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While many families had to stay apart, this mother and daughter travel pair grew closer than ever during the pandemic

May 7, 2021 | Clinician Stories

Aya travelers, Jessica Doherty and her mom Nicole Sanders, have always had a strong relationship – but the shared experience of working as travel nurses this past year brought them even closer.

Nicole has been a nurse for 30 years, traveling with Aya for the last five. She made the switch to travel nursing for more flexibility and the freedom to take vacations on her own schedule, which couldn’t happen with her perm job. When the pandemic hit, she felt a calling to help and took an assignment to work a COVID ICU unit in Massachusetts when they were experiencing a surge. Because her mom had such a positive experience traveling with Aya, Jessica decided to follow in her footsteps and even found an oncology assignment at the same facility where Nicole was working.

During the uncertain and frightening times of the pandemic, Nicole was happy to have Jessica close by. “I felt relieved because I knew that she was safe,” she says. “I knew that our facility had great resources. We had gowns, masks and adequate staffing. I could lay eyes on her every day and make sure she was okay.”   

Nicole and Jessica supported each other through the difficult days, especially when Nicole was working with the hardest hit COVID patients. “My husband couldn’t understand, so it was nice to come home to Jessica who knew what it was like to lose a patient, and the emotional toll that takes,” she explained.

Jessica is grateful she felt her mom’s support and could spend time with her, even while Nicole was dealing with the emotional and physical toll of working in the COVID ICU. “My mom is strong, loyal and loving. She is the mom you want to have in your corner,” Jessica shares. “I was so lucky to be with her and have that quality family time, especially when so many families couldn’t be together. She’s truly become my best friend.”

Family ties and a strong recruiter bond

While they no longer work at the same hospital, Jessica and Nicole are still happily traveling with Aya, thanks to the help of their shared recruiter, Barbara Deggelman. “When Jessica started, I recommended Barbara because I knew she would take her under her wing and take care of her,” Nicole says.

“If you have a good recruiter, you’ll have a good travel experience,” Jessica adds. “Barbara listens to you and advocates for you. I know she’ll do anything in her power to help me and she’s proven that to me and my mom. She has become an extension of our family.”

As Jessica’s first year of traveling comes to and end, she is grateful she had her mom to give her advice and calm her nerves as she embarked on this adventure. “I just want to thank her for always being there for me,” Jessica says. “Even when I don’t think I need her support, she’s always there. I appreciate and love her more than words can describe and more than she’ll ever know.”

While Nicole continues to work in Massachusetts, Jessica started a new assignment in Texas and plans to keep exploring new cities. Jessica hopes that through traveling, she can find a place to put down roots closer to family, which would mean spending more time with her amazing mom!

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