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Easygoing Southern Girl, Bold Traveler

Taking (Lots of) Time Off

With the unflappable calm of someone used to handling crisis situations, Aya travel ICU nurse Jessica downplays a recent harrowing experience in Rowlette, Texas. When she’d been in town for only a few weeks a tornado touched down around the corner from her hospital, but rather than panic Jessica plugged right along caring for her patients. Inclement weather aside, Jessica has adored the Lone Star State, especially its stores. All of them. She has definitely done her part to support the local economy!

This Greenville, Mississippi native is now on her third travel nursing assignment after an epic cross country road trip during which she and a high school friend stopped in every state along the way. Their trip was the fulfillment of a long-held dream. Jessica explains “I was in Mississippi talking to nurses about traveling. They were always talking about California, saying it pays the most money compared to other states.” Jessica hesitated but is glad that her “recruiter kept up with me for a year, not pressing, calm about it, but she kept in touch.” She took the long road, but after she landed in beautiful Palm Springs, California for her first assignment Jessica could not have been happier with her decision to give travel nursing a go.

Although she occasionally vacillates when making decisions there is one thing Jessica has never questioned. When asked how she came to her career as a nurse Jessica explains “I guess I always knew. Both of my parents work in the hospital. I enjoyed going to the hospital as a child.” This life-long inclination solidified into a calling as Jessica went through her high school’s LPN program. A few years later, after completing her RN and starting in the ICU, Jessica experienced the pangs that many new nurses feel when confronted with the reality of an incredibly demanding job. “At first I cried every day thinking ‘I don’t know what I’m doing.” That initial uncertainty rapidly transformed into confidence in her skills, especially after Jessica discovered her extraordinary ability to connect with patients.

“Everywhere I go I find that one patient…” Jessica muses. You can hear the smile in her voice as she tells the story of a kind elderly woman who she says “really touched my heart. She drives a mustang and used to ride motorcycles. She is that grandma that everyone wants.” Jessica brought the sweet lady a gift as she was awaiting cardiac surgery on Christmas Eve. “It wasn’t much, just a pair of slippers” Jessica says, but her patient was so touched that when her entire large clan, children and grandchildren included, came to visit on Christmas Day Jessica was invited to join them for dinner. She felt just like one of the family and marvels at how “two strangers, of two races, two ages, who were raised differently, can have such a bond.”

Jessica gives simple yet effective advice that works with patients, fellow travelers and permanent staff alike, “keep a positive attitude. Be nice to them they will be nice to you.” Her optimistic views are tempered with practical wisdom related to the realities of travel nursing. She cautions “Do not go into traveling thinking ‘I will find a perfect hospital.’ If they were perfect they wouldn’t need travelers.” Although she believes perfection to be elusive in any endeavor, travel nursing comes as close to it as any career possibly could. Jessica enthuses “I don’t look at traveling as a job. It’s more like a mini-vacation…while working.”