Aaron Scully, RN: The future of travel nursing and what it takes to be a great travel nurse.

Nurse Spotlight: Aaron Scully, RN


This week we spoke with Aaron Scully an ER/ICU, RN about his experience with traveling over the last several years and what has changed since COVID-19 hit.

Here’s what he had to say:


I’ve been a nurse for 13 years, travelling for about half that time and am trained in ER and ICU. I started traveling at the beginning of 2013 doing mostly local contracts to be closer to my family. I did staff nursing in the past – but to be honest with you, I get paid a whole heck of a lot more to travel and do the exact same job. I’m also an active member of the Air National Guard (aka: the Air Force) and I do mostly critical care transport with them (which means I’m in the back of a plane) and we do a lot of training to stay up to date on medical procedures, especially since the coronavirus outbreak happened. We were tasked and trained to maintain coronavirus patients in the air and learn how to treat these patients in the back of a plane. This task force has since dissolved, but we’re still constantly training and doing exercises to keep ourselves relevant and aware, especially in light of this new virus.

What’s the job market been like for you, lately?


Because I do ICU an opportunity came up to get an assignment due to the fact that the coronavirus had hit a peak and I ended up getting a contract for that. The hospital I was working for then asked me to extend, which I did. I know that myself and other agency nurses at the facility I work at, get a pretty healthy amount of hours, and we do often work overtime just for the simple fact that there aren’t really enough nurses on staff.

What’s the PPE situation? Do you feel safe? Do feel taken care of?


Yes. Coronavirus has been an ever-evolving thing and when it all first started there was a lot of unknowns. So there was a lot of precautions, and I wouldn’t want to say “too much” because of at the time we weren’t really sure how the virus was transmitted. At the location I was working at, we had a substantial amount of PPE and were essentially dressed from head to toe in protective wear. This looked like wearing a mask over another mask to a full gown to more than one pair of gloves. Once we learned how the virus transmitted the PPE was been toned down a bit to just wearing an N95 with a level one mask over that, goggles and throw-away gowns and gloves. It’s a lot less essentially because there is a lot less fear since we have a better understanding of the virus and how it’s transmitted.

How are you feeling about travel nursing these days?



The last few years have been a bit tougher trying to maintain a balance between working and spending time with my family. Travel nursing really works best when you’re free and able to take all those lucrative travel jobs across the country and are able to fill the need wherever that need might be. Problems start to occur when the market you’re living in has a lower need for travelers, and there are less opportunities. Especially f you’re not willing to move beyond that specific geographic area. In my local area, Missouri, I have seen less assignments popup as hospitals around here haven’t been hiring as many travelers as they have in the past.

What do think about the future of travel?


If I could predict the future? I mean, obviously, we don’t know if there’s going to be an uptick in coronavirus cases coming this Fall or Winter – you know, that sort of whole “unknown” thing. But if there is indeed an uptick in cases (or any other illness cases) that’s where you’re going to see a huge need for travel nurses.


Most of us are highly trained individuals who are skilled at working at places we’ve never worked at before. The biggest thing with being a travel nurses is not necessarily knowing how to be a nurse, we all know that, but how to handle logistics. What I mean by that is knowing how to easily and successfully figure out where equipment is, knowing the various types of computer software used for charting, knowing (and being comfortable with) how to successfully locate the ER, the ICU, the emergency room entrance, etc. My patient care doesn’t necessarily change no matter where I’ve gone. I’ve travelled in 3 different states and overseas with the military, so patient care is sort of the standard (if you will) and the “logistics” is “with what equipment”.

Any advice for future nurse travelers?


Oh, yes. I actually give this advice fairly often to anyone considering traveling.

You need to be competent, which comes with doing. You also need to be confident in your ability to provide care. If you’re an ER nurse, for instance, be very good at being an ER nurse before you start traveling. Know exactly how to be an ER nurse BEFORE you start traveling as an ER nurse.

I would never recommend a nurse fresh out of nursing school jump straight into traveling. It’s a terrible idea. You’d basically be doing everyone a disservice by going straight from school, into traveling. While nursing school does teach you the ins-and-outs of medicine it doesn't really prepare you for the realities of taking care of a real life patient. It's better to get a couple years underneath you to become more fully equipped for patient care before traveling. With experience, you'll get those critical thinking skills you need to be the best nurse possible. And actually, what most people don’t know – is most hospitals require you to have at least 2-years of experience before they’ll consider you for a travel assignment. And 2-years is a good amount of time to really solidify yourself in your skillset.

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