Family Back Home: The Challenge of Missing Family

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By Lori Mercer

December 24, 2018

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The Challenge of Missing Family

Missing family – This is a big subject for me since I am a wife of 21 years and a mom of 2 very active teenagers involved in everything- music and scouts, as well as everything else they can get involved in.

The 4 Hour Commute

I had been traveling for a little over a year, and when I first started talking to recruiters and various companies. I told them I wanted to be within 4 hrs of home. Well, guess what, I still have not been within 4 hrs of home. My first assignment was in Richmond, Virginia. On my first day at the hospital, they give me my schedule for 2 weeks, and I wanted to cry; I was basically doing it every other day. I thought to myself, “how am I going to go without seeing my family?”

That first weekend, I had a 3 day weekend off, and I drove back to Ohio, slept in my bed for 2 nights, was with my husband and kids, and went back for the 2 weeks of hell. When I figured up the time to drive and the gas for my SUV, I found it was just as cheap to fly back and forth. So when the next 4-week schedule came out, and they had my schedule finally the way I wanted it, I got to go home for 5 or 6 days at a time and spend with my family.

My daughter went with me for a 2-week stay in Richmond. She would watch TV and play video games while I was at work and had plenty of food to eat. On my days off, we would do stuff or sit around and do nothing. I went home a total of 5 times while I was there. I flew my husband down at the end of my contract so he could see a little bit, and we could have some time just him and me before we drove home. After I finished the assignment, I took 4 weeks off to spend at home before my next adventure.

Places I never thought I would go!

My next adventure was someplace I never thought I would want to go to, but it ended up being the most awesome assignment ever. I went to a tiny hospital in southern Vermont. I knew going in it was not 12-hour shifts. I would be working 9 (8-hour shifts) in a 2 week period. This averages out to 72 hrs every 2 weeks.

I thought it would be perfect if they scheduled me 9 shifts in a row; I could go home every 2 weeks if I wanted to. I guess wrong. They would not schedule me that way. I had it in my schedule for 10 days off, so I could go to the conference and go home to watch my kids perform in their first choir performance of the year.

I got to go home twice during the 14 weeks I was in Vermont. The time did go fast, working every day, but by the end, I was like a mother bear, missing her cubs. When I flew my husband up to meet some of the awesome people I got to work with, he did comment on them that he wished I would have gotten home more often, and that made up my mind that I would not make another contract of 8 hr shifts 11 hrs from home.

Making Adjustments

I took off for the holidays and worked per diem at my home hospital for December and the first few days of January. During my time off, I got an assignment in Gilbert, Az, outside of Phoenix, which, as I said, I told companies I wanted 4 hours from home, so I decided to go a day and a half from home.

I had it in my contract for some time off 3 different times for the band and choir performances that the kids would have, not realizing that was the only days I would be spending at home were those days. I did not do the figuring correctly to make sure that I had a few days before and a few days after to be at home where I so wanted to be.

With the winter weather that the Midwest and the east go over the winter, I was thrilled to be where it was sunny and warm, even though my family and friends had a hit list out on me for all of the awesome pictures I had taken of sun and warm. There were so many travelers out there that I did not get bored, but by the first part of April, I was really getting homesick; some of my new friends had left and gone to other assignments, some went home. I had decided when I got the contract in AZ that once it was over, I would take off till the first part of June since my oldest was graduating from high school and with all of the ends of the year stuff the kids had planned.

Next was Massachusetts outside of Boston. I got my schedule on my first day for 6 weeks and could have cried again; I do get a few 3 days in a row off stretches but not enough for me to be able to go home and spend quality time with my family. I hope to get a few trades and ask the scheduler to schedule my days together so I can go home a few times during this assignment. No, I did not ask for any time off during this assignment. I was hoping, like an idiot, that maybe my days would be together since this facility is used to having travelers around.

Dealing with Separation

So to summarize, how do we deal with the separation? It is tough. I do get a little selfish when I get to go home and try to keep my family at my side for the entire time. Yes, my kids will tell you that I am overbearing when I get to come home and smother them.

We have all downloaded Tango on our phones to do video chat whenever we want to. My husband and I talk on the phone at least once a day and try to solve all of the problems at home or where I am over the phone. So far, it has worked very well. They have all adapted very well to becoming a travel nurse as to knowing how to make doctor appointments, knowing what time they need to be placed, taking the dog to the vet, cleaning, cooking, etc. My husband has figured what bills need to be paid when and how much money he needs to get things done.

I am very blessed to have a wonderful husband who supports me in my journey of being a travel nurse. It does get tougher for me every time I get ready to leave. It doesn’t matter if I am home for a few days or a few weeks. I know that I will miss my family something terrible, but I do love what I am doing and do not think I could ever go back to being a full-time staff nurse. Maybe my next assignment will be in the 4-hour window of the home, maybe not. I am a true gypsy spirit and will go where the wind blows.

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