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Salutations!

Are you preparing yourself for the back-to-work-after-the-holiday shock? I spent the past week traversing Yosemite National Park, where I met a travel nurse and her wife on the top of Sentinel Dome. They met in Indiana, lived there for decades, and now have spent the past couple of years roaming the country for her job, from Reno to Texas to South Carolina. I come from the 9-5 workday perspective, but as a nurse she works 12-hour night shifts in the neo-natal intensive care unit (aka where the really small babies go for some extra help). Every few months they move to a new place and adventure along the way — just like Julie Sweetin, the RN behind the Travel Nurse Adventures Instagram.

Confused on what a travel nurse does? In a nutshell, tey help out hospitals and other medical centers in specific areas for specific amounts of time, so the ball is kind of in their court and they sometimes get paid better than a non-travel nurse.

My sister (hi, Kim!) is starting a new job at a NICU in Missouri tomorrow (!!!) and she'll be working 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. there as well. Nights can be an unforgiving schedule, since you basically become nocturnal and most of your family and friends are awake and trying to talk to you during the day (speaking from experience here). But what struck me about the woman in Yosemite, Julie, and about other travel nurses and night nurses I've met is that they don't let that stop them. It's tough, but they find ways to make their relationships work around the clock by taking advantage of not having a 9-5 workday.

My sister joined a learn-to-row club this summer that met in the mornings, my friend Maggie (who works nights as a personal care associate at a hospital) coaches basketball at our high school in the afternoons, and Julie — aside from celebrating travel nurses on her Instagram — pursues her own adventures in the wilderness. Hey, after taking care of patients all night long, you gotta take care of yourself too. Here's what they had to say about finding friends in the graveyard shift and beyond.

Your friend,
Christine

P.S. Do you have an atypical work schedule, too? What are your tips for making and maintaining friendships along the way? And remember, SowingFriendship.com is the new home for all the archives, sign-up, and info about Sown.
Christine: Can you tell me a little bit more about yourself? Where are you typically based (or where are most of your roots), and how long have you been travel nursing?

Julie: I'm originally from Southern Illinois but went to nursing school in St. Louis, Missouri and started there as a new grad at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. I've been a nurse for five years, two of which I was a travel nurse. I first took an assignment in Seattle, then Alaska, California, Texas and back in St. Louis. I now live permanently in Anchorage, Alaska but still travel to California for work approximately every 2 months (more often in the winter). 

Christine: What do you like about your schedule now? What is a typical week like? (I know there's really no typical schedule for nursing, but just to get a sense of what it's like.)
Julie: One perk of nursing is the flexibility we have with our work schedules. A typical inpatient bedside nursing schedule is three 12-hour shifts per week. Also, most employers give you the option of making your own schedule. I currently have four intermittent/PRN jobs and have the freedom to dictate my own schedule. Sometimes I'll work seven days in a row and then take an entire week off. Sometimes I'll work two shifts one week and four the next. I mainly work a lot in the winter and play during the summer. 

Christine: How does your schedule affect your relationships/friendships? How are you able to stay in touch? 

Julie: I'll admit having a random work schedule every week can make social activities hard to juggle, especially activities like weekly leagues, classes, etc. As long as you plan ahead and balance yourself it's all quite manageable. I'm outgoing and talkative, thus making time for friends and being social is important to me. It's also helpful that the majority of my adult friends are also nurses and have an understanding of my schedule. 

Christine: What are some of the best ways for you to make friends as a travel nurse? 

Julie: Make friends during hospital orientation. Most often there are fellow travelers in orientation who are also new to the area. Be the first one to say hi and strike up a conversation. Be open to getting to know someone. Ask for their phone number or ask to hang out. If someone is too busy for you that's okay. Also, social media is helpful. Join Meetup which features local groups for every kind of activity imaginable such as board game meetups or hiking groups or foreign language groups, you name it. Also, don't be afraid to venture out solo; I find it far easier to connect with strangers when you're alone than when in a group. 

Christine: What has this experience as a travel nurse taught you about friendship? 

Julie: As I've gotten older my rule of thumb is to surround myself with positive people. Remember to first focus on yourself then find good people to surround yourself with. Also, friends come in all forms. A new friend doesn't need to be your same age nor the same gender, race, or sexual orientation. 

Don't be naïve. Yes, it's important to be open to others and friendship but also know your surroundings and how to get out of a situation you don't want to be in.  

***
And here's what Maggie suggested: "A lot of it is making work friends — drinks after work, getting breakfast together, etc. For non-work friends, it's a lot of lunches and/or coffee dates. Nights out are great, but they're few and far between sometimes. Grabbing a meal or coffee is more intimate than a night on the town which can lead to a faster-developed and deeper friendship."

Go sow: Challenge for the week. 


"What's important is that we never stop believing we can have a new beginning. But it's also important to remember that amid all the crap are a few things really worth holding on to." — Grey's Anatomy
Think about your work schedule. How can you carve out time for yourself — and for a chance to make friends?
Write back and let me know how it goes! And add these to your friendship toolkit:
  • Last piece of nurse content, for now: "Sybil and Mary started nursing in 1948, when the NHS first began. They have been best friends ever since."
  • What feminist philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft said about friendship in the 1700s: "Friendship… requires more cultivation of mind to keep awake affection, even in our own hearts, than the common run of people suppose."
  • This Tennessee 10-year-old is spreading lessons on fishing, faith, and friendship — and now has a 10,000-member Facebook Group community. 
  • Does a man in your life think that he's too cool for making new friends — or he just doesn't know where to start? Send him this link on why it's "so hard to meet a buddy." 
  • Some tips on what to do about chronic loneliness, from the scientists (and the New York Times' science writer): "I was in the age bracket — 18 to 24 — that now has the highest incidence of loneliness, as much as 50 percent higher than occurs among the elderly."
  • Finding a place that needs you as much as you need it: "After years of advocating for walkable neighborhoods and preservation of historic buildings, I decided to stop talking about it, and start doing it. So last year, I took the plunge and purchased a little 1915 bungalow fixer-upper near downtown Tulsa."
  • And just for fun: Disney princesses reimagined as Title IX attorneys, James Beard award-winning chefs, environmental conservationists, and more. The heroes we truly need. (Hat tip to Melody Warnick's newsletter on these last few!)

Grow the Sow.

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