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Dana McIlwain on Traveling to Her Dream Assignments and Exploring with Her Family

We sat down with some stellar travel nurses and asked them about the challenges and triumphs they’ve experienced in their travels. Dana McIlwain talked to us about traveling with her family, finding her dream assignment, and working with her dream recruiter.

How did you get started as a travel nurse?

I had been thinking about starting travel nursing for several years. I did a lot of research before I started — on The Gypsy Nurse and on Facebook. I asked for recommendations for recruiters, and a few travel nurses pointed me to TotalMed. I got in touch with Tim and the rest is history.

Tim has been an awesome recruiter — he is always right on-point, answering questions and concerns I have. My first travel job, they sent me everything I needed to get started. Tim emailed me, called me, and texted me to make sure I was doing okay and to check in to see if I had any questions. I had all the info I needed to start my first assignment.

What do you love about travel nursing?

I like being able to travel. I like going to new places and meeting new people. I also like the extra income I’ve made for me and my family. I can set my own schedule, work whenever I want to,  and not work a set schedule. I can take time off to travel or visit my family whenever I want to.

Right now, I’m in Arizona, and I’ve never been on the West coast before. It’s very warm here and there isn’t any snow! I’m excited to explore this area with my wife. And I really want to travel to Alaska and Hawaii. Those are my dream places and my dream jobs.

I really enjoy not being involved in hospital and employee politics, too. I just go in, do my job, and come home.

What are some of the challenges of being a travel nurse and how do you face them?

One of the biggest challenges is missing people from home and missing my family. It’s also tricky sometimes to make new friends at each assignment.

So, I try to stay busy and always go out and explore the area around where I am. This assignment, my wife was able to come with me, so we go out and explore together. We go hiking, explore the mountains, or just go to the movies and hang out.

To help make friends at the hospital, I just try to be as nice and polite as possible. When I’m kind towards people, they stop seeing me as an outsider more quickly. When I’m open and friendly, my coworkers are open and friendly, too.

Do you have any advice for travel nurses just starting out?

Do your research and talk to as many current travel nurses as you can. Don’t be scared to just do it — you’re never going to know what it’s like until you do it for yourself. Even if you don’t like it — it’s just 13 weeks, then you can go back to your previous positions. But if you do love it, then you can go anywhere.

What do you love about working with TotalMed?

TotalMed has been an excellent experience for me. Tim is fantastic. He’s a very attentive, warm, loving person. My birthday fell in this assignment and he knew we loved to camp and hike and go out in nature. So, not only did he get me a hammock for my birthday, he got one for my wife, too.

Looking for more travel nursing interviews? Check out our entire series.

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