Mother, Survivor, Travel Nurse
The sparkling waterfalls and turquoise seas of Hawaii Shirrelle admired while visiting her son the past week evoke a tranquility that Shirrelle has not always experienced. From this paradise, she tells the complicated and ultimately triumphant story of her life. Shirrelle is a travel nurse and determined mother of three children and a step-son ranging in age from 12 to 24. Her oldest son recently sustained an injury that brought Shirrelle to the Aloha State. He is doing well and has already returned to his work in the U.S. military but nevertheless “mama bear had to look after her cub.” Shirrelle has honed this tough protective instinct through many years of nursing, her caring nature always her guide.
Shirrelle’s childhood was not an easy one, and her early difficulties culminated in her giving birth at just 14 years old and leaving school in the 7th-grade. Shirrelle could easily have given up but then she wouldn’t be Shirrelle. Instead, she went after her dreams with a tenacity that can only leave one in wide-eyed admiration. With two children and a mother who suffered from mental illness to care for, Shirrelle got a job in a factory and decided to return to school. After receiving the discouraging news that she tested at a 6th-grade level Shirrelle decided not to let that stop her. She bought books, studied every day and passed her GED on the first attempt. Exhilarating as this was Shirrelle wanted more. She had “always wanted to be in the medical field. My mom was in the medical field, she was a caregiver. A lot of people spoke well of her when she was well enough to work. She always had a smile on her face and she was so willing to go out of her way to help her patients.” This admiration led Shirrelle to complete an LPN program and begin her career as a nurse.
Shirrelle’s career was interrupted when her mother failed to wake up one morning. She had passed in her sleep and Shirrelle was despondent. “That was a rough time for me. I didn’t want to do nursing anymore.” The realization that steered her back towards her chosen path was that she knew her mother would be proud of her if she returned. “My passion is to teach my patients and make them aware of what is going on in their disease process. With my mom, I look back and I don’t think she understood the importance of taking her medication. That changed my mind about everything and made me want to pursue a higher degree.” She did just that, earning her RN in 2011.Despite the many challenges she has faced, as Shirrelle puts it “I really wanted to become a registered nurse and I found a way.”
And she didn’t stop there. Shirrelle is currently enrolled in a Family Nurse Practitioner Master’s program that has her in class from 10 am to 9 pm every Monday, in addition to working full time as an Aya travel ICU RN and caring for her family. She won’t stop here either; she also plans to pursue a DNP. Her hectic schedule can be tough but Sherrille believes it is “totally worth it.” Her free time is spent with her close-knit family who loves to get together for game night. They have been known to play UNO for hours and when asked if it gets competitive Shirrelle admits “oh my gosh yes.” She and her husband also love to bowl and Shirrelle jokes “I really whip up on that butt all the time.”
Her competitive spirit and insatiable desire for knowledge have not only led her to pursue advanced degrees but to continually grow on the job as well. Shirrelle did not become a travel nurse to visit exotic locales; in fact, she chooses relatively local assignments in Maryland and Virginia to stay within driving distance of her family. She travels to learn more, see more, and become a better nurse. Shirrelle believes that “you can never know enough in nursing. I’ve worked in little community hospitals all the way up to level 1 trauma centers. It’s absolutely amazing what you see and what you learn.” After her first year of working as a perm RN Shirrelle “felt that I was stagnant in learning. Not that I knew it all but that I couldn’t possibly learn anything more on that floor” and so she has kept moving ever since. Shirrelle ”absolutely loves” travel nursing for many reasons. “It’s very exciting. It gives you a greater sense of freedom. The more you experience things your knowledge base expands and I think that is very important for someone who wants to do their best job taking care of their patients.”