Part 1 of 2 in Stephanie’s article series on becoming a Traveling Sonographer
“You can stay as long as they need you, but do not want you.
Once you are no longer needed, but wanted, you must leave.”
Fate, destiny, or happen stance; it was by pure accident that I discovered a career as a traveling sonographer. Later I would learn it was destiny.
Two years in the trenches of a busy hospital gaining as much varied experience as I could; as had been the given advice by everyone I sought advice from during my schooling, with shifts consisting of nights, weekends, holidays, procedures, operating rooms, ICU, emergency room chaos, and the nasty of the nastiest. Two years to the day and I was done, out, gone. Ready for something new!
Be Willing to Try Something New
With nearly three years of experience and growing tired of local agency temp work I started seeking a new adventure. I wanted a change of scenery and steady work somewhere along the coast of my home state. I searched, daily, for job opportunities in any and all coastal towns of Florida. I finally received a call back. The call couldn’t have gone better and suddenly I was being asked when I could start. I started explaining that I would need to relocate, but was quickly interrupted.
“Oh, no, no, that is not necessary, our employees travel on work assignments all over the US. You can live anywhere!”
WHAT? TRAVEL? SUITCASES AND PLANES? Had I not read the fine print? Apparently not! I was hesitant. I was a single mother. This would require some serious contemplation. There were no other offers on the table so I decided I should at least consider the opportunity. Given that my experience with the temp agency had been very negative and I had never met my employer, I was eager to meet the owner of this company face to face before I agreed to anything. I asked for an in-person interview with the owner. He ran his business out of his home so we met at Starbucks. It went exceptionally well and I was anxious to start. I offered to take only short term assignments, not the typical three months, and I would be able to leave on short notice if needed.
The Adventure Begins!
A week later, and five days before Christmas, my phone rang and the next two days were filled with paperwork, faxes, and phone calls. I arranged for my daughter to fly to New York for Christmas to be with her cousins and I packed and loaded my car for a long solo drive to North Carolina. I found myself in a quaint cottage two miles from the small town hospital. The welcome I received was amazing. They were thrilled for my arrival to their short notice request. I was to cover for 10 days so their staff sonographers could spend the holidays with their families. I worked days and covered the night on call shifts. Surprisingly, I only had to go in on two occasions in the middle of the night…the perks of a small town! Everyone from the staff to the patients was beyond kind. I was invited to three different homes for Christmas dinner.
Even though my holidays were spent alone, I was filled with gratitude and peace. As my assignment was coming to a close, the director called me into her office and asked if I would be interested in full time work. They liked me! They offered me a job. I could not stay; this was just the beginning of my new adventure. I graciously declined. Ten days income was more than I had made in a month when “doing my time” in my hometown hospital. Housing was provided. My car allowance and per diem was tax free. All expenses were reimbursed. This was amazing. I was hooked!
Three days after returning home, my phone rang again; another short assignment, but longer than the last. Eight weeks in Arizona. I would be celebrating my birthday a day after I arrived, but I needed the work. I wanted the work. I had friends to stay with so my housing allowance would come directly in my paycheck, as well as my car allowance, and my per diem, and all tax free too! I packed my entire house up, put everything into storage, moved my daughter into my parents’ spare room, hugged and kiss my family good-bye, and boarded a plane for the west.
I Found My Calling
For the first time in my life, I found myself working my dream job; a sonographer in High Risk Obstetrics. Initially, I was not ‘necessarily’ wanted, but I was needed. I was covering for a sonographer who was out for elbow surgery. At first the welcome was not so welcoming, but they soon appreciated my eagerness to learn and succeed. The physicians taught me daily and with each passing week I became more skilled in the field of High Risk OB sonography. The staff was kind and loving; like family. They eventually included me in everything, from potluck breakfasts and lunches to conversations. A position opened while I was there, and they wished they could offer it to me, but my contract would not allow it. They wanted me, but could not have me. I wanted to stay, but had to leave.
Perfect timing! The hospital next door needed someone temporarily, and my name came up. Another assignment! My employer made arrangements and I flew home for five blissful days with my family, and returned to Arizona for a five week assignment at the hospital, a Level 1 trauma facility. I worked whatever shifts they needed covered. It felt natural to be back in the hospital environment I had been accustomed to. The nasty of the nastiest didn’t bother me much anymore. This was temporary and it paid well. I was eager to work and pull my share of the extensive work load. And again, they wanted to find a way to keep me permanently, but my contract had a $2,000 buyout price tag. We discussed the possibility of finding non-contract work elsewhere until my current contract time frame with the travel company had elapsed, and then if they needed someone they would hire me. This is when the “Nanny McPhee of Ultrasound” became clearly evident in my mind.
I was there because they had needed me, but did not want me. Now that they wanted me but did not need me, I had to leave.
This was what traveling was like, and I loved it. Always something new! Needed! Then wanted! And the pay was fantastic. Paychecks were weekly and they were equivalent to one month’s pay if I was working back home. I had no expenses. Each week’s paycheck went into savings and towards unpaid debts. My food, my housing, and my transportation was all covered. This was wonderful! But once again, the time had come for me to go…time to say good-bye.
Next was Boston. Again, I was needed, but not particularly wanted, and again, when they wanted me but no longer needed me, it was time to leave. And so the traveling sonographer goes from place to place; needed, then wanted, then gone.
Of course I missed my family, but if I saved enough I wouldn’t have to take another assignment for a while. I could enjoy just being home; day in and day out with my daughter.
Be sure to check back for Part 2, “Tricks of the Trade”, by Stephanie Eisler, RDMS.