Traveling Back to the Heart of Nursing


By Megan Murdock Krischke, contributor

A number of studies have shown that increasing the amount of time nurses spend at the bedside in direct patient care results in better outcomes and fewer adverse incidents for patients such as pressure ulcers, cardiac and respiratory failure, and increased length of hospital stay.

But patients aren’t the only ones who benefit from increased quality time at the bedside. Nurses also reap rewards. A 2002 study from the University of Pennsylvania found that for each additional patient assigned to a nurse, the odds of job dissatisfaction increased by 15 percent.

The opportunity to connect with patients on a relational level and to provide them the best care possible is what drew many nurses to the career. Yet so often, this focused time with patients gets diminished due to floor meetings, committee responsibilities and administrative tasks. Not to mention the drain that hospital politics makes on one’s emotional energy.

The desire to get back to the bedside and away from hospital politics and excessive meetings is leading a number of nurses to explore travel nursing.

Susan Watts: Travel nurses can focus care at the bedside and explore new locations off duty.
Travel nursing allows more time for focusing on patients and exploring the country on your time off, said Susan Watts, RN, shown here with her husband Carl at Craters of the Moon National Monument, near Arco, Idaho.

Susan Watts, RN, worked as a nurse for 28 years before becoming a travel nurse with Medical Express two years ago. Watts, who is a labor and delivery nurse, travels with her husband and dog and is currently on assignment at College Station Hospital in Texas.

“Definitely one of the great things about working as a traveler is that I know when I go into work that my job is to take care of patients. Labor and delivery is pretty intensive and one-on-one no matter where you work,” she remarked “Even so, it is such a relief to know that I don’t have to fill out this survey and I don’t have to prepare for that committee meeting--I am just there to care for the patient.”

“Right now all my co-workers are scrambling to finish up an online education course, but I’m freed up because I’m not trying to cram that into my work hours,” she added.

Travel nurses can take advantage of educational courses on their own time, however. In fact, Medical Express offers free continuing education units to their nurses through their partner educational site; many travel nurse agencies offer similar benefits.

Tiffany Woodley: travel nurses can spend more time with patients.
Tiffany Woodley, RN, BSN, became a travel nurse five years ago because she wanted more quality time with patients.

“Spending more time with patients was part of the draw to travel nursing for me,” explained Tiffany Woodley, RN, BSN a med-surg and telemetry nurse from Virginia. “I got off to a rough start in nursing and felt that the nurse-to-patient ratios at my facility were unsafe, so I looked into traveling.”

Woodley has been traveling for five years and plans to continue taking assignments with Medical Express for at least another year.

“The hospital where I am on assignment in Columbus, Ga., is about to go through a merger and there are special classes happening for that, but I’m not required to attend,” she said. “I would say that about 75 percent of the time, I am excused from hospital meetings. The travelers are included in the unit huddles that happen during the day.”

“As a traveler there are way less politics to get involved in,” Woodley continued.  “At the end of the day, I get to just go home.”

Recruiters often hear from travel nurses that the ability to focus on patients is one of their favorite benefits of the traveler lifestyle.

"For nurses who are looking to stay out of hospital politics and want to get back to the heart of nursing--offering patients excellent and personalized care--travel nursing is a breath of fresh air," remarked Brandi Gallegos, recruitment manager for Medical Express. “I have a lot of nurses who get high accolades from patients and their families, so I know that they are giving their best and enjoying every minute of it."

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