My first travel assignment was in Southern California about 30 minutes from the coast in Orange County. The apartment was beautiful. Orange County was beautiful. There was even a walking/biking trail behind our apartment complex that stretched for miles in either direction. It was nice to be able to take a walk or bike trip without having to hop in the car to the nearest park or trail. It was everything I had hoped travel nursing would be and it’s an experience that will always stay with me and my husband. I often wonder what would have happened if my first experience was the nightmare you often read about in forums.
While I can’t say I have ever had what could be considered a “nightmare experience,” I’ve had a few not-so-great ones. Looking back I’ve come to realize two important truths about travel nursing assignments:
Not every assignment is going to be a bed of roses
This isn’t exactly a profound statement but it’s something to remember. Most assignments will probably fall under the category of good, great, or amazing. If the majority of yours don’t fall in one of these three, you either have really bad luck or a really bad outlook on life. The fact remains, they won’t always be great.
My second assignment was in an apartment right on the beach just west of L.A. I don’t mean it was “close to the beach” — I’m talking about opening a sliding glass door and the only thing between me and the Pacific Ocean and dolphins was a sandy beach. Sounds amazing, right? Not so much.
It was during the “May Gray/June Gloom” season. Never heard of it? Me either before this. Basically the cold waters of the Pacific meet the warming SoCal land and create a thick fog bank. My sunny days laying on the beach were replaced with chilly, gloomy days wearing a jacket and jeans. When the sun did finally come out, it rarely got above 70. Combine that with water temps of about 65 compared to 85 in Florida, and you have yourself a difference in expectations and reality. And that brings us to truth #2.
Unrealistic expectations can turn a good assignment into a bad one
Looking back, I think my expectations slightly soured my beach experience. But who can say they’ve lived on the beach, foggy or not? My husband and I had lots of fun and made some great memories. We even got to see a whale right below our balcony less than 100 feet from the beach! It just goes to show the power of preconceived notions.
Two assignments later landed me in the middle of Pennsylvania just outside Harrisburg. The area looked flat, run down, and just plain boring. My husband and I were less than excited about it but it was a six-month assignment and the timing was going to work perfect with my pregnancy. We loved it! There were several state parks nearby that were just absolutely beautiful. Located in the Appalachian Mountains, we saw waterfalls, amazing lakes and creeks with crystal clear water, and colorful drives down tree-lined roads during the fall. It was a welcome surprise that is still one of our favorite assignments.
There have been other pleasant surprises and some disappointments on our journey. We continue to move forward, pushing those preconceived notions aside and deciding about an area based on personal experiences. I encourage you to keep an open mind and be flexible with your choices for destinations. You may come across a few disappointments, but the gems that you find along the way will stand out in your mind as lasting, wonderful memories that leave little room to dwell on the not-so-wonderful ones.