Travel Nurse Recap: Albuquerque

Presbyterian Rust Medical Center
in Rio Rancho, New Mexico

The details: 6-8 bed general ICU in a 151-bed hospital in the suburbs of Albuquerque. Floated to Adult ICU and Cardiac Critical Care units at Presbyterian main hospital. Epic used as EMR. On assignment August to October 2016.

First shift at Rust

The hospital (pros): 

  • The hospital itself was a nice facility. There was construction going on in different units of the hospital at the time for further improvements, but I really enjoyed the equipment used while working there.
  • There were a lot of travelers, both on ICU and their PCU, so I’d say they were traveler friendly.
  • Although I never really hung out with my coworkers outside of work, they were all very friendly and helpful. I still keep in touch with a few of them via Facebook.
  • Epic charting is amazing. It was super easy to pick up and very intuitive.
  • The longer into the assignment I got, the more I got to know the hospitalists, and there were a handful that were always very helpful. They would listen to my concerns and talk me through the treatment plan, helped educate me about patient conditions I have never encountered before, and were generally fairly easy-going.
  • I actually didn’t mind the patient population. I heard a lot of other nurses complain that they’re all “drunk Indians in liver failure” — which, well, I won’t lie, was the case for a majority of the patients. However, I didn’t mind because I feel that this unit had some of the quickest turnaround times I’ve seen. Patient didn’t sit around for weeks or months, they came in and either their problems were solved and they went home, or they got transferred out.
  • Some may see this as a con, but I was floated what seemed like almost once a week during the first half of my contract, mainly to the CCC. I LOVED working in the CCC and it was a shorter commute, so I actually didn’t mind floating down there at all. The nurses on CCC were all extremely smart, and they run some of the SMOOTHEST codes I’ve ever been a part of. I have never worked in a cardiac ICU before, so I was exposed to different patients and fell in love with cardiology in general.
After my very last shift at Rust

The hospital (cons): 

  • As an ICU nurse accustomed to working at a teaching hospital, not having an intensivist on site created a lot of barriers for me. I’ve found hospitalists tend to want to medically manage patients, but sometimes lines need to be placed and people need to be intubated. I once had a patient come up from the OR absolutely critically ill, with 3 different pressors running in addition to blood… all together in ONE SINGLE LUMEN CENTRAL LINE. You aren’t even supposed to run blood with ANYTHING else! I was adamant that this patient needed more access, and the hospitalist eventually started a second central line, but an intensivist would have most likely started it immediately without me having to DEMAND it. Another situation, I had a DKA patient with critically low potassium, needing IV K replacement, and thus needed a central line. The patient was admitted on day shift, but a line didn’t get placed until almost 8 or 9pm. The downtown intensivist kept calling with instructions of how much electrolytes to replace, what rate to run it at, what to Y-site together, and we had to keep telling her the patient didn’t even have access yet. Luckily (or annoying-ly to others, I’m sure), I can be pretty upfront (read:  bitchy) about what I need for my patient. Other nurses may have issues bringing things to the doctors’ attention.
  • Another con is that, although all the nurses I worked with were extremely smart and more than competent, working in an ICU with only 3 nurses available is ROUGH. During a code, it’s all hands on deck, and just hope nothing else is going wrong with the other 5-7 patients on the unit.
  • Scheduling. I was basically just plugged in (after the staff and PRN nurses had put in their requests) and the manager would send me the nights I was scheduled. It was slightly annoying to just have my schedule given to me, but when I had any requests to switch (such as when I needed the weekend my contract ended off so I could pack up and get moving back home), she was extremely reasonable and I was able to switch without any issues.
  • Tripling. I was previously unaware that being tripled in the ICU was even an OPTION. I was first tripled while floating to the CCC, I had all un-intubated patients, one had floor orders and was basically set to be discharged in the morning, and I don’t even think two of them had drips going on. That night wasn’t that bad. On my home unit at Rust, I once got tripled with (1) an intubated patient who was extremely restless, the doctors were still trying to figure out the right sedation/analgesic mix for her, and she was so restless eventually she dislodged her chest tube, (2) a patient who came in a few days prior with critical renal failure and respiratory failure, who had just gotten extubated that day, and (3) a NEW ADMIT in newly diagnosed DKA. I felt horrible after that shift as a nurse. I was so busy with my new DKA patient, getting electrolytes replaced and figured out, talking to the patient in general, starting the insulin drip, figuring out what exactly happened down in the ER, doing q 1 hour blood sugar checks, that I hardly checked on my freshly-extubated patient, and just kept my intubated patient a little too-sedated all night. It. Sucked. I handled being tripled when I had not-intubated patients, and one who wasn’t even an ICU patient, but being tripled with all ACTUAL ICU patients… Never. Again. Learned my lesson.
  • At Rust, the cafeteria was not open at night. Meaning I ate a lot of Domino’s and general fast food whenever I worked.
Cool art statues at the park right behind the apartments

The housing: The Roxbury off Carlisle in Albuquerque

  • I took the stipend and found this housing via Airbnb. I think the apartment was actually bigger than the very first apartment I ever lived in on my own.
  • Everything was included (utilities, cable, internet, water, etc). There were pots and pans, towels and linen, Wifi, DirectTV, even water bottles and hot chocolate. Laundry facilities were on property (and free!!), and there was a nice gravel space in the back for dogs, as well as some outdoor seating for just general enjoyment.
  • The owner, Carol, was constantly a presence on the property, which I really enjoyed. She was always just a text message away for issues I had like air vents leaking or smoke detectors going off. She even helped drive me to the vet when my dog got hit by a car right outside the apartments.
  • The neighbors were all very friendly and looked out for each other. There’s a great park (and neighborhood) only a few blocks behind the property. It seems a little sketchy driving up, and it is right off a busy commercial street, but I had no issues with daytime sleeping or safety. Groceries stores were almost within walking distance, it’s right off the major highways in Albuquerque, and it only took about 15 minutes to get literally anywhere I wanted to go. There’s an Indian restaurant called Taj Mahal literally less than a 5 minute walk away that’s THE BEST INDIAN FOOD I have EVER had in my life. I cried when I left Albuquerque because I knew I wouldn’t have access to this wonderful place anymore.
  • The only con is that it was about a 30-40 minute commute out to Rust; but I was close to all the social and fun aspects of the city so it was the choice I made. I would have rather lived in the actual city close to bars, restaurants, outdoors, etc than out in the suburbs just for a closer commute to work. However, it was a close commute whenever I floated to Presbyterian main.
  • I really loved staying here during my time in Albuquerque, and always recommend the Roxbury for others doing travel assignments here.
Sunny on our hike at the Sandia Crest

The city (pros):

  • I honestly had a lot of fun in Albuquerque during my time there.
  • There are a ton of outdoor activities, all close by. The Sandia mountains have plenty of trails, Jemez mountains (love their hot springs), Tent Rocks, and of course a little farther away is the Grand Canyon, Arizona in general, and Colorado!
  • Speaking of things close by, Santa Fe is less than an hour from Albuquerque and the cutest little town.
  • If you make it out there, you CANNOT PASS UP MEOW WOLF. Meow Wolf is hard to describe, but it’s basically an “immersive art experience”. Unfortunately, I only had the chance to go once, but I’ve been dying to go back ever since then.
  • No traffic — well, hardly any. No matter what time of day it was, I found myself going 80 mph on the highway.
  • Dog-friendly town! There were a lot of city parks, dog parks, and dog-friendly restaurants and bars I brought my dog to.
  • The craft brewery scene in Albuquerque is poppin’. My very first day, I went to Turtle Mountain Brewing Company and ended up with a New Mexico Beer Guild brochure that ended up being my guide to all the breweries in town. MarbleTractor, and La Cumbre are some of the more popular ones!
  • Nob Hill in general is a really cool area of town. They have bars, restaurants, funky murals, coffeeshops, and is the place to be for nightlife.
  • The people I encountered in Albuquerque were all really friendly and helpful!
The 505 pizza from Dion’s

The city (cons): 

  • ABQ is a tiny airport, which made flying home (which I did twice during my contract) annoying. There are no direct flights to San Antonio, so I had to go through either Phoenix or Dallas just to get home. Small nitpick, but still annoying when what should be a 3 hour straight flight turns into 5 hours with layovers.
  • Homelessness is a HUGE problem in Albuquerque. I’ll admit, I didn’t look up any crime statistics or anything crazy until after I had already signed my contract, and reading about all the mostly drug-related crime and homelessness had me nervous. However, it’s contained to only a few areas of the city, and, like I said, mainly drug-related. I never worried about my safety or my car getting broken into. But, at the dog park I frequently took Sunny to, there was ALWAYS homeless people around, and that just put me on edge.
  • I didn’t get to be a movie extra. They were filming the new Wolverine movie while I was there, as well as Better Call Saul. I tried reaching out to some agencies for the chance to be an extra, but it never ended up working out. They film movies out in New Mexico really frequently, so if you spend any time here at all, I highly suggest you take your chance to be in a movie!
  • Very “fishbowl” community, it seemed as though everyone there was Burque born and raised, so I found it kind of hard to make friends.
Enjoying the hot springs in Jemez Mountains

The company: Randstad Healthcare

  • I actually found my recruiter, Alexis, on one of the travel nurse Facebook groups!
  • I had reached out to Flexcare and Parallon (now HealthTrust) at the suggestion of some other travel nurses… my recruiter with Flexcare and I did not mesh well AT ALL, and my recruiter with Parallon submitted me for a position then literally went an entire week without e-mailing or calling me. Not really cool when a person is trying to find and secure a job, and it made me wonder if she would pull this kind of stuff while I was actually on contract as well.
  • I had no issues when it came to getting paid this contract. I found the pay packages through Randstad to be better than the other companies I had contacted, and even well above my minimum take home. I had to fill out time sheets at the beginning of the contract, then realized my hours were being sent through their time-keeping service anyway.
  • Anytime I had an issue, Alexis would e-mail me back pretty much that same day — even if it was just to let me know she received my e-mail and didn’t have an answer for me right at that moment.
  • I did not take their benefits or housing, so can’t speak to that side of the company.
Some of the craziness that is Meow Wolf

TL;DR: I really enjoyed my time here for my first travel nurse assignment. While I’m not sure if I would go back to Rust, I would go back to work in the CCC primarily.

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