Report Card: Phoenix

I cannot believe how quickly three months went by. As many of you already know, our next location is Denver, Colorado! Or, more specifically, Aurora (a suburb of Denver). Now, before you start getting your panties in a twist about how Colorado can’t really be considered a “travel” location because I am from Colorado, let me just tell you that there is a huge difference between Denver and Colorado Springs. Jason and I have very little experience…actually NO experience with living in Denver, so we’re still, in a sense, getting to know someplace new. Not to mention being within an hour of both our parents for the first time in over 8 years will be an adventure in its own right. 

Love you, mean it!
Love you, mean it! =)


But the real reasons why I took this next assignment is because it is at Childrens Hospital of Colorado (ranked #9 in US News and World Report for Pediatric Oncology) it’s with their outpatient infusion center AND they aren’t open on weekends or holidays AND we’ll be able to drive home for Christmas. So…needless to say all of that played a huge part in the decision.

In retrospect, Jason and I realized that during this adventure and exploration, I need to come up with a measuring tool- an empirical way to determine the likelihood of living somewhere. After all, one of the main reasons for doing this travel nurse thing is to figure out where we want to settle down. The following categories have all been part of consideration: food, libations, outdoors, transportation and, of course, work. Jason and I tossed around the various ways to grade each category but the easiest seems to be the usual 1-10 scale. Don’t worry, this is nothing like the pain scale. Speaking of the pain scale, if you want a good chuckle you should check out Hyperbole and a Half.

It's a gem
It’s a gem!


I want to make it very clear that my opinion on Phoenix or Arizona says nothing about the people that live there. I actually considered listing people as one of the categories but I realized that, as my brother in law so sagely put, “you are going to meet awesome people everywhere you go”- and so far, he has been 100% right. While living in Phoenix, we met some amazing people, and I was able to reconnect with old friends from elementary, middle, and high school as well as college. Each reunion was a little reminder of how far I’ve come but it also harnessed me to my roots in a very odd, roundabout way. For example, when getting together for the first time in years with a dear friend of mine from high school, we actually got shooshed by an old lady at the cafe for being too boisterous.

Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize our laughter would attract the zombies...
Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize our laughter would attract the zombies…


It was a beautiful reminder of how much fun we always have together and it was great to realize that we can still make each other laugh so loud that we disrupt the little old ladies looking for peace and quiet. So…I am banking on the fact that we will meet and reconnect with people everywhere we go and they will all be just as amazing as they were in Phoenix.

I suppose I should just get on with it because that’s what everyone wants to know, right? The grade?


We really lucked out in our area of Phoenix. Arcadia is a neighborhood known for it’s grub and we were not disappointed. The cafe I mentioned before? The one where Izzy and I were chastised for being overzealous with our laughter? That was Essence Bakery, known for all things French, including amazing macaroons, croissants, and (of course) bread! Taco Tuesday at Los Taquitos offered $1 street tacos filled with all sorts of delectable meat. Gadzooks was like Chipotle but with enchiladas. Federal Pizza did some amazingly crazy, yet delicious, stuff with their pies, and did I mention the complimentary salted caramel cookies at Chelsea’s Kitchen? So…why not give Phoenix a 9 or 10? Because, even though we were impressed with a lot of the restaurants in the area, nothing really “wowed” us in Phoenix. We kept comparing it to Durham…Tastiest Town in the South, and that is a tough act to follow.

Just a few places we miss about Durham...a few
Just a few places we miss about Durham…a few



I realized after listing libations that narrowing it down to Phoenix just isn’t fair. I wouldn’t dream of judging Denver based solely on its breweries when everyone knows the best breweries are in Boulder and Ft. Collins…though Denver has some decent representation as well. So, in all fairness, when judging beer, I have to include the numerous breweries in Flagstaff. We never were able to get up to Jerome, but I hear the vineyards are amazing. I was able to try both a red and white blend from an Arizona Stronghold Vinyard and I was thoroughly impressed, but disappointed that I couldn’t find it in stores. They also have this amazing brewery in our neighborhood (of course) called O.H.S.O. For my NC friends, imagine that Durham and Carborro had a baby and that baby became a brewery/restaurant-complete with outdoor seating, numerous bike racks, and dogs EVERYWHERE. It’s a place where both professional and home brewers can share their brew craft with the masses. It was…beautiful. But, again, the comparisons are always present (that’s what this whole grading thing is about, right?) and I can’t feasibly give Arizona a 10 when we have the ever present beauty of Colorado beer right at our fingertips. In short, Arizona deserves a slow clap for their beer and wine representation.

Well done...well done
Well done…well done



I have to give Arizona a high score because of Havasupai. I’m sorry, but it is just too majestic and amazing and beautiful to ignore. 

Exhibit A
Exhibit A
Exhibit B

And then there’s Fossil Creek


And the Mogollan Rim

IMG_20150917_164713645 IMG_20150917_170405071

And Sedona:

IMG_20150731_084923080 IMG_20150731_075754674_HDR

You can see why the West is so captivating. It’s expansive and wild. When we went to the Mogollan Rim (great tip, Jules!), we actually found seashells embedded in the rock on the top of the giant plateau. Seashells. You know, just a friendly reminder of how small you are in this universe and how young humans are compared with the rest of the world. Yet, Phoenix itself didn’t have a whole lot that really impressed us as far as outdoor opportunities go. Again, not entirely fair as we were there during the hottest time of the year. We could easily get away from the heat by driving an hour or so into the mountains, but for all the boasting of hiking trails just a short distance away, Jason and I were kind of underwhelmed by the hikes in Phoenix proper. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that Phoenix has an immense amount of urban sprawl, and you can’t really get away from it very easily. There is a canal trail that you can run on and ride your bike on but it doesn’t offer a lot of open space because there really isn’t a lot of open space there. The Salt River was SUPER fun, but I think that had a lot to do with the company. (I wish I had pictures of this, Ashley!)

I know this post is getting a little lengthy, and honestly it’s sounding a little whiney, too. So, I’ll try to wrap it up.

Transportation: 3

Phoenix is NOT a bike friendly town, but I think that stems from the fact that most of the people riding bikes were riding on the sidewalk…on the wrong side of the road…without a helmet. Seriously, if you bike stupid, then you’re not making a good case for bike lanes. Just sayin’. 


The bus system was pretty unreliable and a bit inconvenient (buying a multipass ticket required me to drive to a metro station downtown). There is this neat little metro train that goes to a bunch of the urban sprawl places I spoke of but we never used it. I imagine it is quite handy. However, Phoenix is incredibly easy to navigate and because it is on a grid system, the traffic doesn’t seem too bad. In short, not a fan of the available alternative transportation.

Work: 10

PCH was amazing, please see my previous post.


Phoenix Average Score: 7.4

I think this is a perfect summation. We really loved Arizona, but admittedly, Phoenix would not be our first choice. Maybe Flagstaff…if they could open a PCH branch in Flagstaff, we’d be golden!


An Ode to PCH

I'm going to miss this view!
I’m going to miss this view!

I might as well just get the apologies for not writing sooner out in the open now. I am well aware of how long overdue I am in posting but before I do the great reveal of our next location (that most of you already know about) I’d like to take this time to pay my tribute to Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

When I started out on this adventure, I envisioned the difficulties I might endure as a brand new traveler in a job that was outside my comfort zone. At the end of my interview with the manager at PCH, she asked me how I felt about the job and I said, “nervous, but capable.” Couple that with the constant reminders from the travel nursing Facebook pages about how awful it could be and I was, for good reason, apprehensive.

No joke, this is posted in some hospital break rooms (not PCH)! Sure makes you feel welcome!!
No joke, this is posted in some hospital break rooms (not PCH)! Sure makes you feel welcome!!

That’s not to say I really felt like I needed to “belong” but…okay scratch that I did feel the need to belong. It’s ingrained in my psyche. I also felt an insane pressure to prove myself. It was challenging to start out on 7th Floor for a number of reasons- mainly, out of my 4 years of experience, only 2 months of it were spent training on an inpatient floor…as a brand new nurse. I’m sure it was a little nerve racking for my manager as well, knowing how little experience I had before she just tossed me in with two days of orientation.

But none of my challenges at PCH ever had to do with my coworkers, and I cannot fully express how grateful I was to feel like I was part of the team, almost from day one. Lynette, my preceptor, all bubbly energy and optimism, yet clear about expectations and honest with her feedback-perfect, in short. When I asked for an extra day of orientation, just to be safe, she encouraged me by saying she didn’t think I needed it but understood if I wanted a safety net for one more day.

From many conversations before, during and after our shifts on topics ranging from Portland, to Colorado, to the must-see places of Arizona I got to know some amazingly generous and wonderful souls. It is because of the friendliness of the staff that Jason and I were able to experience this little gem:

Why hello, you beautiful world...
Why hello, you beautiful world…

After a rough day, my coworker opened my eyes to the best taco salad. Ever.

Cafe Rio, where have you been all my life??
Cafe Rio, where have you been all my life??

I also enjoyed a few dance parties and maybe I even rode the toy cars around the unit with a few other nurses. Maybe.

This is the real reason why we are in pediatrics
This is the real reason why we are in pediatrics

In my second to last week I had an emergency situation with my patient that required a “Clinical Assessment Team” otherwise known as a Rapid Response Team. This gathers doctors, residents, nurses, respiratory therapists all in the patients room…rapidly. The idea is that you call this before the patient needs CPR. My patient wasn’t in horrible shape, but I wanted more eyes in the room to assess the situation and I wanted them yesterday. There are a lot of things that go through your head when you have to make this judgement call and almost first and foremost is, “what could I have done to prevent this?” Obviously it’s better to call a rapid response rather than waiting until the situation is more serious but even then, I would argue that it is in the nature of most RNs to question almost every decision they make. I was no exception.

I bring this up because it is a prime example of why 7th Floor is so amazing. Almost every single one of my coworkers, including one of my charge nurses, supported me through this. There was never any judgement about the situation, even though there could have been. There was nothing but endless encouragement that I made the right choice. Through the rapid response, there were nurses covering my other patients, nurses hanging around the door waiting to help if needed. Afterward, I was constantly being asked if I was okay and if I needed anything. The amount of support and reassurance was so….nice. I’m not saying it was any different than what I would have had at Duke, but it was so wonderful that I was able to experience that kind of support at multiple hospitals.

I guess the point I’m trying to get at is this- I know how bad it could have been. I have seen pictures and heard stories of travel nurses walking into very hostile environments. I can’t imagine how long those three months would feel if that had been the case. As it was, I landed in one of the most welcoming, helpful and brilliant floors at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. I learned so much from so many nurses and had a great time in the process. I felt free to vent if needed, I felt safe admitting when I was outside my comfort zone and I felt comfortable enough to open up and be me, in all my weird, awkward glory.

I didn’t feel like an outsider, and that is all any travel nurse could ask for.



And so it begins…

Phoenix, Arizona. Land of ten thousand suns. Land of blistering, unyielding heat. Home to scorpions, tarantulas, rattlesnakes and all manner of creatures that thrive at ungodly temperatures. At least, that’s what I imagined. I intended to start the blogging process sooner, to discuss the path that lead to travel and, ultimately, Phoenix, but seeing as I failed to do so, I’ll have to do this Tarantino style. Here is what we have learned about Phoenix in 24 hours:

1) There isn’t a big difference between a hot day here and a hot day in North Carolina. Both locations boast a sweltering midday summer heat that sends you running and crying for the next air conditioned facility. In both locations, Tobi insists on going outside to explore and doesn’t seem the least bit hindered by the ridiculous temperature. I also still consider anyone exercising outside midday to be insane in both locations, and yet I see people doing it all the time.

Running was a bad choice
Running was a bad choice

2) Phoenicians are proud of their city. No joke, we already have a laundry list of things to do in Phoenix from both the bartender at the Mejicos (no joke, that is really how it is spelled) and the lady at the membership counter of CostCo. From tubing down the Salt River to microbrews at Ohso’s to First Fridays (!! like Raleigh!!)- I was struggling just to write it all down so I wouldn’t forget.

Slow down, Professor!
Slow down, Professor!

3) They take their tequila VERY seriously. Upon entering CostCo, we saw a large display of various types of tequila, most of it 100% Agave, much of it higher end. Chris, the bartender at Mejicos, concocted our margaritas from tequila, agave nectar and freshly squeezed lime juice. Perfection. He even told me where to find the best agave nectar for mixing margaritas. Chris is a pretty stand up guy.

Give or take the cuantro
Give or take the cuantro

4) Phoenix gets rain in the summer! I am aware of the monsoon season, but I didn’t expect a drop of moisture until then. A pleasant surprise to get caught in a sprinkle of rain on our walk back from the coffee shop. It was too small to be called a shower, but the smell? Incredible. All this in the same day as a haboob. Seriously, I just got a warning on my phone to avoid travel until 8pm. Don’t worry, I won’t be leaving my air conditioned apartment unless forced to do so.

Yep, that looks like a big old pile of nope. Not going outside.
Yep, that looks like a big old pile of nope. Not going outside.

5) I miss North Carolina and all the people in it terribly. Initially, our move out to Colorado just felt like vacation, and the finality of leaving North Carolina didn’t truly set in until we arrived in Phoenix. Since then, my heart literally aches for my dear friends and coworkers back in NC. But in remembering all these wonderful people we know, it has also sparked excitement at the new friendships on the horizon. Probably with Chris.