Rural Assignments Offer Unique Work and Lifestyle Experiences


By Megan Murdock Krischke, contributor

Need a break from the breakneck speed of the big city? Longing to breathe some fresh air and take in new scenery? Taking a travel nursing assignment in a rural area can help you fulfill these goals and more--all while providing unique experiences at work and during your leisure time.

Broader nursing experience

“Nurses who take travel assignments in rural settings get to see a variety of patients and conditions,” remarked Jackie Nelson, senior recruitment manager for AMN. “Maybe they don’t get 40 of the same type of patients, but they have a more well-rounded experience. In a small hospital, nurses are regularly called on to float--you aren’t going to be just working in the ICU.”

Whereas large hospitals are often looking for nurses with highly specialized experience, small hospitals tend to seek out nurses who can work in a variety of areas.

For example, Nelson mentioned she has a rural Alaskan hospital seeking a nurse with both ICU and ED experience.

By the way, rural doesn’t mean archaic. In fact, hospitals that serve wealthy communities such as those in Taos, N.M., and Aspen, Colo., often have top notch medical equipment.

John Tokos enjoys the outdoors on his travel assignments.
John Tokos, RN, enjoyed deep-sea diving while on assignment in Hilo, Hawaii, and now spends a lot of time hiking in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

“Probably the most important skill I’ve honed working in rural hospitals is independent and critical thinking,” said John Tokos, RN, an ER nurse who has been traveling for nearly seven years. “In a big facility there is always another set of eyes, but in rural, sometimes you are it. I’ve worked in facilities where it is just the physician and me. You need to be confident in your abilities.”

A welcoming community

While a rural community isn’t going to offer the same kind of nightlife that a large city can provide, each town has its own unique eateries and attractions. It is also more likely that a new nurse will be invited to a co-worker’s home for dinner.

“The sense I get from my travelers is that they are more quickly welcomed as part of the nursing team in rural settings. There is often a great deal of good teamwork happening in a small hospital,” she commented. “In a larger hospital, the travelers often become a community of their own. In small settings, travelers are enveloped into the existing community. This is an excellent opportunity to really experience a new culture and get to know a new place.”

“I grew up in a rural setting so I know from experience that while living in a rural community means less anonymity, it also means more community,” Nelson continued. “In a small town, people will know who you are because you are new.”

Relaxed pace of life

There are a lot of ways that life in a small town is just simpler. You don’t have to worry about parking or traffic, and learning your way around is quick and easy.

Kimberly Freeman took a travel assignment near the beach.
Kimberly Freeman, RN, always wanted to travel. She chose her current travel assignment in North Carolina because of its proximity to the beach.

“If you are looking for a slower pace, some peace and quiet, and you want to save money, a small town is a great place to be,” remarked Kimberly Freeman, RN, who is doing her first travel assignment at Wayne Memorial Hospital in Goldsboro, N.C. “I grew up in a small town in Kentucky, but have lived in Dallas for the past 10 years. Being back in a small town is a refreshing change.”

Freeman has also noticed her schedule as a dialysis nurse is much less hectic. Back in Dallas she was always clocking overtime, but on her assignment, she is working a schedule that is much closer to 40 hours a week.

Travelers may also find that housing options in rural communities are different than in cities. Small towns may not have apartment complexes with pools and gyms, but you are more likely to end up living in a house.

“I have travelers in Pismo Beach, Calif., and near Rehoboth Beach, Del., that are staying in vacation rentals,” remarked Michelle Goeldenitz, senior recruitment manager for NursesRx.

Outdoor recreation and access

Tokos loves the great outdoors--hiking, backpacking, kayaking and deep-sea diving.

“I’m headed out on a three- or four-hour hike before I go into work this evening,” said Tokos who is currently on assignment at Los Alamos Medical Center, a 47-bed hospital in New Mexico.

Freeman pointed out that small communities may be in close proximity to other towns and some incredible natural attractions and landmarks.

“People ask me why I came to Goldsboro,” Freeman said. “I tell them, ‘Because the beach is an hour away.’ Even though there is nothing as big as Dallas around here, there are larger city centers within easy driving distance and lots of quaint little beach towns.”



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