Full Circle

If you know me, you probably know my mind works fast. One minute we’re discussing A and I’ve skipped to Z simultaneously saying and skipping all the other letters. These next series of thoughts and emotions all took place with in 7 minutes.

There was a moment (on the airplane) when we were taking a descent into San Juan PR that I decided to gaze out the window at the clear blue water from above. I was simply appreciating the beauty and allowing myself to get into vacation mode.

12:33pm

All of a sudden there was a rush of emotions. One minute I am admiring the beauty of the water, making a mental note to research why a tsunami is an unlikely in the Atlantic Ocean (given the recent earthquakes Puerto Rico was experiencing). The next minute tears swelled into my eyes.

It hit me, these were the same oceans my ancestors died in many years ago. The thought of how many bodies and futures were lost struck me.

The people who kidnapped and sold us couldn’t see our value all those centuries ago and some still don’t to this day. Or maybe they did see our value and were threatened. Maybe they hid their insecurities with power, using religion combined with mental physical and emotional abuse to tear down our own minds so we couldn’t see our worth.

Amazing how much we [as black Americans/people] have endured, how resilient we are, how much adversity we have over come. Amazing that we are setting back and forth across the very sea where lives were lost to travel and explore the world at our leisure.

I decided to slow my mind and say a prayer. A prayer for their souls to Rest In Peace. A prayer for their unintentional sacrifice. A prayer for their children and families they left behind. A prayer for us to make them proud. As I wrapped up my prayer I felt a calming spirit take over and all I could do is smile.

12:40pm

I opened my eyes to find double rainbow form under the clouds and over the water. How beautiful. I believe that was my sign that my prayers were heard. And I can only hope I am making my ancestors proud. If you need a “why” to continue your purpose, do it for those who weren’t granted the opportunity to make their own dreams come true. ❤️

Full Circle

If you know me, you probably know my mind works fast. One minute we’re discussing A and I’ve skipped to Z simultaneously saying and skipping all the other letters. These next series of thoughts and emotions all took place with in 7 minutes.

There was a moment (on the airplane) when we were taking a descent into San Juan PR that I decided to gaze out the window at the clear blue water from above. I was simply appreciating the beauty and allowing myself to get into vacation mode.

12:33pm

All of a sudden there was a rush of emotions. One minute I am admiring the beauty of the water, making a mental note to research why a tsunami is an unlikely in the Atlantic Ocean (given the recent earthquakes Puerto Rico was experiencing). The next minute tears swelled into my eyes.

It hit me, these were the same oceans my ancestors died in many years ago. The thought of how many bodies and futures were lost struck me.

The people who kidnapped and sold us couldn’t see our value all those centuries ago and some still don’t to this day. Or maybe they did see our value and were threatened. Maybe they hid their insecurities with power, using religion combined with mental physical and emotional abuse to tear down our own minds so we couldn’t see our worth.

Amazing how much we [as black Americans/people] have endured, how resilient we are, how much adversity we have over come. Amazing that we are setting back and forth across the very sea where lives were lost to travel and explore the world at our leisure.

I decided to slow my mind and say a prayer. A prayer for their souls to Rest In Peace. A prayer for their unintentional sacrifice. A prayer for their children and families they left behind. A prayer for us to make them proud. As I wrapped up my prayer I felt a calming spirit take over and all I could do is smile.

12:40pm

I opened my eyes to find a double rainbow form under the clouds and over the water. How beautiful. I believe that was my sign that my prayers were heard. And I can only hope I am making my ancestors proud. If you need a “why” to continue your purpose, do it for those who weren’t granted the opportunity to make their own dreams come true. ❤️

16 Travel Nurse Tips

So February 2019 started my travel nurse journey and I have no regrets. There are some challenges, but it’s much easier than I thought it would be. If you’re contemplating your career as a travel nurse, take that leap of faith and just begin. There’s a lot of research that went into my first 3 contracts and every day I learn little more! Here’s what I have learned so far:

1: Talk to other travelers about their pay and their company benefits. Obviously, not in front of permanent staff, but be comfortable having that discussion. My company does not reimburse for licenses or cover travel expenses or parking and they don’t offer an extension bonus, but I learned that I usually have a higher weekly payout. When I compared with other travelers, all the money adds up. However, the biggest draw back I experienced with my company is my tax free housing/meal stipend is pro rated if I don’t work all my contracted hours. This wasn’t a big deal until recently. For example, I work in an outpatient procedure unit that is only open for day shift M-F. The unit was closed Thanksgiving and Black Friday, so I only worked 30 hours and my stipend was adjusted by 1/4. I worked less, but that doesn’t matter to my bills and rent! However, if you’re working 3 12 hour shifts, it probably won’t be hard to make up those missed hours.

2: Don’t be afraid to switch companies! I enjoy working with my recruiter and I have worked with him for 3 contracts, 4 if you include my upcoming extension. However, based on my example in number 1, I am ready to switch companies. I have had multiple recruiters and companies from the beginning of my travel nurse journey simply to compare pay packages. I always went with company A because they had the highest weekly pay, but now I know what’s a deal breaker for me and what’s not!

3: Speaking of contract extensions, DO NOT extend unless you are 100% sure it’s what you want. The first few weeks may seem amazing and the other travelers make great coworkers, but have you experienced working on the unit when they are short staffed or having some sort of crisis? Does the manager and charge nurse offer help when the staff is drowning in work? You want to know how they handle inconvenient situations especially short staffing before you sign up for an extension. Last thing you want is to feel burnt out, it defeats the purpose of traveling. Please note, if your extending a contract because you met that special someone, be sure it’s what you want & you’re not just trying to make them happy.

4: Whatever you discuss in the interview with the manger, put it in your contract! In a perfect people hold on to their words. In reality people forget or things change by the time you start. If the manager promised something in the interview have your recruiter place that in the contract. It could be as simple as time off requests to something more specific like fair rotation. In Endoscopy, fair rotations looks like split time in preop, circulating and discharge! Or maybe they promised to provide OR scrubs. Whatever it is get it in writing (CYA).

5: Take time off in between contracts if you can, even if it’s just a week! If you are one of those people who can survive off of little sleep and you don’t get exhausted easily, this is not for you. If you’re like me and you need time to rest and recoup after major life events, take the time off. I consider constantly moving across the states/country every 3–4 months a major life event. While it is exciting to try something new, it is absolutely exhausting. With each contract in a new state comes: a housing search, driving/shipping your car, completing compliance (drug testing, hours of learning modules, last minute references) and packing your favorite items and weather appropriate wardrobe. Don’t underestimate your stress level and don’t over extend yourself for the sake of the “grind.You can’t pour from an empty cup, take the time to give back to yourself.

6: Be open! If you are an extrovert this probably does not apply. When I told one of my friends I was going to be a travel nurse she said “be open!” Prior to this 3rd contract, I was just polite enough or just friendly enough to work with, but I wasnt making connections outside of work and I felt more alone. However my first 2 contracts had a lot of older nurses and not as many travelers so it was hard to form friendships. Now, I am less stand-off ish & a little less socially awkward in new situations. I try to engage and say yes to new experiences.

7: Don’t let recruiters pressure you. It’s okay to say no and bye if they aren’t offering what need. This is a business, it’s not personal! Ultimately you have to decide with type of conditions you’re willing to put up with.

8: Save! Yes travel nurses make good money, but we are missing out on other benefits. Depending on your company you may not have short term disability or maybe you declined coverage. The most important benefit we don’t have, paid time off. Yes you can take as many weeks or months off as you want, but you are not getting paid for it. If you’re able to and have the energy, pick up those extra shifts! Or if you’re like me and realized 40 hours at one job is enough for the week find a side hustle. I recently started as a food delivery driver on my days off, it doesn’t hurt to have a little extra spending money whether I’m working or not.

9: Health insurance – If you decide to take more than 30 days off or your next contract is with a different company, make sure you get all your health related appointments scheduled before your benefits expire.

10: Don’t over pack. A lesson I learned the hard way. I’m way too embarrassed to even tell you how much ish I bought with me. You do not need every pair or even every kind of shoe. Take the basics and create versatile looks.

11: Housing. If you have family or friends in that area, see if you can stay with and pay rent to them. If you are going to be moving in with a stranger, ask for references from recent roommates! It can be awkward moving into someone’s home. You want to know that they are welcoming and not over bearing/militant about every single thing. Also, something I like to do before I sign or even submit to a position is look up housing near the facility! I despise a long commute, I need to be at my job in under 30 minutes with traffic. If housing options are slim pickings or out of my price/mile range I will pass on the job! Lastly, use all the search tools available. I found housing on Airbnb my first 2 contracts, but the service fee gets pricey. My current renter I found through the gypsy nurse housing Facebook group!

*For my non-travel nurses or health care workers, these last round of topics can be applied to anyone in any setting. Where you see travel nursing insert your own career!

12: Be flexible, but don’t bend over backwards. As a traveler, yes you are there to fill a need, but that does not give the manager/charge nurse/coworkers to dump on you! Do not let anyone make you feel like you deserve more work because you make more money! Especially to my nurses working on the floors or in LTC facilities. If you feel assignments or admissions aren’t being rotated fairly or they are unsafe, SPEAK UP! Talk to the unit manager, but also talk with your recruiter. They are there to support you when things get rough at work and if need be, get you out of unsafe contracts!

13: Be comfortable with exploring cities by yourself. Most off days I just want to sleep, but every now and again I want to explore the city or take a road trip to a nearby city. Maybe you didn’t make friends at work yet or maybe you can’t get your off days to line up with your work bestie, regardless don’t wait for somebody else’s availability. Research, create an itinerary and just go do something you’ve never done before.

14: Unit drama is none of your concern. When Carol and Sue are whispering in the corner just mind the business that pays you. If you’re nosey like me, keep your ear to the “streets”, but act like you didn’t hear shit. Don’t be that traveler getting too comfortable and stirring the pot.

15: Always make sure your pay stub is correct! The people working pay roll are human and errors can occur. The more uncomfortable mention is that big companies will try to get away with minor details and skim off the top at your expense. Regardless, make sure the money adds up because “if it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense.”

16: Visit home as often as you want. You could be having the best time in your at your new job, but there’s no place like home. Take an extended weekend or week as often as you need to visit your loved ones.

17: Bonus tip, find a seemingly healthy way to decompress after work. It’s easy to rush home, get in the bed and scroll/watch tv. Maybe there is something else you can do to contribute to your overall mental or physical health. Recently I started journaling/stretching after work and it has helped tremendously. The weeks I slack off and replace my healthy habits with wine and TV, I am more tense and slightly hungover the next day (cheers to the late 20s club).

My blog post are usually not this long; cheers to you if you made it to the end. If you found this information was helpful please share and pass it along. Or if you have your own tips to surviving this travel nurse life leave a comment below.

Happy holidays & new year! See y’all in 2020 ❤️

Live for the day, plan for tomorrow

This particular blog post is based on very recent conversations I’ve had with patients. It truly breaks my heart to not see people enjoying life, whatever “joy” might look like to them.

I’ve worked with so many 50+ year old patients who have chronic/serious illness that are still trying to work 40 hours a week to max out their retirement benefits. It’s always “I’ll retire in x amount years.”

Their Plan for retirement usually involves FINALLY traveling or spending time with their grandkids. On one hand I get it; they’ve spent decades at this company. What’s a few more years to make sure they get their max pension? They rarely called in sick, showed up on time, did their job with little to no complaints. They damn sure deserve the maximum money & retirement benefits! On the other hand, they might not be around to make it to retirement. Or they make it and they’re on oxygen tanks, using motorized scooters because of joint pain and too tired to travel or chase after their grandkids.

All this to say, LIVE YOUR LIFE. Obviously create a solid retirement plan when you’re young and save as much as you can, but tomorrow isn’t promised. Working in healthcare has truly taught me that time waits for no one! If you were placed on major restrictions due to health reasons right now, would you be satisfied with the life you have lived so far without those restrictions? If the answers is no, START LIVING! ❤️

We are approaching a new decade. Now is the time dust off those “crazy” ideas and find a way to make it happen.

Reflecting on accomplishments, no matter how minor they seem

It’s been 5.5 years exactly since I graduated undergrad. On paper it doesn’t seem that long, but it’s evident when I scroll through my photos how many memories have been created in that time. Not to mention how the WORLD has changed since 2014. Let’s recap. Uber is popping world wide. Having your groceries delivered is now considered normal. More people than I thought have a cleaning lady which has me second guessing, why the F have I been wasting my time cleaning. Most importantly the way social media has been used has drastically changed.

With each transition of travel nurse contracts, I find myself reflecting a great deal more than I ever have. Back in April, on my personal page, I made a post with the caption:

“5 years ago I graduated with my BSN. 5 years ago I couldn’t imagine being in the position I am in now, traveling the US and getting paid to for it. 5 years ago I wasn’t giving myself permission to dream big. And 5 years ago I wouldn’t be wearing my natural fro unapologetically!”

There are times, especially in this social media era, that people don’t feel like they’re doing enough. Times where people are unintentionally comparing their journeys to someone else’s. I have definitely been guilty of this! I’m so incredibly proud of people following their dreams, whether I know them or not. On one hand it brings inspiration and motivation. On the other hand it can bring you to state of feeling stagnant, maybe feeling purposeless or like you’re missing out opportunities.

When I made the post back in April, I was feeling the latter. I had to take time to reflect and acknowledge my accomplishments no matter how minor or obvious it seemed. Wearing natural hair might not seem like a big deal to some, but to a former bundles buyer and silk press addict, it meant I was becoming more confident in my own skin. And realizing that self acceptance was a part of self love. MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENT!

So I ask you, whoever is reading this. What have you not giving yourself enough credit for lately? Are you in a place where you can stand proud in seemingly minor accomplishments even if it’s not “instagram worthy”?

If you’re feeling chatty, please leave a response below and share your accomplishments!!

Year 27: I’m Moving Different

The last 6 weeks or so leading to my birthday, I kept saying “when I turn 27 I’m acting different.” I don’t even know where this statement or idea originated from, I didn’t even know what it meant until recently, but something was shifting in my spirit and energy.

In the last six weeks I have made some pretty important decisions about my future. Everything from how much longer I will be a travel nurse, to new specialties, side hustles/prn jobs and business/investment endeavors. My end game, bigger picture or whatever you want to call it has shifted into focus. I have finally “found” whatever I was searching for in my career.

I am able to visualize it each and every day. While I’m not ready to share exactly what it is, I will say it has given me so much motivation, joy and hope to have clarity. I truly wish this feeling on everybody!

The road to achieving these goals can seem daunting or even discouraging on paper, but it beats the feelings I had of being lost. And the time is going to past regardless, might as well make my dreams come true.

Knowing where I want to go has put so many things into perspective and corrected a lot negative, impulsive and coping behaviors. For me, that was shopping, poor food choices or binge drinking (even though I still enjoy a turn up brunch or day party every now and then). These were things that brought immediate comfort or satisfaction to a much bigger and internal problem. Which can happen when you aren’t walking in your truth and attempting to fit a mold that is not for you. It’s time to make nursing work for me!

So, instead of possibly offending people by saying “I’m acting different” I am telling people “I’m moving different” in this 27th year. AKA getting my ish together, not comparing myself to others, remaining unapologetic about my journey and the sacrifices/decisions I’m making along the way. Basically it’s a forever hot girl mood.

Happy birthday to all my fellow Virgos! ♍️

Houston Housing Update

Houston Housing Update

So, I know on that last blog I went on a mini rant about my hatred for bugs. Typical dramatic girlie girl. I see blood and various body fluids & parts on a daily, but freak out at the site of bug *eye roll. However this new living situation is much better! I may see a bug every so often, but nothing compared to the multiple juicy bugs I saw in that first airbnb for those 10 days I stayed there. 

On to more important things. The other airbnb tenant on the third floor has since moved out and a new guy has taken his place whom I coincidentally met today (same as the last blog). The new guy is nice enough and probably mid 30s, we had an introductory conversation while in the kitchen. 

I told him I’m from Chicago and his response being “oooo I’m sorry.” Uhm, SIR! Excuse me?

My facial expression must’ve betrayed me probably for the 100th time today. Before I could even ask a follow up question he was laughing and elaborated he was speaking only of the cold months. I was definitely about to begin the fact check of why Chicago is the best, haha. 

Am I only the person who gets territorial of my home? It’s like when someone outside of your family tries to pick on your sibling. Only I can talk shit about them, not you an outsider! 

Anyway, I’m not sure if it’s less awkward because I’ve been renting a room for 6 months now or my social skills are just getting better. Hopefully the latter. Regardless, having roommates has not bothered me as much as I thought it would. For starters I spend 8-10 hours a day at work Monday – Friday and another 1-3 hours of the day commuting and running errands. On the weekends, if I’m not traveling or having a visitor, I am relaxing at a local coffee shop or having lunch/brunch for a table of one.

Looking back, I am admitting I was little spoiled and unrealistic about the housing situations of travel nursing. I was expecting to be staying in high rise,1 bedroom fully furnished apartments close to work for every contract for less than 1/4 my salary. I’m sure I will stumble upon some hidden gems as I continue, but renting a room will always be more favorable for my financial goals. 

People have been renting rooms for centuries, it’s not even a big deal. If I’m not mistaken, my own maternal grandmother rented a room in Chicago to save up when she first came from Jamaica. It’s convenient and temporary. No worries of switching over utilities or cable into your name, it’s usually included.

My enlightened and now positive stance on shared housing is just one example of the growth I have experienced while on this journey. Many examples to come, stay tuned! You can see photos of my current home below, courtesy of the airbnb host/original posting. 

Houston Housing

Y’all remember when I said I wouldn’t be having a roommate for my future assignments?? Well my finances and I had a conversation and they determined we would definitely be in a roommate situation. 

For  this assignment I had two different airbnbs. I rented the first location for my first week of work just in case things didn’t work out. Also because the second home wasn’t available until Sunday June 30th. 

My first room was in a mother in law suite locked and closed off from the main house and it was built more like a hotel room. It had a mini fridge, a microwave and 0 cabinet space. It was in Eado (East downtown), very convenient location, but it was next to an open field and there were some big ass bugs lingering. 

If you know me, you know my phobia for bugs runs very deep. I saw about 5 different species of bugs in the apartment, it was too much. I messaged the host frequently in the 10 days I was there, but she seemed pretty much over me. She supposedly had the complex spray the apartment, but it did not help much. 

Now there weren’t just bugs constantly crawling up the walls, but I saw at least 1-2 juicy bugs a day while I was home and they were coming from under the sink not near the window or entry ways. So it was definitely concerning to me and causing serious anxiety. I tried to stay outside as long as possible, exploring. When I came home I kept all the lights on until it was time to sleep, but not without the help of benadryl and melatonin. Ever see a bug and just start itching? That’s me! 

Best believe I shook out every single article of clothing I had before I moved into my new room. Anything that was out, I washed!

The second room I found is in a cute town home with a private bathroom in the room. The house is absolutely gorgeous! It’s 4 stories, there’s a washer/dryer and garage parking spot with full access to the kitchen. It’s about 20 minutes from my job. 

The host are a young and pretty chill couple and they are renting to at least one other person who is on a separate level (I only found this out this morning, but whatever no big deal I guess). Compared to my housing in Mass this second room is a much better experience personality wise. Everybody does their own thing and we’re in similar age groups which is very helpful. 

Not to mention, this second house is surrounded by concrete, a city girls dream! Anyway prayers for me that bugs don’t come harassing me at this new location otherwise I am never coming back to Houston or the south period. This was supposed to be my permanent residence in the long run, my escape from Illinois which is not looking bad considering we don’t gigantic bugs like the south. I am so glad I took a travel assignment first to test the waters!

Securing My 2nd Travel Assignment

What happens when everything you thought you wanted is handed to you on silver platter and you know longer want it?

At the end of April I was beyond determined to get to DC or NYC for my next contract. I stalked job openings for weeks and even signed up with my 6threcruiter (which is definitely doing thee most, but we’ll address that another time).  Some recruiters didn’t have positions in that area at this time, others just didn’t staff in the states I wanted.

Some of my recruiters started with their “realistic” speeches about how travel opportunities slow down in the summertime and I should be open to going more places. My recruiters themselves all seem like nice people, but at the end of the day they work for a bigger company. With every place of work there is always pressure from management in some form. I remained persistent on what I wanted, not what was convenient for the company.

I was sent packages for places so far from my ideal destination both in location and environment, Kentucky, Indiana and Missouri. The pay matched the area, but it did not match my goal. I’m not saying I wouldn’t go to those places one day, but I want to complete my travel assignment bucket list. The money isn’t the only motive.

I applied for NYC, DC and even Hawaii. Hawaii wasn’t on my list, but why not aim for paradise? These pay packages were meeting the standard, the shifts were perfect and I would’ve been able to expand my skill set once again; but the cost of living is so trash – the exact reason I’m over Chicago.

My biggest goal is to be debt free by 2020 or 2021, maybe then I will revisit paying an obscene amount of money for the quality apartments I want. To be honest the roommate situation is not really an option for me (see previous post). So I had to let go of my champagne taste and sit my beer budget behind down, for now.

My next assignment is in a lit city and with decent cost of living! The only downside is it’s going to be hot af.  I do not like to be outside when it’s above 85 degrees. Nonetheless, I’m so excited to announce that I’m taking my talents to Houston!! Beyonce and Megan have been on shameless replay! What a time!

Massachusetts Housing

When I told my close family and friends that I would be renting a room in an Airbnb and living with the host most of them gave me that same side eye and that uncertain “ok.” Some even called me out with a simple “JEN! Now you know this is not the living situation for you. You like your personal space!” All valid concerns!

For those who don’t know, travel nurses are given housing stipends on top of the hourly rate. The goal is to find cheaper housing options and pocket the extra money. After spending many hours on Airbnb, VRBO, corporate housing and short term lease searches, I had to face the realization that having a roommate was the best option financially for my Massachusetts contract.

I was attempting to be open, but I still had to be realistic and safe as a solo female traveler. Apparently New England has a bad rep for being racist so I had to research neighborhood demographics before I chose my living situation. I wanted to see people who look like me or at least other brown/ethnic people.

My requirements for shared housing: close to the hospital, my own room, bathroom, parking space, a female roommate and no children in the home. I love kids, but I’m not trying to live with anybody’s kids but my own (very, very far in the future). I had full access to the kitchen, but I despise cooking so I really just need a place to store my takeout and microwave it.

It seemed that I found the “perfect” private room to rent from a retired Puerto Rican woman who occasionally watches her grandkids and wanted to rent to female healthcare workers. The situation was mostly positive and convenient.

However, I did sense that she would’ve liked me to spend more time with her. She kept assuming that I wasn’t comfortable because I rarely sat in the front room or watched TV with her. There was one day she literally told me not spend time in my room after I had a rough workweek. Her tone was like when a frustrated mom tells their teenager to put their phone/game down.

I don’t know about y’all, but after a long week, I spend my first day resting and catching up on my shows blissfully aware of the fact I don’t have to work. I had to hit her with a nice, but firm no thanks! My voice was sweet, but I’m sure my face was mean mugging. I know she meant well, but my own mama doesn’t tell me what to do or how to spend my time.

This was a very minor and one time situation. However, I discovered that we had very similar personalities. So for the life of me I could not figure out why she wanted to invade my space. If anything she should’ve empathized. She could’ve won me over with a simple Peurto Rican meal in all honestly, but like me she despised cooking! Very similar like I said.

Minus a few differences, the experience was decent. Renting a room allowed me to save so much extra money especially in that area, but I don’t want to do it again. For me it was slightly awkward, for those less picky it probably won’t be a big deal.

Happy travels!