Over the past 6 years, Dawn S., RN, has practiced in hospitals all over the U.S. "I'd always had the itch to travel," she says. "When the opportunity arose for an assignment in Hilo, Hawaii, I jumped at the chance."
Working in Hilo wasn't at all what Dawn, a mobile intensive care unit (ICU) nurse with Boca Raton, Florida-based American Traveler, expected though. Hilo Medical Center (HMC) is a state-run facility that's one of only two major hospitals on the Big Island. Since there aren't many healthcare venues aside from the hospitals, the locals come to HMC to receive treatment for everything from coronary conditions, to minor injuries, to the common cold.
"I floated and worked wherever the need was greatest," says Dawn. "So, I might be on the ICU one day and pediatrics the next. And I had to learn new words and expressions to ensure I could communicate with my patients more effectively. That surprised me because before I had arrived, I didn't expect to encounter a language barrier in Hawaii."
When some friends decided to drop in for a visit, Dawn had a blast playing tour guide. She took them on all the usual excursions like snorkeling and whale watching. But, thanks to her travel assignment, she was also able to treat them to the sights, sounds, and tastes of Hawaii that tourists don't usually experience. "They had never been to Hawaii, so I spent a lot of time showing them around. By the end of the visit, they loved the place as much as I do."
The first time she visited Kilauea at Volcanoes National Park, Dawn fell in love with the scenery. Its unique landscape includes both desert and tropical rain forest environments. "You can walk right up to the dormant cauldrons and cooled basins, flows from years past, and even stand next to the vents blowing 120-degree steam into the air. You can't see the actual lava, though."
Dawn wanted her friends to get the full effect of an active volcano, so they took a helicopter tour right over the Pu'u O'o Vent. "The helicopter took us over the active part of the volcano. It was a cloudless day, so we could see the actual lava bubbling and spewing. The surface had cooled enough that we couldn't see the flow moving until we flew about 7 miles down to the ocean. There, we could see it dripping right into the ocean, exploding and creating new land masses while we watched."
An avid photographer, Dawn collected some amazing shots of the volcano to add to her collection. "I brought my telephoto lens, so I was able to get close-ups of the vent and the lava dripping into the ocean," she recalls. "That trip was one of the coolest things I've ever done!"
Before she moves on to a new destination, Dawn -- who is in the process of writing a book about travel nursing -- likes to spend time soaking up an area's culture. Therefore, contract extensions and repeat assignments are normal for her. She has spent significant time in Northern California, Utah, Arizona, and South Carolina. Where does she plan to go next? "I'd like to accept a contract in Alaska before taking a few assignments overseas." So far, she has her sights set on England, Ireland, and Australia.
"I'm so lucky to be able to pick up every 6 months or so to explore another land and its people," Dawn relates. "That's why I recommend traveling to anyone who is flexible and secure in his or her skills. It's such a great life!"
Tales from the Road - The Big Island
Publication Date: November, 2007
By: Julie Anne Eason