A Travel Nurse Motto
It was my first travel contract during the height of the pandemic. I was working a high-paying contract with a company providing crucial staffing to hospitals all over Texas.
For travel nurses, it is known that we are hired to fill a need. The hospitals don’t hire us to fix systemic problems or want our input on how things work at other facilities. They need nurses to care for patients. That’s it. No more, no less.
During the pandemic, we were all pushed further than before. We were asked to take on more responsibilities and carry more of the burden than previously required. By now, the general public is aware that we didn’t have enough PPE. (The fact that I don’t have to define “PPE” is evidence of this.) It’s well-known that patients were taken care of in tents outside or in areas of the hospital not normally used for patient care. It is public knowledge that nurses were stressed and patients were dying far too often. It was unpleasant, to say the least. Some would go as far as to say it was unsafe. Unsafe for the patients, unsafe for the staff, and unsafe for the public.
Staff nurses would complain about pay differences between them and travel nurses. We’d all complain about staffing levels, lack of supplies, and being assigned more patients than normal. We’d complain about management and administration and how they were managing us from their offices or from home — isolated from the virus. Things didn’t seem fair. Sometimes we’d laugh at how absurd it all was. Other times, we’d be angry. And others, we’d cry.
But one day, when I was complaining to a travel nurse coworker with a heavy Jamaican accent, she sat there and smiled. She listened to me for a while until she cut me off to say something I’ll never forget. I can still hear exactly the way her voice sounded. With her accent and they way it just rolled off her tongue, it sounded like a common island phrase — whether it is or if she just made it up on the spot, I don’t know.
“If it doesn’t affect my pay, it doesn’t affect my day.”
And that was it. That’s what I needed to hear. This became my personal motto for work. It made me shut up and realize that I needed to buck up and deal with it.
My agency was run like the military. The schedule was six days in a row each week with one day off. You had to take their bus to and from the hospital and you had to sleep in their hotel room. You couldn’t have visitors. You couldn’t drink alcohol (even on your day off), and you had to be ready to relocate to another city at a moment’s notice. It was their way and their rules, and if you didn’t like it, you could go home. That was the name of the game.
Some people didn’t mind it, others hated it. After I heard this nurse’s advice, it was simple for me: we were there to provide a service in a time of need, and if they wanted to pay me better than I ever thought possible, then I could do anything they wanted.
This one simple phrase changed my outlook. It makes me think that everything we say has the potential to affect others. That nurse has no idea that I remember what she said to me; it wasn’t significant to her. But to me, it changed my entire perspective. I’ve told this story a few times to others, and they’ve repeated it to others themselves — and now, I’m telling you.
When I get frustrated at work, I try to remind myself that we all have the ability to be a positive influence or a negative one. Our actions and words have power. We ought be more aware of how we use them and how they might literally change someone’s life.
So, go forth and spread joy. Or at least don’t spread negativity or hate. And remember that if it doesn’t affect your pay, don’t let it affect your day.