We sat down with some stellar travel nurses and asked them about the challenges and triumphs they’ve experienced in their travels. Lonzena Robinson talks about renewing her passion for nursing, having an open mind, and being prepared for anything.
How did you get started as a travel nurse?
I was an educator in a telemetry stepdown unit, and I started connecting with long-time travelers. They talked about the flexibility and financial freedom of their jobs, and how traveling renewed their passion for nursing every 13 weeks. I’m single, I have no kids — it seemed like the perfect time to travel and to expand my career. So, I started looking into travel companies — one of the nurses was with TotalMed and she recommended them highly. I jumped right in, and I have been traveling ever since.
What do you love about travel nursing?
I live for a challenge, and it’s a great challenge to change assignments every 13 weeks. It’s challenging to go into a hospital and try to just flow with it as a newcomer. It allows me to see how strong I am as a nurse.
I also love the ability to widen my skill set. With a perm job, you use the same skills over and over, but with travel nursing, everywhere you go is different. So, I get to renew and practice different skills.
And, I love the financial freedom it gives me. I just went on my first vacation ever — I wasn’t able to do that as a perm staff member because I wasn’t making much money. So, I went to Costa Rica — I got to zipline, have fun, be in a different atmosphere. And, that’s another thing I love. As a travel nurse, I like to experience different cultures and everywhere I go is different. It gives me a chance to expand and learn — as a person and as a nurse.
Tell me about the different cultures you’ve experienced
My first assignment was in Texas in a border town, so the population is predominantly Spanish-speaking. It was by far the hardest assignment so far because we had a lot more patients than I was accustomed to, and I couldn’t speak their language. They couldn’t understand me, so I was trying to learn a little bit of Spanish while providing adequate care. It was challenging, but it worked out well.
What challenges do you face as a travel nurse?
As a travel nurse, you’re sometimes considered an outsider. So, you often have to prove yourself before you’re taken seriously. There’s sometimes a stigma that comes with travel nursing — permanent staff believes we don’t know what we’re doing. But, once you prove yourself, once you show them you know what you’re doing, then they change completely. They say, “Ok, great! Welcome to the family.”
I’ve also been pushed to not be afraid of being the new kid on the block. I’ve had to come out of my shell and communicate more, open up to people, and be willing to try new experiences. You can get set in your ways when you’re a staff nurse, but in travel nursing, that just won’t work. You quickly see that there are so many different ways to do things.
So, I’ve learned to have an open mind, not just when it comes to how I do things, but also when it comes to meeting people. If you have a “take me or leave me” attitude, it works against you. Whenever I start an assignment, I smile and put my best foot forward. I focus on whatever is best for the patient and try not to make it about me. I’m a team player, I’m flexible. I let everyone know that I’m there to help.
What advice would you give to a travel nurse just starting out?
Before you embark on travel nursing, make sure you have a solid skillset. When it comes to nursing, you should have the basic stuff down.
Have an open mindset. Be flexible. Be welcoming, because if you want staff and patients to be welcoming to you, you have to be welcoming to them.
Be prepared. Anything and everything can happen when you’re travel nursing. So, you have to do your homework, save money, and have a specific travel plan — know exactly what you want to do before you start traveling.
What do you love about working with TotalMed?
Oh my gosh, I absolutely love TotalMed. TotalMed gets me. TotalMed and I are just in sync with each other. I would say to any traveler — you have to be in sync with your company. TotalMed offers exactly what I am looking for. I have a recruiter who cares about me as a person, not just an employee. They offer great benefits — I have a 401k through them. There is never a moment when I can’t call them. There’s never an issue they can’t fix. They always have an answer or solution.
Even when I don’t need anything, I can just call my recruiter, Josh, and ask him anything, about the travel nursing convention in Vegas, about career advice, anything. We have some planned outings with TotalMed in Vegas. And that means a lot, to have a personal relationship with them, to know they care about my well being. Before Josh, Anna was my recruiter, and she was always only a phone call away. They support me. They put me in situations where they know I can thrive.
Looking for more travel nursing interviews? Check out our entire series.