Getting to the heart of travel healthcare.

A podcast hosted by Sunny & Matt

Podcast Transcript


Respiratory therapist Bev Berger joins the podcast to share tools of the trade for healthcare professionals taking their first assignment and wise advice for all travelers.

You've Landed Your First Assignment. What's Next?

October 30, 2019


Voice Over: Welcome to CARDIUM from Aureus Medical, the podcast that gets to the heart of travel healthcare and asks what's your why? With each episode we explore the topics and issues that impact healthcare professionals in the fields of nursing and allied health. Now here are your hosts, Sunny and Matt.

Matt: Welcome to CARDIUM. Thank you for listening. And if you're new to the podcast, be sure to subscribe so you can continue to receive future episodes. I am Matt Neel and my cohost is Sunny Snook. Welcome Sunny.

Sunny: Hello.

Matt: How are you today?

Sunny: I'm great, thank you.

Matt: Good. Sunny, do you remember your first job?

Sunny: I do. Well, I had two first jobs. It depends if you want to say my real one or the one where every girl my age at that time gets, which is nannying. But my first real paying job was, I don't know if I can say it, Micky D's, and I had to...

Matt: Micky D's. I think I got you beat there, but how was that first few days? First week at Mickey D's?

Sunny: It was good. Well, I was a military brat, so I worked at the Lake of the Ozarks. And so I had to get on a bus at 6 a.m. and leave the military base and ride the bus every day, Monday through Friday, and come back home at 6:30 p.m. every day. So 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and it was good, but it was hard work. But I also was a nanny, Monday through Friday, prior to that when I was 14, she was a single parent, full time army, so I did the 2:30 a.m. feedings. I was a live-in nanny for the summer.

Matt: Wow.

Sunny: I mean, just hardcore.

Matt: Busy lady.

Sunny: Yeah. So yeah, that was prior to... But I remember it was hard because you're lost and you're confused and you get the jitters. Is everyone going to like me? Am I going to remember all this?

Matt: Without a doubt.

Sunny: Yeah. It was nerve wracking.

Matt: For sure.

Sunny: What was yours?

Matt: Chuck E. Cheese. Yeah, no doubt. Chuck E. Cheese, washing dishes. And my first week was terrible. I was scared out of my mind. I was 14 years old and wondering what the heck I got myself into. No matter the money. All these strangers and I had this responsibility and yeah, it was scary. Scary first week, but it taught me a lot. Taught me to ask questions before I took a job, what was going to be involved, all that kind of stuff. It was a big deal.

Sunny: All these forms you had to fill out. All that stuff.

Matt: Yeah it was. There was a lot.

Sunny: It was nuts.

Matt: There was a lot there but it was just like any first job. It was a lot of unknowns.

Sunny: Like taxes. You got introduced to all these things.

Matt: Without a doubt.

Sunny: Yeah. Well here at CARDIUM we like to get to the heart of topics relevant to the travel healthcare community and this episode really hits home with what we care about in travel because it's that, "Oh, now what?" moment once you accept an assignment. We've all been there and that certainly what we do need to know here in travel and our guest today is Bev Berger who is well versed in travel for sure, to say the least. She is amazing. Bev Berger is a longtime respiratory therapist of 26 years who has traveled from more than 12. Her resume is vast and extensive as she's completed over 30 assignments including several that have been extended for nearly a year. She took her first assignment in 2007 in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Bev began her career in healthcare in 1976 as an LPN and transitioned to respiratory therapy in 1993. She has worked as a staff therapist, a director and manager, and was involved in starting a sleep lab for a hospital's respiratory department. Wow. Bev, you've just in a lot. Bev's broad based skills and knowledge are matched by her strength as a patient and family advocate. She's compassionate, a listener and shows others that they are valued and respected. She believes every patient should be cared for as if they were her family. Bev, thank you so much for joining us here at CARDIUM.

Matt: Welcome Bev.

Bev: Welcome to you guys. Thank you for having me, it's going to be an honor and I'm very humbled you even picked me.

Matt: Well. Yeah. Well you've done a lot. I guess our first question is, Bev, what have you not done? Just kidding. You've done a lot lady. Thirty years in the healthcare industry.

Bev: Correct. I've seen a lot. Been to a lot of places seen the good, seen the bad.

Matt: You have, as we were talking today before we brought you on board, Sunny and I were talking about our first jobs. Which, that brings a lot of butterflies into the stomach there. But can you remember and tell us what it felt like to take your first travel assignment and what were your initial thoughts and feelings as you accepted first travel assignment there?

Bev: I was scared. I went down to Terre Haute, Indiana and went in and said, "Welcome, I'm the new traveler." And the first guy said to me, "So what's your background story? Can't you get a job anywhere or did you get kicked out?" I said, no, I just came to travel. I love to travel. And he goes, “Yeah, travelers, we don't like them.” Wow. So I said, "Okay, I'm here to help you. Show me the ropes and I'll try to do my best." I enjoyed that rotation immensely. We had a blast.

Sunny: So you won them over?

Bev: Yes, I did. I brought a whole lot of home cooking and so the second time I went there they just threw money on the table and said, "You don't have to work, just go start cooking." So...

Matt: You must have done something right there Bev.

Bev: I did. I guess I did. I still am friends with several of them on Facebook, so...

Matt: So I know that Terra Haute was a while ago. You've done a lot of assignments, but backing up before you got there and the gentleman said he didn't like travelers. What were your initial thoughts when you were speaking with the recruiter and they said, this is the offer that you have and this is where we'd like you to go. What was going through your mind? Did you call family? Did you call friends? Did you just think it over? Was there a little bit of a hesitation of, “Boy, do I really want to do this?”

Bev: Well, I came from a small town hospital and it was going through a transition in management and that's all I'll say. And I decided I didn't want to stay there because it wasn't family friendly anymore. Even though it was very family friendly when my family was going through the cancer treatments. And so I thought, I'm just going to go see the world and travel and do what my late husband and I decided, we're going to go travel. And it became sooner than later of reality. And that I was like, I wanted to see the world and experience different things. And so I packed up and away I went and no regrets since. I've seen United States north and south, east and west and would have never seen it if I had stayed put.

Matt: Yeah, that's just such a start of an adventure and that's a big step in your career too. And that's not a normal thing in many people's careers, that's not a normal thing to start traveling right away. So, pretty exciting stuff. And I'm sure that there were a lot of butterflies, but a lot of excited anticipation too.

Bev: Yes, it was. And I flew to the first place and soon realized I needed a car because I like to research the places that I go to and find the adventures close by. So I make a list of what I want to do and then make a list of my working days and days off. So I can fit them in and get them done before I leave. And so of course I needed a car. So I flew back home, got a car, and realized I could do more personal stuff with my car. So...

Sunny: And that's a good point because what do you do to prepare for an assignment? So when you know you have an assignment, what's your getting ready? What's your go to? How do you get ready?

Bev: My get ready is I look at the seasons of when I'm going to go. If I'm going in the winter then of course I take winter, spring clothes. Of course there's shopping all around. And then vice versa, summer, fall. And research the areas that you're in. Making sure that you're in a safe neighborhood because sometimes even a 4.2 star shopping center is really not a 4.2 shopping center. You drive into the area and realize don't get out of the car. So what I take personally is, some people just take a suitcase and the clothes and where they go, I like to make my home where I'm at. A little personal. I take pictures of family and a few knickknacks and sometimes I get a little bit carried away and I also take my own personal pots and pans because I like to bake and so therefore if I have the stuff I need and have it downsized to what I want, what I don't want and where everything goes in my car. And pack it up and go. I eliminated a few things.

Sunny: Okay. Bev, those are all great tips. Let's look at the people side too. You're going into a new environment every time and sometimes you have to maybe reset yourself. Okay I'm getting to know new people, a new environment. Is there something that you'll do to prep yourself before you go into meeting new staff members? Or what do you tell yourself then?

Bev: I've always told myself, coming from rural North Dakota. Growing up, it was not very cultural diversified. So as a traveler you have to be open minded to other cultures, other peoples’ opinions. Respect their beliefs. It may not be your beliefs and they may not be your political beliefs and et cetera, but you have to be open-minded and flexible. I had somebody ask me one time, I can't be flexible. Well then you really can't be a traveler because you're walking into a new area, new people, be friendly, be polite and just be very open-minded.

Matt: Those are great points. That sounds like the research part of your preparation is not only the mechanics of how am I going to get there and do I need a car? But really what cultural of it will I be walking into? I need to be mentally set and prepared to make sure that I can fit in well. And I think you opened up a little bit with that your first assignment, you weren't received extremely warmly. But you've done 30 assignments and you've probably gone back to a few. Can you tell us now that with your first experience and 30 assignments. What do you do to break the ice? Your first day, you're out of orientation or out of that paperwork phase of human resources. You're welcomed to the department with open arms. How do you break the ice Bev? You've done this lots.

Bev: I just walk in, be prepared to work right away. Arrive in your scrubs, arrive with a stethoscope, arrive with an open mind. They're going to follow the policies of that institution. They may not agree with what your policies are, but that's their rules and regulations of their institution. Always walk in with a friendly, "Hi, I'm Bev, I'm your new traveler. Glad to be here. How can I help you and assist you?" And you can tell by the facial experiences if you're going to be liked if you're not, and I just try to keep an open mind. I don't demand things. When they talk about a schedule, I just say, I am here to help you. So how may I help you? Yes. There may be some requests that I have off for vacations or something or, I'm here to help you. So they're usually like, wow, that's different. Usually people walk in with the set, I want this and this and this off. No, we're there to help them.

Matt: Yeah, it sounds like the open arms and really realizing that the need. If you're called in as a traveler, you're there for a reason. They need you for a reason and probably the other way to break the ice besides, and you're really good at it apparently, is baked goods. So that's...

Bev: We talk about being from North Dakota, there's a soup that's called knoephla.

Sunny: What's that?

Bev: So not a lot of people know what knoephla is and so they have nicknames for it and so I've been requested to bring that soup, they always say. That North Dakota soup. So it's like okay, they got all sorts of words for it. I won't tell you.

Sunny: Now I'm curious. Well, being a part of a team, especially when you're there for at least a minimum 13 weeks, right? You can really get involved with politics or get involved with the going on with team happenings we'll say. What are maybe some of the pitfalls of being too involved with the team dynamics, let's say?

Bev: When you walk in, there's always the dynamics of management staff don't think the management does enough for them, appreciates them, demands too much of them and they demand of management. And I always say, "What do you think management can do to satisfy or meet your needs? And how can you help the manager to satisfy and meet the needs?" And so they're like, "Oh, I never thought of it that way." And when I'm asked different questions, I always say, "It's not my monkey cage, or it's not my circus. I'm not going to get involved. I can listen to you and gather an opinion from the outside, but I'm not going to get involved in your politics." And when people start talking politics, I always say I don't share politics at work. Religious and politics do not involve in healthcare. You just have to respect their wishes and respect mine.

Sunny: That's awesome. And that's a good point. Because it can get a little sticky when you do.

Bev: Oh yes.

Sunny: Yeah. And that's a really good tip for everyone. So you had mentioned earlier some tips about canvasing the area when you first take an assignment. What are some really good tips on how do you canvas an area when you take an assignment?

Bev: I research the TripAdvisor, what to do, what not to do. The highlights of the city. Museums and beaches and zoos. I love to go to the zoos. I love to support zoos, because it takes a lot of money and stuff to do it. So I just enjoy the walk and the animals and just research it and just go from there and make sure you watch your surroundings because you can end up in the cities, different cities, a bad neighborhood within a very short time. And Garmin is my best friend.

Sunny: Okay. Are there special websites or favorite websites you like to go to, to research?

Bev: Just TripAdvisor or I type in that city and what to do in that city and usually they all have top 10 or 20 things to do and that has stars. And you just researched those places. And then you ask the employees where they're at. What are the fun things to do here? What are the highlights of your city? And three fourths of them, which is sad, is there's nothing to do here. We don't accept, in our own city, the highlights and the parks and everything until somebody asks you.

Matt: Yeah. Sometimes when you're living in that area, it's hard to recall all the things that would be interesting to someone who is visiting. So it's good that you reach out to your team, your new temporary team, to ask for advice. It sounds like you've got this pretty down pat there, Bev.

Bev: I try.

Matt: Yeah, there's a lot to be said about 30 assignments and I think our subscribers, and the listeners out there, would just love to know little tips out there that maybe that wouldn't be pointed out by their recruiter. That someone with 30 assignments on their resume would say, okay, you for sure got to do this. Either when you're looking at assignments or while you're on assignment. What are some, maybe you can list off a few tips of the trade that maybe not be very common?

Bev: Well, I find a lot of new travelers want the big picture of the dollars. They want the dollar. How can I make the best money, the most money? To me, yes, of course money pays your bills and et cetera, but it's the adventure. It's the adventure of what to do. Things you see by not being at home. I wouldn't have seen certain places. I wouldn't have done this. Money is great, but it doesn't solve everything. And so again, it's just saying, how can I make the most money? The best rewarded in a rotation is the friends you make, the people that you meet. And they're rewarding. I always wonder why I'm at a certain place, in time I leave there I figure out why I've been there.

You had to touch somebody's life somewhere. And so make a difference. And with a lot of cancer in my background, I somehow ended up with a couple of cancer patients and families that I've been able to walk them through some of their fears and their grief and to look at things. And so yeah, I might have been not been dealt a deck of cards on life, having to go through some tragedy. But I respect the little things in life and not the big dollar signs and not the big rewards. It's the little rewards, the friendships, absolutely.

Sunny: Figuring out why you were led down that path, right?

Bev: Yes, exactly. Many days I'm like, "Oh my God, why was I here?" I figure it out within three hours to an hour, like "Oh my God, I get 13 weeks left in this place, but there's a reason I'm there, again." So yeah. And to be open minded, to go back to be open minded, not make demands, be polite. Sometimes we get three hours of orientation, sometimes hardly any, or sometimes a week or two. So you have to be on the get go of being an overall roundabout flexible therapist. You can't-

Matt: Yeah that flexibility is key.

Bev: Yes. And so when people want to start one to two years out of being a respiratory therapist to travel, it's a very disservice to yourself. Not only to the place that you're going, but a disservice to yourself because you're not overly exposed to everything. You are either sometimes the only therapist in a small hospital and you have to be Jack of all trades and be able to prioritize the patients that come into you and how to deal with the ones that still need help. But you have an emergency, you've got to trauma, you have to deal with them.

So just because you have worked in ICU for X number of years and you've worked on fancy new ventilators, these small hospitals don't have those. They don't have graphs to tell you what's wrong. You have to have the theory and the knowledge behind troubleshooting. Or the small hospitals. Where I'm at now they have an external DME, it's like a home patient care system and they have ventilator patients out in their communities. So you have to go out and troubleshoot and help them understand their ventilator even though, because you're right there. You're in the community and they're looking to you for help and answers. And so that's to be an overall around about therapist. Usually five years of experiences about your say, okay, I'm ready.

Sunny: I think that's where you talked about, throughout this podcast episode, research and just really knowing your homework before you're getting into an assignment really comes into play. Because I think often times we'll hear when someone takes an assignment and then they start it in there in that really like, "Oh my gosh, I can't believe this is not what I thought it was going to be" moment comes into play. And then they want to backpedal a little bit and then you have to bring them down.

And that can be a scary thing on both sides of it. Whether you're the hospital that's like, "What are we going to do?" Whether you're the traveler and really whether you're the recruiter that's involved in it, I'm sure. And so, speaking to that, it's if you do your research, if you really know your trade, right. But also that's where you got to dig deep into your people skills as well too and remember why you're there, one. But also two, dig into your people skills and use your communication and relate-ability skills to get you through it because 13 weeks, you can.

Bev: You can. And find out what you can do. If you're in a small hospital rotation, you can be more outpatient than inpatient and be mindful of your phone, stay off your phone. Some places you can be fired for being on your phone and avoid searching the internet and the web, respect their firewalls on their computers. And stay out of the patient's charts that you're not supposed to be into because even though you're in a small place, it's a violation. So those things are really key.

Matt: Yeah, without a doubt. Well, Bev, I'm going to let Sonny asked the big question, but I've got one more question for you. What are your plans? Travel as long as you have? What are you thinking about from here on out? Continue to travel and eventually retire in full and make traveling the last of your career? Or what's your thought?

Bev: I always told my family, I travel to travel. I'm going to travel until I fall over and die. But I don't know, maybe. I was going to think about retiring soon, but probably not. I still have places to go and things to do and things to see. So as long as God wills, I will pack up the CRV and away I go and come back again. And I have two grandsons here, a 18-month-old and a 10-year-old. And so they're important but also they can really take to grandma when she comes home more often because I do spoil them. I find them things to do or I fly them to me. But yeah, I'm not sure. I'm at that age where I have to start thinking about, geez, I'm not as young as I used to be.

Matt: Yeah. With that. Without a doubt. I know you joke about retiring or traveling until you die and traveling obviously is in your blood. You're passionate about it. You've done a heck of a job at it. And 30 assignments is no small feat. So good for you. I hope you continue to travel.

Bev: Been in healthcare for 30 years.

Matt: Yeah. Healthcare for 30 years and 30 assignments. That's pretty impressive. So I hope you continue to do what you want to do with your career, Bev. It's pretty awesome. And again, I know I keep asking questions. I think maybe it would be important for a first time traveler to know when do you start looking, you're on your first assignment, you broke the ice, you're in really good with the team. You're being an advocate for the patients and the families. At what point during a 12 or 13 week assignment do you start looking for your next assignment with your recruiter?

Bev: If you realize the hospital has slowed down, sometimes it is very busy and it starts slowing down. You're trying to know that they're not going to probably be renewing you. Not because they don't like you or sometimes because they don't like you because you're sitting around and not doing your job. And so I start looking and I research the places to go and I make a choice. Do I want to stay here? Are there more things for me to do? On several assignments that I was at there was a lot to do over the summers. So I'm like, okay, I hope they extend me. And so take a look at the hospital and if you're really not happy, you start looking right away.

Matt: Yeah. So, if everything is great, you like them, they like you, you're covering a medical leave. Let's say. Are you looking about halfway through, you think? You're talking to your recruiter.

Bev: About half way through.

Matt: You think?

Bev: And some of the managers will say, "Are you interested in staying?" And it's like, "Yes I am." "Okay. So then we'll, we're going to talk to your recruiter." So then you know that you're in with the group if they're asking you to stay, they like you. So...

Matt: Right. And then you're looking if they might like you, but they just don't have the need to continue the assignment. And so then you're looking halfway through and you're openly having a conversation with your recruiter back in base. Right?

Bev: Right. And that's very important no matter what company you're with, have an open mind with your recruiter. There's different travel blogs on their Facebook and they are bashing company after recruiter after company. And it's like, be open minded. The recruiters have a lot of people to deal with too. And a good recruiter will keep you in mind, et cetera. But be open and honest with them. Don't play company from company. And it's not always, like I say, about the money. It's about the adventure and the journey that you're on. It's what it is. So...

Matt: Love it.

Sunny: Yep. Thank you so much for your honesty and also your wisdom to you along the way and the tips. I'm sure everyone who's listening is going to enjoy that and learn something from it. And we're coming to my favorite part, I don't know what's Matt's but...

Matt: Oh it's mine too, I love this part.

Sunny: That's what I thought. But I wasn't sure. I wasn't going to speak for you. But this is definitely our favorite part. And this is the core of what we do here at CARDIUM. But it's where we talk about, we ask you what's your why. And this is where we ask you what's the purpose behind what you do. And so the big moment, what's your why?

Bev: My why is...why do I do what I do? Why am I put here to do what I'm doing? I want to make a difference in somebody's life. Now you're going to make me teary eyed. If I can make a small difference in somebody's life that's going through a difficult time. That's my why. Why was I put there? To make a difference and to be that difference. So, sorry.

Matt: No, don't be sorry Bev. That's a great why. And you've had 30 assignments in 30 years to make that difference. There's people out there. You've made a positive impact without a doubt.

Bev: I hope so.

Matt: You have.

Sunny: And I think you've probably made a lot of difference not only with the patients and the people you've worked with, but also the family members that you've touched and advocate for as well.

Bev: I try to be an advocate.

Sunny: I don't think you try, I think you do. Just from the moment that we've-

Bev: I always say that's my positive and that's my negative. Okay. I use my positive and my negative. I'm a patient advocate. I'll stick up for whatever's right and I will fight for my patients.

Sunny: You've got the best energy, you do. It's just jumps out of you.

Bev: I've had people say, "Why are you so happy all the time?" Well, why should I bring my sadness to anybody? So put a smile on your face and make the best of it. Today's positive.

Sunny: Thank you so much and thanks so much for joining us today. We really appreciate it.

Matt: Yes, thank you Bev.

Bev: Well, thanks for having me. It's been an honor.

Matt: Well, that's going to wrap up today's podcast. We'd love to hear from you, so please drop us a review. Let us know your thoughts on today's topic or anything else you'd like to discuss.

Voice Over: You've been listening to CARDIUM from Aureus medical with your hosts, Sonny and Matt. We're the podcast that gets to the heart of travel healthcare. To subscribe, access show notes, or to learn more, visit C-A-R-D-I-U-M Or wherever you're listening, be sure to rate us, review and subscribe. Thanks for tuning in. Until next time.

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