Peggy Patterson has lived and worked as a traveling nurse in 15 states coast to coast. So far, she’s completed 29 assignments with 10 extensions in 26 cities.
Even in her mid-fifties, she is enjoying all the advantages that being a travel nurse can give from new adventures to better pay to lifelong friends.
“My plan is to work near the Dakotas, then up in the Northeast and take the dream assignment in Hawaii,” the Mississippi-based grandmother says.
Her goal is to finish off her bucket list of traveling through all the states, and then maybe take two assignments a year until she decides to hang up her traveling shoes for good.
A study done by Onward OGH, LLC, found that 21.3 percent of travel nurses are over the age of 50; 34.7 percent are 40-50 years old; 26.9 percent are 30-40 years old; and 17.1 percent are 25-30.
Patterson is working in Central California, where the days are sunny and mild and the nights are cooler, she says. She is contracted through the Aureus Medical Group.
“I work in a general ICU that has many different types of patients on three different units. This is my second time working at this hospital, and the second time that I have extended.”
She adds that the town is very different from coastal California cities, places where she has been but will probably never be again.
She didn’t grow up wanting to be a nurse but dreamed of becoming a veterinarian because of her love for animals. The desire to become a nurse came later in life when her last child was about to enter kindergarten.
“It was almost like an empty nest syndrome. I found myself wanting to do something with my life,” she says.
She began her nursing journey in 2001.
She began her career in a neuro ICU stepdown.
While working in the Neuro ICU unit, Patterson worked with a few travel nurses.
“I found it intriguing, and thought one day, when the kids are grown, I’m going to do this. Well, one day happened sooner than I thought and before the kids were grown.”
Hurricane Katrina hit, and their families lived on the coast. They moved to Mississippi to be closer to family and to help out her husband’s dad. The pay as a nurse was almost $6 less an hour than what she had been making. Her husband encouraged her to check into travel nursing, maybe finding a contract close to home.
“So, that’s what I did. Although, I had only been a nurse for less than three years, my days as a traveling nurse began and what an adventure it has been.”
“I’ve had many memorable moments as a travel nurse, but I guess the best day I had was being able to be there for the birth of my first grandchild.”
Her son was in the Army, and he and his wife were stationed in Washington State. She was able to secure a job in Seattle, less than an hour from their home.
“Until you experience it, you have no idea what becoming a grandma feels like. It was the best day of my life and being able to be there was all due to me being a travel nurse.”
Spiritually –It has allowed her to grow as a person, to put judgement aside and let acceptance prevail.
Adventure-wise – “We have seen more than most people have seen in a lifetime. We have been to forty two states, twenty-eight major league ballparks (my husband’s bucket-list), numerous national parks as well as state parks, plus many tourist cities and hot spots, as well as a multitude of wonderful restaurants along the way.”
“I feel that becoming a nurse in my mature years has allowed me to not only be compassionate but have a real respect for the patient I’m taking care of,” Patterson says. “I look at the person as a whole not just as a sickness, taking care of them as if it was my own family member.”
By Lee Nelson
Lee Nelson of the Chicago area writes for national and regional magazines, websites, and business journals. Her work has recently appeared in Realtor.org, Nurse.org, Yahoo! Homes, ChicagoStyle Weddings, and a bi-weekly blog in Unigo.com.