Travel Nursing Today: An Alaskan assignment gives this RN northern exposure

September 1, 2009

Barbara Weaver, RN, accepted an assignment in Juneau to escape the punishing summers in St. Croix, and found both cooler climes and plenty of options to unwind in the Alaskan wilderness.

BARBARA WEAVER, RN, always had a yearning for travel. Since her home is in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, where the summers are extremely hot, she wanted to escape to a cooler climate. "I just thought, 'What could be more beautiful than Alaska in summer?'" she said. "The average summer temperature there is 52° F, with the high being around 71° F."

Weaver took an assignment at Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau, AK, on her first assignment for Greenwood Village, CO-based HealthCare Staffing Network. She has been a nurse for nine years, an OR nurse for six years, and a traveler for three years.

ON THE UNIT Bartlett Regional Hospital has 56 beds. It provides a wide variety of services to area residents, including the same-day care unit, where Weaver worked for 11 weeks, along with cardiac/pulmonary rehab, industrial and physical rehab services, diagnostic imaging, critical care, emergency, and obstetrics.

"They are the best bunch of nurses I've ever worked with," Weaver said of her colleagues at Bartlett. "When I first went there, everyone asked me where I was from, and then asked, 'What are you here for?'" Relations between permanent staff and travelers are good, probably because the hospital has so many travelers and everyone is used to them, she said.

About half of Weaver's patients were native Alaskans, while the others were transplants who have made Alaska their home. Bartlett doesn't provide vascular or cardiac services, nor does the hospital have a trauma center. Patients needing these services are airlifted to another hospital in Anchorage or Seattle, both of which are a few hours away.

THE ALASKA EXPERIENCE Weaver lived in a long-term hotel efficiency suite for the duration of her stay, as housing is expensive in Juneau and the rest of the state.

On her days off, Weaver had plenty of options. She followed the lead of her Alaskan colleagues and spent most of her free time outdoors, climbing nearby glaciers, kayaking, or whale watching. She frequently saw gorgeous bald eagles and tried her hand at fishing with some new friends.

People in Alaska take advantage of the sunshine despite the rainy weather. On the advice of a coworker, Weaver did not carry an umbrella because it would mark her as an outsider.

Weaver said the benefits of traveling include meeting a lot of people with whom she's kept in touch. She also appreciates seeing different techniques and the various ways surgeons do procedures. Traveling is a great way to meet new people and make money, according to Weaver, as well as see the rest of the country and the world. Her mantra since she started traveling is "Who's got it better than I do?"

LAURA GATER is a freelance writer based in Columbia City, IN.

This article appeared in Healthcare Traveler, a sister publication. For subscription information, visit http://www.healthcaretraveler.com/.