How One Freelance Copy Editor (Mostly) Quit Caffeine

Caffeine drives much of the freelance world past earthly limits to help solo workers of all stripes crush deadlines. So why would I part ways with this magic molecule?
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“Spiritual Healing”: New Article on Travel Nursing at Indian Health Service Facilities

FOR TRAVEL NURSES seeking a new understanding of America’s earliest residents, and an adventure across some of America’s most gorgeous and remote reaches, my most recent article for Healthcare Traveler magazine, “Spiritual Healing: Traveler Opportunities With the Indian Health Service,” will help them explore this career option through the eyes of two of their enthusiastic colleagues:

Healthcare travelers are privy to scores of hospital warning signs in careers marked by new places, but few are as singular as the one John Rigby, RN, noticed recently that was posted on the closed door of a patient’s room in Tuba City, Ariz. “It’s the first place that I’ve been where they have a sign that says, ‘DO NOT ENTER: CEREMONY IN PROGRESS.’”

The note, while simple, reflects how the beliefs of the Navajo Nation permeate the environment of the clinics and hospital that make up the U.S. Indian Health Service system. And, it’s one of the aspects of tribal culture that Rigby and his travel partner and fiancée, Christine Ott, RN, have come to appreciate and respect while living among their patients.

Sharp-eyed observers of this blog will note this isn’t the first time I’ve written about mobile healthcare professionals caring for Native American populations. In May 2010, I wrote about locum tenens physicians who have visited IHS facilities in HT‘s sister publication, Locum Life, in “On the Reservation: Providing Locum Tenens to Native Americans.” In this newer article, I was able to speak with two nurses who visited a different part of the vast Navajo reservation than the Northen Navajo Medical Center in the Shiprock area mentioned in my earlier work. But do check out the LL article as well, especially for the tale of Dr. Greenlee, who serves the tiny Havasupai Nation from the bottom of a canyon accessible only by foot, helicopter, or mule.

You can read many other articles I’ve written about mobile healthcare careers here. And if you’re looking for a writer who can transport your readers to the raw beauty of the American Southwest or anywhere else, drop me a line!

“Pursuing Passions”: New article on locum tenens physicians’ hobbies

MY LATEST ARTICLE for Locum Life magazine, “Pursuing Passions,” has quite possibly the greatest opening photo you’ll see in my written work so far. If you dig llamas, you need to jump over to the online digital image and see Dr. Sophie Dojacques, owner and operator of the Silver Creek Animal Sanctuary, with one of her rescue animals. The llama shares the farm with six of its kin, 84 goats (several of which you can see here), and a pride of cats. She’s one of four doctors I had the privilege of interviewing to learn how locum tenens doctors enjoy their hobbies while providing skilled medical care across the globe.

How did she become a ray of light for neglected and abused animals? Quite unexpectedly:

When she purchased 22 acres in Silverton, Ore., Sophie Dojacques, MD, didn’t foresee the animal-rescue operation and community resource it would become. But the goats had other plans.

“I bought the property in 2005 with the plan to rescue horses, but the first goats came in 2006,” she says of 46 poorly kept and malnourished animals from a nearby farm. “That’s when things just headed off running.”

It was plainly evident in communicating with her and my three other physician sources that they had arranged their careers to support their interests, and not the other way around. Whether boating across the seven seas, surfing off the Australia or New Zealand coasts, or exploring the seemingly barren wastes of northern Alaska, they had configured their professional lives around their core interests—a fantastic example for all of us, no matter how we earn a living.

This article had me half out the door with my laptop looking to become a wandering writer, to follow these docs’ example. My next article is no exception; I spoke with several travel nurses who have been working on the road for a combined 40+ years. You don’t enjoy such a long career without deeply digging what you do and where you do it, and in this upcoming Healthcare Traveler article, I’ll share these nurses’ tips for staying engaged with one’s work and not only surviving on the road, but thriving.

And as always, if you have a story that needs to be told—llamas or no llamas—I’d love to be the one to deliver it to your readers. Contact me here and we’ll discuss!

A Trio of New Articles!

I HAD A VERY PRODUCTIVE late summer, and the fruits of my writing labors are now online for your perusal:

“Nurses and Physicians: The Art of Communication and Collaboration”

An informative introduction will open a dialogue with your doctors and launch strong clinical partnerships at each travel nursing assignment.

“Going Beyond the Handshake: Collaborating Effectively on Locum Contracts”

Each interaction with your colleagues is a chance to demonstrate respect, share knowledge, and improve your patient care.

Because I’m often new to the worlds I explore in my writing, I like to cast my articles as introductions, crafted for readers entering these worlds for the first time too. I’m neither a doctor nor a nurse, but I can gather the informed opinions, experience, and enthusiasm of professionals from these realms to educate those who may be considering a mobile healthcare career.

I researched and wrote these stories in this spirit. The former, which appears in the October 2010 Healthcare Traveler, is similar in introduction to the latter, the cover feature of October 2010′s Locum Life. But they ended up being quite distinct. I hope they help staff/hospital nurses or physicians with enough information to make their start and head out on the road. Plus you can’t beat the locales they often visit: Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean, or across the varied tableau of America.

“Crisis Nursing in Haiti: One Traveler’s Tale”

Eleven days in a Port-au-Prince tent hospital renewed travel nurse VJ Gibbins’ dedication to patient care.

Some travel, though, is less for tourism and profit than for dire need and charity. I had the privilege of interviewing VJ Gibbins, RN, a travel nurse with the Clinical One agency, about his volunteer mission after the January 2010 earthquake. He’d been a great source on a previous story, and when the agency asked me if I might want to speak with him after he returned from his trip, I leaped at the chance.

VJ was kind enough to grant me a long interview after he’d recovered from the ordeal; in an unused quote from our discussion, he acknowledged, “I wasn’t prepared for this level of badness.” Kimberlee Hodges, my contact at Clinical One, also arranged a chat with Cynthia Kinnas, the head of their national healthcare division, who described how they made the decision to assist Gibbins in his quest:

“We’d come to know him pretty well,” Kinnas says. “We knew that he’s a really strong clinician. But we also knew that he had a lot of integrity, that he’s reliable, and that he had a true passion for relief work.” Kinnas and her colleagues were also moved by Gibbins’ sustained interest in Haiti even after news of the earthquake subsided. “And VJ’s just one of those people who embodies what we all might dream nursing to be,” she adds.

This was one of my most challenging assignments, primarily because I didn’t know if I could do justice to the entire narrative in 2000 words, or even 2400 (after I asked the editor for a larger word count!). But I think I was able to craft a flowing narrative while accurately portraying the conditions Gibbins encountered, the ways he circumvented the shortages of personnel and modern equipment, and the toll his labors took on him.

This was my most rewarding assignment so far, and if you only read one of the articles linked above, do check out VJ’s tale here. I am of course available to discuss any future writing assignments, so please drop me a line here if you’d like to work with me. And do leave a comment if you enjoyed any of the articles!

New Article on Emergency Department Travel Nursing

AHEAD OF THE Emergency Nurses Association convention, Healthcare Traveler will feature an article on how staff emergency department (ED) nurses can break into the world of travel nursing. I got the call to write this one, and the resultant piece, “Getting Started as an Emergency Department Travel Nurse,” is now available in dead-tree and digital form. My intro:

Each emergency department has its own unique culture and rhythm, but the transition from your home ED to others around the country might be easier than you’d imagine. By exposing you to diverse patient populations, novel patient care techniques, and the fertile minds of other caregivers, each new assignment is like a miniature nursing school. And don’t forget the chance to visit and absorb the local attractions of countless new communities to a degree you’d never achieve over a fleeting week’s vacation.

Although veteran travel nurses will say there’s no bad time to start your mobile career, there’s definitely a best way. To help you find it, we’ve tapped the wisdom of several travel nursing recruiters and ED travelers for an overview of the current market and their suggestions for securing and acing your first assignment. Once you sample the travel world, you may wonder why you waited so long!

Similar to my July 2010 HT article, “Ten Dont’s: Steer Clear of These Travel Nursing Pitfalls,” this one’s sort of a round table format, calling upon the input of several recruiters and ED travelers to form a picture of the industry and what nurses should keep in mind while beginning their first assignments.

This was also one of those stories where using a sidebar greatly improved the readability of the final draft. I had originally integrated the first-timer’s advice into the story itself, but it made the main narrative much lumpier.

As sometimes happens, while mulling the problem during the morning shower, the solution presented itself. I’ve learned to keep a pad and pen close to the bed for those ideas that sneak in across the hazy borders of sleep, but I know of no such option for shower-inspired thoughts . . . short of either writing it in steam on the mirror, or streaking to the keyboard in some 21st-century version of Archimedes’ “Eureka!” moment. Which, hey, nobody wants to see.

Check here for a full list of articles on nursing topics. October’s HT will be a big month for me, because I wrote both feature articles. The first, as mentioned earlier, is the story of a pediatric travel nurse who spent 11 days in an intensive-care hospital tent in earthquake-ravaged Port-au-Prince. The second is another round-table-style article on the best ways to communicate and forge partnerships with the physicians that travel nurses will meet while roving the healthcare settings of America.

I’m always looking for ideas that need someone to shepherd them from germ to gem. (See, all I’ll need to do is delete an r. Simple!) If you’re interested in recruiting a regular writer for your blog, magazine, or other periodical—whether in the healthcare, temporary work, personnel recruiting, or other areas—please contact me!

New Locum Life article: “A Little Locum Music”

NEW ARTICLE ALERT! The August 2010 issue of Locum Life magazine is out in both print and electronic forms, and I’m privileged to have written the cover story: “A Little Locum Music: Physicians Who Know How to Use Their Instruments“:

Are you the owner of a slightly rusty set of pipes that hasn’t been raised in song since medical school? Does hearing classical music on your office stereo remind you of a favorite Mozart or Beethoven piece you used to strike up on the piano? Has that battered guitar case in your basement been urging you to get the band back together?

It’s never too late for a comeback. Full waiting rooms, burgeoning paperwork, and ever-expanding hospital shifts can be detrimental to a doctor’s free time, but the flexible nature of locum tenens practice can change your tune. And the benefits can be more than artistic. Playing an instrument can help you make new friends around your contract location, awaken your creative energies, or even form the basis of a well-rounded retirement. Learn how three physicians have harmonized their musical talents with locum tenens careers.

This story was a lot of fun to write. I was able to speak with:

Musical passions and medical proficiency struck me as a natural pairing when I was assigned the article, and their testimony—the clear love for music I could hear in their voices—bore this out. Plus it boosts the mind as you near retirement:

Locum tenens work has been a strategic part of Dr. Shulman’s shift into retirement. As a means of transition from full-time practice, he notes, it gives physicians a chance to step back and explore those interests that will most engage them after they leave medicine.

“The reality is that none of us should or can practice medicine forever. Certainly not in the surgical specialties,” he observes. “We’ve been productive all our lives,” he says of his fellow locum tenens doctors, “and we want to stay productive.” Dr. Shulman therefore urges physicians not just to plan their retirement from medicine, but to have an activity or career to retire to, as well. “We all need to prepare ourselves for that eventuality,” he says. “Music for me is not a hobby; it’s another vocation.”

That’s a lesson for everyone, no matter what their career may be. We’re all hopefully going to spend a couple of decades in retirement. Why not cultivate those proficiencies and passions that engage us now, at the height of our cognitive powers, so we have these interests to pursue as treasured friends once we hang up whatever career hats we wear?

As for me, the hat I donned after completing this article was that of the author of a Healthcare Traveler piece on entering the world of emergency department travel nursing, which you can read more about here. Should you happen to have a story that needs telling, whether in the healthcare field or elsewhere, please don’t hesitate to contact me and let me help you bring the words to light!

New Healthcare Traveler article: 10 Don’ts for Travel Nurses

I’VE GOT A NEW ARTICLE out in Healthcare Traveler magazine, the choice of travel nurses and travel-nursing companies for the latest on the industry. This one is a best-practices list in the form of a list of 10 “don’ts.” It’s the second “Ten for 2010″ article I’ve written for HT, the first being a timely list of travel nursing resolutions as the new year—and decade—dawned. (I don’t know if this means any tip-style articles I write next year will require 11 entries, but I stand ready to meet the challenge if so.)

My dilemma for such articles is always that the opportunity to speak with so many passionate, thoughtful nurses and travel company recruiters and executives naturally produces many more ideas than I can fit into two thousand words. I included the most popular don’ts the nurses and recruiters described, but sadly had to cut such stories as the one about a travel nurse who drove from Kentucky to California with a smashed-up car after a collision minutes into her journey to an assignment knocked her bumper off!

You can check out the other articles I’ve written on nursing issues here. The next piece of mine to hit the streets will be a Locum Life piece on physicians with musical talents, and today I handed in a piece for HT I’m very much looking forward to seeing in print, about a pediatric travel nurse who spent 11 days working in the pediatric and neonatal ICUs of a tent hospital in earthquake-stricken Haiti. Following that, I’ll be writing another HT article on how to get started as an emergency room travel nurse. Busy busy!

But not too busy to discuss new writing or editing projects you might have in the works. If I can fit those needs, please contact me!

New Locum Life article on Indian Health Service work

I’M HAPPY TO REPORT I’ve had another article published in Locum Life magazine, this one in the May 2010 issue. The piece, “On the Reservation: Providing Locum Tenens to Native Americans,” is available in print and via Locum Life’s Nxtbook site. This one is an introduction to the range of opportunities available to locum tenens physicians at Indian Health Service facilities. From the lede:

If you’re seeking a locum tenens opportunity that combines humanitarian aid, public health medicine, and breathtaking terrain, the Indian Health Service (IHS) offers it all. Through the IHS, the U.S. government provides medical care to 47 percent of the nation’s 3.3 million American Indians and Alaska Natives. With a history of neglect, persistent poverty, and inadequate preventive education, reservation residents also endure high rates of alcoholism, depression, diabetes, and obesity. And staffing shortfalls worsen these problems by limiting access to skilled medical professionals.

Locum tenens physicians have never been more crucial to filling these openings. Positions are plentiful, streamlined government licensing requirements can get you started quickly, and your new colleagues will teach you how Indian traditions will influence your medical practice. Learn how an IHS contract can reconnect you with the spiritual aspect of patient care.

I’m especially pleased with the look of this piece. A number of the doctors I spoke with had taken IHS assignments in the American Southwest, and the opening spread of the article depicts a lush, wildflower-filled valley set against the rust-red sandstones of the region. Even more impressively, the sidebar on working at the remote Supai Clinic—set at the bottom of a tributary of the Grand Canyon—is accompanied by an overhead shot of the Havasupai Village that the clinic serves.

I’ve just submitted a new Healthcare Traveler article, this one with 10 points of advice on what not to do as a travel nurse, from researching assignments to dealing with negative coworkers and staying safe while alone. Plus I’ve got a new Locum Life article in the works. They should hit the street and the Web in July and August, respectively; keep an eye on this space for descriptions and links. And do contact me if you’re looking for a writer in the healthcare, recruiting, or medical staffing industries!

New Locum Life article: “Long-Distance Locums”

MY NEWEST PUBLISHED ARTICLE, “Long-Distance Locums: Taking That First Step Away from Home,” has just gone up along with the rest of the April 2010 Locum Life magazine as a Nxtbook image. Calling upon the experience of several medical-recruiting industry sources and two active locum tenens physicians, the article begins as follows:

Has the prospect of being distant from your family kept you from venturing forth on your first locum tenens assignment? Are you concerned that you won’t be able to return home for emergencies? Worried that your children may grow apart from you, one text message at a time?

If so, don’t postpone your dream of practicing in a new location any longer. Locum tenens agencies have a wealth of experience in helping providers to arrange their home lives and embrace technology to deepen, rather than diminish, their family ties. Read on to learn how recruiters prepare their clients to discuss their aspirations with family, lay the groundwork for their first departure, and reduce the effect of emergencies on their remote practice.

I’ve actually written a piece on the pressures of leaving home for temporary medical work before. For the February 2010 Healthcare Traveler (Locum Life’s sister publication for travel nurses), I wrote “Relationships on the Road: Managing Family Ties While on Assignment.” Although both articles mention the reliance of today’s traveling caregiver on things like texting, Facebook, and Twitter to stay close to home, this one differs due to the nature of locum contracts versus those of travel nurses. Those seem almost uniformly 13 weeks in length at minimum, whereas those of the locum physicians can vary depending on the nature of the assignment, the needs of the doctor, and so forth.

I’ve also completed and submitted the LL article for May 2010 article that I mentioned in my last post. That’ll probably hit the Web in 30 days. My editor was kind enough to offer me the chance to write a new Healthcare Traveler piece, this one for July’s issue. As those go live, I’ll link them up here. As always, if you’re seeking a writer for your healthcare, staffing/recruiting, or nursing topic of interest, email me today!

New Locum Life article: “The Many Faces of ‘Me’ Time”

I’M PLEASED TO SHARE my first new article for Locum Life magazine, Advanstar’s publication for locum tenens physicians: “The Many Faces of ‘Me’ Time: How Locum Tenens Doctors Balance Work and Life.” An excerpt:

Fishing, hiking, tourism and, of course, golf—the activities often cited as the benefits of a locum tenens lifestyle might seem like the stuff of a dream retirement. Locum tenens work definitely allows mobile providers to schedule these and other interests while developing their careers, pursuing their passion for caregiving, and even touring the country to try out prospective retirement locales.

Whether you’re new to locum tenens and need ideas for your days off, or a veteran traveler whose assignments are crowding your spare time, there are many unique ways to complement your medical practice above and beyond the aforementioned stereotypes: becoming an entrepreneur, pursuing an artistic dream, or even volunteering. And workaholics take note: Your recruiter actually wants you to take some time for yourself. It engenders safer medical practice, helps you avoid burnout, and can increase your long-term job satisfaction.

This one also appears in LL‘s March 2010 print edition, which you can see in digital form here. I’d written two articles for Locum Life‘s companion publication on the travel nursing industry, Healthcare Traveler, so this breaks some new ground for me in the temporary medical-staffing field. I interviewed working locum tenens physicians and recruiters from the locum placement industry to get a sense of how doctors found time to breathe—and what their recruiters did to ensure their docs actually did so from time to time. One of the most surprising findings was that locum work’s flexible scheduling actually granted one physician who took contracts out of state more contact with his family than he had enjoyed while working in a local hospital!

I actually just submitted an article for LL‘s April 2010 issue, and I was fortunate enough to be assigned a story for May’s LL as well. Watch this space for links. And if you’re looking for a writer with some recent research and contacts in the healthcare staffing and recruiting industry, drop me an email!