Personal experiences…

Nursing hasn’t always been my profession. I first became a practical nurse in my early 30’s, after having a career in accounting. Although I had a late start as a nurse, it was something I had always had an interest in. After graduating from high school, I went to an information session for enrollment into nursing. I don’t recall one particular issue that stopped me, but I’m sure it was multi-factorial with issues of money, self-esteem, and/or relationships at the time. Not long after going to this info session, I got married and started my family. In 1990, my 2nd child, a son, was born with a blood group incompatibility…


At 8 days old, my child was dying from a rare blood disorder. His skin was grey, his breathing labored, and he was inconsolable. We had his 1-week check-up scheduled and although he started having symptoms the evening before, we delayed taking him to the doctor because we were thinking maybe he was just a fussy baby, or maybe it was colic. He had been born with spots of jaundice and his colour was never great, so we didn’t notice the gradual skin color change from yellow to grey. We, my 15-month old daughter, the new baby, and I, arrived at the doctor’s office and checked in. I had been a patient in that office since I was a child, so of course when I arrived with a baby the receptionist wanted a “peek” at the newborn. She glanced at my son and then swiftly disappeared, little did I know she was getting the doctor…I think I should have been more afraid when the doc took a peek at the baby and then went to get another doctor who also practiced in the building…

The next thing I knew I was receiving instructions about heading to the hospital. 1. Go directly to the ED! 2. Do not make any stops! 3. There will be a team waiting for you! Holy Crap?!? What!?! I was a few days away from turning 21, I had my daughter in tow, I was 8 days postpartum, and I had no idea what was about to happen. I loaded the kids in the car and headed to the hospital. As I drove past my mother’s work, I thought…I should stop and get her…NO, go directly to the ED! This was before everyone owned a cell phone, so no one would know that I needed them until I arrived at the ED. Later we questioned the Doc about his choice to send me directly to the ED verses an ambulance. He response was, he didn’t feel the child would live if we waited…fullsizeoutput_1e3e.jpeg

As I walked into the ED, a nurse with the most beautiful blue eyes met me, his name was Gordon, he took my child car seat and all, and disappeared into the back of the ED where I could not see or go. After completing the paperwork, calling my mom and mother-in-law, I was escorted to the family room, to wait. It was a very long day with hardly any updates, I was so thankful for my mother who consistently “checked on” the baby and came back with a few details each time she was “escorted” away. Eventually, we were updated but it wasn’t good news. My 1-week old baby had little to no red blood cells (those things that carry oxygen to our brains), he was requiring a blood transfusion to stabilize him, but he was critically ill and required transportation to children’s hospital. Our lives just took a detour…


It was at the special care nursery (SCN) where those amazing nurses cared for both the baby and me. It was there that my son received an exchange transfusion, which was basically a flush and fill, and after almost a month of issues, he came home to challenge the predicted outcome of developmental delays and illnesses. He is an amazing young man, who defied all the odds! He is currently serving his country, and we are so proud of the man he has become!

Although my son’s illness was horrific, and this brief story does not tell it all; It was at the SCN I learned so much about myself and saw my own potential and my future as a nurse. Spending time in that space, I watched, learned, and began to understand caring. It was many years later before I would have the means to start nursing, but this is where it was planted in my heart. clpart-panda-free-heart-clip-art-5bbba22646e0fb002634bc51

And the rest is history…

Did you have an “event” that propelled you into your job? I would love to hear your story! Leave your story in the comments!

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The alternatives…

After my not so wonderful experience at the first hospital near Denver, I started to explore some alternative options to working in Colorado. I was beginning to realize that the “travel nurse” format may not be for me, but I needed to work and moving out of Colorado was not the current option. Besides, moving away from the problems weren’t going to solve them, I needed to fix both my attitude and my work environment!

What I quickly learned while travel nursing, was there are many, many different nursing travel agencies AND some of them offered PRN, or as I am familiar with “casual” working options. This basically means you work when you choose, you pick the shifts you are available for, with the downfall of NO job security and NO guaranteed shifts. This is what I have been wanting! I would be starting my 3rd semester of the MN program, I loved to travel, and the flexibility of choosing my shifts sounded like the perfect fit. When I worked in Canada, as casual nurse, I could work more than full time as the shifts were bountiful! So hopefully this was also true here…


The agency I chose was affiliated with my primary nursing agency and therefore some of my personal information was transferable, awesome! Some brief paperwork and off I go! It’s summer time, the shifts are readily available, and a new hospital needs support staff, great! Sign me up! I show up to work, get some unit orientation and slowly get into the swing of things, AND THEN…


Five shifts into my PRN assignment, I get a phone call from the agency stating that I cannot work at this hospital until I have completed the hospital orientation, wait…what?!? Who didn’t arrange that? Ok, so when can I get orientated? The hospital orientation was offered every 2 weeks, ok, awesome the next one offered…I’m in Vancouver for a family visit, dang! It was a full month of not working before I could get orientation; this I could not afford!

Once I worked through those “initial” complications, I settled into working for 2 sister hospitals and life seemed to settle down a little. Although the work was hard and I was still adjusting, I was feeling better emotionally than I had in a long time. I worked full time hours, commuted 45 mins, and finally started to meet some great people! The agency paid their nurses a reasonable wage for the current industry standards of Colorado, although this was still very low overall. I enjoyed working at both of the hospitals for different reasons.



One challenge that persisted throughout my time with this agency was nurses being “flexed”. This meant that based on productivity time, nurses were sent home! As the more “expensive” workforce (agency), I was often the first to either have my shift cancelled or be sent home early! As stated previously, my hours/shifts were not guaranteed. Some days going home was awesome; however, it made payday a very sad day.

The larger and newer of the 2 hospitals served a more affluent population and was located near the interstate. These demographics brought patients who had insurance, demanded patient centered care based on satisfaction reports, and highway traumas. The smaller & older sister hospital served more of the marginalized Spanish speaking population, mental health patients, and lower income families. Both sites offered challenges in providing appropriate levels of care relevant to the population. I stayed working for the agency for approximately 5 months and primarily worked at the sister hospitals. I was feeling more settled, but I was still feeling rather burnt out and had a difficult time being happy. Maybe some time in one spot would help!

In summary, the PRN nursing agency was the right fit at the time. There were some challenges with orientation and flextime but this opportunity lead to the next, so stay tuned for the next installment of my Colorado stories!


I’d love to hear your experiences with PRN/casual work environments/agencies. Leave your story in the comments!

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