A Travel Nurse’s First Hand Experience Working During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Featured Nurse: Caleb Skyles, RN, BSN, CCRN


Earlier this week we had a chance to speak with one of our own RNs about what it’s like to work during this COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve all heard the horror stories on what it’s like to be a nurse during these tough times: lack of PPE, staffing shortages, and of course a fear of catching and spreading the coronavirus to families and loved ones.

So we are happy to bring your one nurse’s experience, from the front lines.   

Please meet: Caleb Skyles, RN, BSN, CCRN. Here is what he had to say:

What would you like everyone to know about COVID-19, better known as the coronavirus?

Just that it’s extremely contagious and we’re probably underestimating it right now.

I hear a lot of comparisons being made between the coronavirus and the flu, Swine flu (H1N1), the 2003 SARS outbreak, etc. People are essentially saying:  All these other viruses were supposedly supposed to wipe out the entire human population, but I lived, I never even got sick, so why should I care about this one?  I think that the people saying this are forgetting one simple fact:  PEOPLE STILL DIED.

And many of those deaths were from the same populations we are now trying to protect, like the elderly and the immunocompromised. Also, the number of deaths related to previous outbreaks is not a standard or a metric we should use with regard to the coronavirus.

I hear a lot of people saying: but not too many people die from this.  There isn’t a golden number or cutoff where we should say: ok “x” amount of people have now died, time to take this seriously. Rather, let’s address the fact that we have an airborne, seriously contagious, brand new virus, that can be lethal and should be taken seriously. 

I mean, just a week ago (March 26th) there were 81,000+ case and 1,000 deaths reported in the United States, and as of today (April 1) there are currently 207,535 cases and 4,609 deaths. That’s like 3600 deaths IN ONE WEEK.

Ok. So let’s stop right there for a second and take a deep breath. That’s some heavy stuff.

Breath in.

Breath out.

Ok, are you ready? Let’s continue….

What’s scaring you right now?

Honestly, you’d be hard pressed to find a nurse that will disagree with me here: but what scares me the most is the lack of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) It’s frustrating because to the detriment of all hospital workers (especially those on the frontlines: doctors, nurses, anesthesia providers, CNAs, etc.) hospitals all over the country (mine included) are rationing their PPE.  We’ve all seen the stories in the news and on our social media feeds of people all over this country fashioning their own masks from scraps of fabric or re-using masks. 

Equally as frustrating is the delegation of PPE resources by hospital administrators who are not on the front lines and have no idea the impact their decisions make. Having standards and rations set, by those who are not going into at-risk patient rooms has been very frustrating to say the least.

What has impressed you the most in the last few weeks?


Witnessing first-hand, the resiliency of nurses has been amazing. While it’s been frustrating that nurses have been forced to create their own masks in some situations, it’s an absolutely brilliant response, and one of the things I love about nurses. 

Additionally, I follow many large nurse travel boards, and the  response by travel nurses has been crazy. Nurses all over the country are gearing up to work at hospitals that are getting hit hardest by COVID-19.

What do you wish would change?

I hope the biggest change we see, is a response from manufacturers. We essentially need them to divert all of their non-essential orders until they are able to give hospitals adequate supplies.  This will play a huge role in decreasing transmission rates in, and outside, the hospital.

I’d also like to see us come up with a better, faster way to test for COVID-19. The current way of sending off tests to the CDC for verification can take days and wastes high level resources and expenditures.  The way we care for patients in terms of isolation, resources, and time varies greatly for a patient we know has COVID-19 versus one who we are waiting on test results.

What would be your advice for a nurse considering traveling right now?


I would also make sure that you know what will happen in the event you have to quarantine while on assignment. Will you still receive pay from your agency? What will your insurance cover? It’s a very likely scenario that if you have any COVID-19 like symptoms at all, you will likely be required to self quarantine while awaiting test results.  

Whatever your reason: whether it’s you simply want to travel for a big payday or you have a calling to help people during this time of crisis – it’s important to remember that you have to take care of yourself first.


If you’re thinking about travel nursing or have questions about how to get started, contact us today!

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