Angela Cook is no stranger to high-pressure work. Coming from the world of trauma centers and emergency rooms, she’s used to jumping into the thick of a crisis. But after her daughter grew up, she was looking for something different — and that’s when she found the world of travel nursing.
How did you get started with travel nursing?
Once my daughter graduated from high school, I decided it would be a great time to try out travel nursing.
We’d had a couple of travel nurses at my home facility in the ER, and they started talking about it. And I said, “Wait a minute, what is this unicorn you speak of? I want to do that.”
I’d been an ER nurse for eight years but never traveled. I just thought: I’m willing to go anywhere. My first assignment was in Minnesota — and I ended up extending and staying there for six months.
What was one of your most interesting assignments?
The second time I went to Minnesota, I was in a town of 300 people in a 4-bed ER. I come from a large city with Level 1-3 Trauma Centers, so it was amazing to go from that to a tiny ER. If it’s coming in, it’s coming in to you, and you need to know how to deal with it.
What do you like most about travel nursing?
I like travel nursing because it gives you the opportunity to go places you would never think to go. Would I have ever gone to Minnesota? No, never. I only knew Minnesota existed because of Prince.
You get a taste of new places for three months. Then, you move on to the next thing, the world is a big buffet. Or, you keep going back to one place again and again if you like it.
How does your personality mesh with this type of career?
I’m not shy — that probably helps. I get in and do what needs to be done. We’re all medical professionals, and we’re here to do a job. We’ve got to make the best of it and be cordial and respectful to everyone.
I wouldn’t say you have to be tough-skinned, but as a travel nurse, you’re jumping into somebody else’s house. You’re not even in their house for that long. You’re a visitor, so you have to be respectful of their furniture. Don’t put your feet on the couch. But don’t stand in the corner either.
What challenges do you face as a travel nurse?
Honestly — just learning different EMR systems has been a challenge. I’ve been using one system for so long, but every place has its own.
You either learn or adapt or your stuff’s going to turn out wrong.
But, like any challenge, you just get in there and get it done. I mean, there’s no alternative. It’s baptism by fire sometimes, and you just got to put on the right suit.
I always feel, as long as my patient is taken care of — that’s all the matters.
What’s it been like to work with TotalMed?
Working with TotalMed has been amazing. My recruiter’s great. TotalMed’s been awesome as far as policies, procedures, and getting things done. Onboarding is always smooth. Everyone’s always available. My recruiter is really responsive and always getting back to me right away.
What advice would you give a new travel nurse?
So, you go on Facebook and you join all these travel nurse groups and you get a certain idea of travel nursing. But, then you walk out of the first day of your first assignment about to pee your pants. Because you’re like, “WTF. I don’t even know what’s happening.”
Sometimes it’s information overload. You have to know where your resources are, and in the end, you’re the one that’s going to make the decision to travel or not.
I say, if you want to do it, try it out. It’s for three months. If you don’t like it, you’ve tried it. You’ve decided what you can handle. You decided, “I don’t like it.” Or you’re like, “Ooh, dang, this is exciting. I’m ready to try something new in another three months.” But you have to be willing to try it, ask questions, and don’t be afraid.
Interested in travel nursing? Check out this post on nailing your travel nursing interview.