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Traveler Interview: A Career Transition After Destructive Camp Fire in CA

Do you work as a traveling healthcare professional because you want to or out of necessity? In my three years working as a recruiter for Aureus Medical, I’ve experienced firsthand how different the “why” can be for each traveler.

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View from the Magalia Reservoir Bridge.

Recently I came across one of the most compelling stories I’ve heard yet. Amy R., a Polysomnography Tech, was forced to transition her life into that of a traveler when the most destructive wildfire to ever sweep California left her community, including her hospital of employment, in ruins. I want to share with you her story because it speaks volumes for the ways in which a positive, determined attitude can turn a devastating event into one that allows for growth while experiencing something new.

How has the Camp Fire affected your life?

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The view of Paradise, CA now.

My “normal” life has completely changed. Our kids are going to a different school and I took on working as a travel Sleep Tech after I was unable to find any work close to home. The community is completely different as we lost a lot of gas stations, businesses, grocery stores, etc. I’ve gone from seeing my kids and husband every day (even if it was just in passing) to about every 9 days when I go home for 5 to spend time with them.

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Amy with her kids at Harris Beach, OR on Thanksgiving.

At home our commute has gotten longer as we now have to get most things in Chico. Traveling through Paradise used to be no issues but because of all of the clean up traffic is now backed up and you can be sitting up to 30 minutes waiting to be able to continue on your way. Due to the fire we were unable to go home for a month, which the fire spared (our home). About the time my kids returned to school, we were able to go home. However before we actually returned to our house we had a lot of cleaning to do due to the smoke and the power being out for 9 days. I’m sure you can imagine what our refrigerators looked like and smelled like.

We also took in a family that were friends of ours who lost their house in the fire. They lived with us for 3 months before they were able to buy another house.

What did your decision to travel look like?

Amy’s home while on assignment.

After putting numerous applications out to my local hospitals and not getting a single phone call, I decided that in order to keep making the same income as I did and to continue as a Sleep Tech I would have to get into travel.

How did you decide travel was going to be a good fit for you?

At first I was focused on the numbers instead of the big picture as far as income goes. Once I realized how much I’d actually be making I decided it was something that would sustain my family enough for me to pursue. I’ve also always wanted a job that allows me to travel so that appealed to me as well.

What’s the adjustment been like to transition into travel after losing your facility to the fire?

It’s been very smooth and welcoming. My first assignment (which I just extended) has been perfect for my needs and family situation. I live in my travel trailer with my year old German  Shepherd when I’m working and then on my long weekends I go home to spend time with my family. I’m not sure that I would have coped with being away from my family as much as I am if I didn’t have my pup with me. I also like having my own space so living in my travel trailer has been nice.

What’s your favorite thing about traveling?

My favorite thing about traveling is meeting new people and co-workers. Being around new scenery and experiencing more of what’s out there in this crazy world. I’ve gone on hikes with my pup, taken him to the beach in Monterey, and overall just taken in the beautiful scenery that’s all around me.

Where do you see yourself and your career in the future?

I see myself as a Sleep Tech and hopefully one day running a Sleep Lab closer to home.

Anything else you’d like to add?

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The top circle is around Amy’s street. On the other side of the street is a canyon which firefighters did not want the fire to get to. They made a 50’ fire break with dozers between the homes. They also put 25 engines on her street.

Although my house survived I still lost so much and have had to completely rearrange my life and find a new normal. The one thing that I’ve always focused on when I find myself sinking is to focus on the silver lining. I’ve realized I can choose to dwell with what I’m left with or focus on the positives that have come from this.

Feather River Hospital made sure to let all of their employee’s know that they are there for us. They established a Camp Fire Fund for their employees in case they needed any financial assistance. They also paid us for 3 months including covering our benefits. After the 3 months they allowed us to keep our benefits at the employee rate for another 3 months before switching to Cobra. I’m grateful to have been a part of such an amazing facility that cares for their employees and I’ll miss them.

If it wasn’t for the fire, I wouldn’t have met my amazing recruiter Katie Lutmer and my Account Manager Suzanne Trogdon. Both have made this experience very painless, smooth, and a positive one. We also were able to make some improvements on our house. My kids are also going to a much better school that can better meet their needs. The one piece of advice I have is if you ever have to evacuate, grab your dirty clothes. A lot of the clothes you have buried in your closet you never wear anymore. Make sure your important documents and paperwork are in an easily accessible spot so you can grab them as you run out the door.

I want to hear your story! Why did you transition from a full-time job to traveling as a healthcare professional within your specialty?

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