Travel Nurses on the COVID-19 Front Lines: Channing’s Story
TravelNursing.org is exploring the stories of travel nurses working on the COVID-19 front lines — travel nurses across the country are serving important roles in this pandemic fight, helping overcrowded hospitals and stepping in when exhausted staff succumb to their own exposure. Their stories are important and it’s an honor to highlight them.
This week’s story comes from 26-year-old Channing Scott, BSN, RN, an intensive care travel nurse originally from North Carolina, now working in Washington, D.C. after accepting an extension of her assignment due to COVID-19. Scott shares her experience working as a travel nurse, her fears of being treated as “expendable,” and the challenges of being immunocompromised with type 1 diabetes.
What precautions are in place at your facility?
“We have to get our temperature checked twice a shift. PPE is slowly becoming more available. However, it seems like we get an abundance of one thing and then nothing of the other. One day we may have masks and no hair nets or shoe covers and no sanitizing wipes.
“It honestly depends on the day. We are reusing mask and face shields—some nurses are actually making their own.”
How has COVID impacted your work?
“Day-to-day work procedures haven’t changed much. Everyone at work is on edge though. As an ICU nurse, I haven’t had to float. Many co-workers have been calling out of work, leaving us short-staffed, and nurses are having to share patients.
“Normally, each nurse has two patients. Some nights we may have three or four and share them between another nurse. Essentially. we are going in and out of the rooms a minimum of 5 times and in all actuality, it ends up being way more.”
What happens when you get home?
“When I get home I really have to decompress. We’re working in a difficult time right now — we are trying to save people’s lives, take care of ourselves, and to be there for people’s family members via phone because they are not allowed in the hospital, along with worrying about our own family members.
It is draining in all aspects. I live alone, so self-isolating has been easy. Face Timing friends and family is the new norm.”
What has been the hardest part about working as a travel nurse during this pandemic?
“Feeling like what you have to say doesn’t matter and feeling expendable because you aren’t there for the long term.”
What has surprised you the most about working as a nurse during this time in history?
“The lack of support and realizing that societal perception of nurses by the general public is not entirely correct. For example, a lot of people don’t realize that we are constantly with the patients, more than any other healthcare professionals, so the inability to not have access to PPE is devastating to our profession and the care we can give to our patients.
You wouldn’t ask a firefighter to go into a fire without proper gear, so why should we?
What kind of fears and feelings do you have currently about working as a travel nurse during a pandemic?
“Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, I have feared how fast this would spread and how I would be able to protect myself when it came to the facility that I am working at.
“I am a type 1 diabetic and have taken measures to be extra careful and cautious to protect myself as well as others. I’m fearful for my patients mostly due to the lack of knowledge that surrounds the coronavirus. Every day, it feels like we learn something new. The lack of communication and lack of transparency in managing these patients has definitely been frustrating in regard to the patient’s plan of care.”
How you are taking care of yourself?
“In terms of taking care of myself, it is completely from the care that I am giving my patients. I feel now more than ever that I am more focused on patient care during my shift as opposed to what is going to happen after work — just really taking it day-by-day, hour-by-hour.
Mentally, I try to escape from work when I’m not there, which is difficult because, with media and my network of friends, it seems to follow me everywhere. In order to keep my mind sharp, I’ve been journaling at least once a day, listening to soothing music, and cooking new recipes.
Physically, I have been trying to work out the best I can and eat healthy. Emotionally, I feel grateful for the support I have from friends, co-workers, and family. They have been so great throughout this difficult time.”
What advice would you give any travel nurse thinking about taking a COVID assignment?
“Do your research and understand what you are getting yourself into. Try to take an assignment where you know someone or are semi-familiar with the facility and area. Money is not the most important thing.”