If there’s a problem she fixes it, and she makes every assignment really hassle-free.