Into the West…

Obviously time has flown by in the great state of Colorado. Jason and I finally made it up to the mountains again! I mentioned how disappointed I was about not getting extended at Colorado Children’s, but what I didn’t reveal (because I wanted to build some suspense) was that the very same day I learned my contract would not be extended, I received my official California Nursing License in the mail. Call it Fate, God or Chance, but that’s a coincidence that cannot be ignored.

A sign

Getting your California Nursing License takes FOREVER. Of course you have to forward your transcripts, but you also have to get fingerprints done on their approved fingerprint cards using their approved abbreviations for eye and hair color. Apparently, BRN and BRO do not mean the same thing in California.

Okay, California, just get over yourself...
Okay, California, just get over yourself…

You have to go through a website that verifies your current nursing license and pay for that verification, along with the processing of the application, and the processing of your fingerprints and background check. Well, suffice to say that, along with everything else in California, it’s expensive. But here is the kicker- the majority of travel nurse needs are there. California is a gold mine for nursing, and there is almost always a need for a pediatric hem/onc nurse, not to mention it has some great children’s hospitals.

I started the process of getting my license back in April of 2015 and completed it in late July. I really didn’t expect to get my license until April of 2016-that is how slow moving the process is. So imagine my surprise when, downtrodden and depressed, I open my mail to find my California nursing license, and the adventure bug strikes again! I immediately forwarded a picture of my license to my recruiter, Aaron, with an overabundance of exclamation points and, as only an amazing recruiter–sorry, agent–can do, he delivered a great job opportunity.

I have heard from both travel nurses and regular hires that Lucile Packard is a wonderful place to work. So, when an opportunity arose to work on their Hem/Onc unit, I jumped at the chance! It also doesn’t hurt that Palo Alto is about 45 minutes away from San Francisco. But as Jason and I prepare for yet another epic trek across the western states, I’ve had some time to reflect on what makes this experience both awesome and difficult.

 

Moving every three months makes you really think about the difference between “want” and “need.” Jason and I both harbour a few packrat mentalities and we come by it honestly. But when you’re moving every three months, and everything needs to fit inside a Ford Fiesta, you get a bit unsentimental. Have you ever done a really thorough spring cleaning? You know that cathartic feeling you get by just getting rid of all that extra crap you don’t need and giving it to someone who does? We get to experience that every three months. It’s pretty rad.

You're welcome, Macklemore...
You’re welcome, Macklemore…

Starting over new every few months has really stretched me professionally. Not just skills-wise but learning the nuances of different policies and procedures. You’d probably think that administering chemotherapy to children is pretty standardized, and in general, things are pretty much the same across the board, but different hospitals actually function quite differently in the details. So I’m learning. A LOT. But the best part is the way that this has stretched me by helping me not sweat the petty stuff. You certainly want to fit in and make friends quickly when you’re starting out, but I’ve noticed that I don’t worry myself with any of the usual workplace drama. In fact, I would argue that three months is the perfect amount of time, because right as you start to get a feel for the workplace drama, you leave.

Having the knowledge that you’re leaving in a few months is so empowering. It’s so much easier to write off a bad day as just that and to move on- for those that know me well, this is a HUGE deal! I don’t let go very easily but since I started traveling, letting go is getting easier. 

batman

That being said, what is NOT easy is letting go of patients. When I hear about patients that I cared for at Duke that pass away, I don’t have my coworkers to help me through. There were so many times (too many times, truth be told) when we would grieve together, sharing funny stories and raising a glass to a patient’s memory. In short, we supported each other through the loss of someone we grew to love when we couldn’t claim the same status as family or friends. When you are on your own, and far enough away that you cannot attend the memorials, you are simply left with an ache in your heart and a profound sense of loneliness in your grief. Sharing memories of these kids with those around you just makes people sad, because they didn’t know them. All they see is the loss of a young child or teenager, which is never an easy thing to stomach. It’s not the best description, but it’s the closest I can come to how I’ve felt as I’ve watched from afar while two patients that I cared for and loved very much were taken from this world. As supportive as Jason is through all of this, there is no way for him to fully relate to how I’m feeling. I have to face the fact that letting go of my patients will never, ever get easier. I sincerely hope it never does.

The other side of letting go of patients is about saying goodbye to the patients and coworkers that I connect with during my three months at each new spot. Let’s face it, there are some people you just instantly hit it off with and patients are no exception. So far, it’s been usually one or two patients that I connect with, and then have to say goodbye to at the end. One of my biggest regrets in Phoenix was not saying goodbye to my favorite patient. I said goodbye to his parents, but I never said goodbye to him. He was young enough that it would have been hard, but old enough that he deserved to know that he probably would never see me again. I think in a lot of ways I was trying to protect myself. Leaving Phoenix Children’s was already hard (just read my tribute here) and I felt like making a big thing out of it with this patient would have made it harder on my heart than I could handle. However, I found the same thing happened here in Colorado. I know that it is going to be hard to say goodbye, even though they know what’s coming (patient included, this time). But, as I said before, this is a part of my job that I don’t want to get easier. I never want to lose that desire to connect with patients and families, even if it makes the goodbye part harder.

So, as I sit here on my throne of cushions, with my laptop propped on a tupperware bin full of kitchen stuff, I am thankful. I’m thankful for the time we’ve had here. I’m thankful for the friends and family that we have been so lucky to spend our free days with. I’m thankful for the patients and coworkers that I have had the chance to get to know. But I’m also thankful for this next step- I’m thankful that I have my California license in my hand and the love of my life at my side. Now it’s time for a 19 hour drive with two cats. 

Let's do this
Preach it, Liz!

So much thanks

 

We’ve been in Colorado for about a month and though I would love to admit that we have spent all of our free time reveling in the beauty of the snow capped mountains, the truth is…well…we haven’t. Admittedly we did get a lot of good hiking in before the weather got cold but I have to hand it to my fellow travel nurse, Julia. She probably goes on a hike every single weekend and on most of her days off. That girl loves these mountains. I love them, too. I just also like to be warm.

Yep...I'm gonna pass on that hike...
Yep…I’m gonna pass on that hike…

The reality is, Julia’s family is back in Georgia and most of our family is here, which, as predicted, has the propensity to eat up a lot of our free time. I say “eat up” in the best possible way- as one might relish a particularly rich piece of chocolate cake. Not to mention, a lot of this free time has circulated around the holidays so obviously family takes precedence at those times. This has been the first day that I haven’t had something planned with friends or family so I am using my time as wisely as I can- to update other friends and family.

Our parents and siblings have been so happy to have us in the same state and they have capitalized on every moment they can. I can’t really tell if this is what life would be like if we lived here, but I really have to hand it to our family, they drive a hard bargain. Here’s just a few examples of the wonderful things we’ve been able to share with our family…

 

Hiking Stanley Canyon, which I haven’t done for at least 9 years and is my absolute favorite hike in Colorado Springs.

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Celebrating my nephew’s birthday for the FIRST TIME,  which happens to be Halloween…which means we had to dress up as Batman villains to go with the costume theme…which also means we got to go trick or treating together.

Because a Batman party isn't complete without TWO Riddlers...
Because a Batman party isn’t complete without TWO Riddlers…

Spending some quality time with my niece who is so cute it hurts. Just try not to fall in love with her. I dare you…    

Ahh! That face! I just can't...
Ahh! That face! I just can’t…

 

Taking my nephew to see The Lion King on stage at The Buell Theatre (birthday present). AMAZING!

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Of course we haven’t been without some quality time with our friends!  We’ve had so much fun with Adam and Jen who are expecting in January, you can tell Adam really enjoys our bonding time:

The sun! It burnses!!
The sun! It burnses!!

I also got the chance to see my roommate from senior year at Gonzaga, whom I have not seen for at least 5 years! She happened to be in town for a conference and we were able to get together at the oh so famous Rio Grande for margaritas and revelry. It was as if no time had past at all and yet life had changed us both so profoundly. I love it when that happens.

Good times..good times
Good times..good times

 I haven’t even mentioned the job! I was lucky enough to be included in the Halloween festivities at the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. Colorado Children’s holds a costume competition every year and apparently it is serious business Check out the pics from our Candyland theme!

One of MANY reasons I love pediatrics...
One of MANY reasons I love pediatrics…

Needless to say, the last month has been busy, but so, so fun. Full of joy, family, friends and GREAT beer. We have so much to be thankful for.