Adventures on the Frontlines
| by Carol Best firstname.lastname@example.org
Matthew (’17) and Hayley (Pankratz ’15) Reynolds, chose adventure when they bought a well-worn RV to rehab and accepted assignments as travel nurses in 2019. After finishing their first contract in Orange County, California, they are now in Everett, Washington, just 30 minutes north of Seattle.
Hayley answered questions for the couple as they settled into their newest assignment at Providence Regional Medical Center.
How did your adventure as travel nurses begin?
We both enjoy medicine and the challenge it gives us in our workplace. We love helping others and see nursing as a way to help people in a scary moment in life.
We both have a passion for travel and seeing new places, so travel nursing just made sense. We are young, have no kids yet, and thought it would be an awesome way to see America while still being able to work. I always wanted to travel nurse, even while in school, and it makes it so much more enjoyable to do that with someone else, especially your spouse!
We also travel in our RV [named Georgia] that we renovated. It was a lot of work, but it paid off as we are able to take our home with us each place we go! We started traveling in October 2019 and took a six-month contract first and are now on a three-month contract. (Typically, contracts are three months long.)
Where have you served so far?
We both started our nursing careers at local Kansas City hospitals. I worked at Olathe Medical Center in the Emergency Department (ED) for two-and-a-half years then, Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City in the ED for a year. Matthew worked at Shawnee Mission Medical Center for two-and-a-half years years in ED, ICU, and float pool.
As travel nurses we were in ED at Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) in California for six months. We started this new contract at Providence near Seattle in mid-April.
What previous experience/preparation has helped you serve in your current position?
Being a travel nurse requires knowledge and confidence in your own skillset. Both of us have a variety of hospital/department experience which helped grow our skills. Travel nurses typically get one to three days of orientation before acting as an independent staff nurse. Confidence and a strong base of knowledge is crucial. So is flexibility. Going with the flow is essential.
What drives you to serve others?
In the ED we see various situations that are traumatic for patients and families. Being a kind, smiling face for our patients throughout a potentially scary, confusing situation is why we love nursing. For us, nursing is a way to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We have had various situations when we have seen Jesus’ light shine through us in the way we act and serve at work.
What do you want readers to know about how you and your work is affected by the pandemic?
COVID has been a tricky thing for nursing across the board. It’s been overwhelming in some areas and then in other places, volumes have been so low that nurses are not getting their full hours. We are seeing a lower volume of patients, but the patients are sicker (with non-COVID medical complaints) because people are waiting longer to go to the hospital for fear of COVID. Our hospital has been dealing with COVID for months. In fact, the first documented COVID-positive patient in the U.S. was at this hospital. We are thankful to have all the necessary PPE to care for patients. For our daily work routine, it means screening every patient early for symptoms or potential exposure, so we can protect others and ourselves as quickly as possible. We have to think about everyone as a potential COVID patient because it is so prevalent and community-acquired. This doesn’t necessarily make us fearful, but more cautious.
What has been the greatest challenge of your career so far?
For travel nursing, I think the biggest challenge for me (Hayley) personally is changing jobs so often. Once I’m comfortable with staff and policies, it’s time to go to the next place! It’s also difficult having experience and being viewed as a leader within your department and then having to start at the bottom at each new place. It’s a humbling routine but we are so glad to have each other for support during this process.
For Matthew, the biggest challenge is logistics and figuring out the “extras.” We have to make sure there is an RV site within driving distance from the hospital that will take us for three months. There’s also a lot of communication and planning when you move so frequently.
How did MNU help you prepare for your profession?
I was in the traditional undergraduate BSN program and Matthew was in the accelerated BSN program. We both felt prepared for our nursing careers. And anyone will tell you school is just the tip of the iceberg compared to what you will learn on the job. However, MNU had strong clinical experiences that ultimately lead to a step ahead in the medical field.
Did you meet at MNU?
We met at a Christian summer camp called Mount Hermon, in northern California. We dated long distance and Matthew was considering nursing school after completing his undergraduate degree in human biology at Biola University. I introduced him to MNU’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in nursing program as an option. The opportunity to stop the long-distance dating and earn his nursing degree in one year made it the obvious choice. Moving from the West Coast for the Midwest weather was just an added bonus!
What advice do you have for MNU students who are preparing to go into nursing?
I think the biggest thing is to remember your “why.” Why do you want to be a nurse? Make that your intent every day you work. You can learn the skills, the policies, and the procedures. The more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know! The medical field can be a difficult environment and having your center set on Christ and “why” you chose nursing will keep your heart and mind in the right place. It will enable you to do your job well and will carry you on the roughest days.
Photo by: Kelsey Admire Photography