Well, readers. It’s been six long weeks away from home in a brand new province- British Columbia! I am super happy to be heading home today because I really miss home and my partner! But I have thoroughly enjoyed the past six weeks and I’m about to tell you why!
I was having a hard time finding a contract this past winter so I decided to apply for my British Columbia license as many contracts in Canada are located here. It costed me about $1000 for the licensing but when I considered all of the provinces and where I most wanted to work, BC was at the top of my list. My dream is to work right on the coast and be by the ocean and the mountains. An opportunity came up to be presented for a six week contract in Dawson Creek so I agreed and my recruiter arranged my contract for me!
On April 16th, I began the long 16 hour day of flights and layovers to get to my final destination of Dawson Creek, BC. This was my first contract where I didn’t drive and bring my car with me so I was a bit nervous about not having the freedom to hop in my car and go wherever I wanted. I wasn’t feeling a 3-4 day 26 hour drive and putting 2600 km on my car there and back so flying it was! And of course, the costs of travel are all covered for me so I didn’t have to worry about anything. I checked two big suitcases and the costs of that were covered as well!
Dawson Creek is a town in Northern BC with a population of about 13,000 people. It’s very close to Alberta, only about 20 minutes. It’s where mile zero of the Alaska Highway begins! Dawson Creek was pretty similar to Bonnyville for me (where my first contract was in Alberta). It felt like I was in Alberta based on the landscapes and people in the town. The hospital is fairly small but they still have many resources such as a CT scan and an operating room for ortho, gyne and general surgeries. For a small hospital, it was a good size for me- not too boring and not too busy. The surgical side usually had 10-12 patients between 3 nurses so I never had more than four patients (even on nights!). The medical side had 16 beds so I had five or six on day shift and eight on nights. We only got post op patients two days a week (usually ortho) and the ER there actually has inpatients as well. It’s always so interesting to me to see how other hospitals run and function!
The housing for the travel nurses there is in the Northern Lights College residence. I actually really enjoyed my housing. There was free laundry and a little gym to use which was great and saved me a lot of money! I was put up in a four bedroom apartment in the dorms. For the first week or so, I was alone in my apartment which was really weird! Then one day, my good friend Camille (who I also lived/worked with in Bonnyville) arrived and became my roomie! This was awesome for me because I finally had a familiar face to hang out with and socialize with. By this time I had made friends with a few other travel nurses but there’s nothing like reuniting with a good buddy! Around the four week mark, another travel nurse moved into our place with us as well. It worked well sharing the kitchen and bathroom with three people. And it was so nice to watch TV together in the evenings and vent about your day at work. My last contract, I basically lived alone minus the couple I was living with so it was nice to be with fellow travel nurses who are experiencing all the same things as you are. I would say out of my three contracts so far, this was my favourite housing experience!
Dawson Creek is a pretty popular location for Canadian travel nurses. The hospital is quite short staffed for RNs so they hire a lot of agency nurses to fill the gaps in the schedule. This is a big problem for these smaller northern towns; new grads get their experience in their small hometowns and then move to bigger cities and hospitals once they gain more knowledge and skills. Because of this, the travel nurses are basically just placed into an empty RN line in the schedule. I had the BEST schedule while I was there. 4 on, 4 or 5 off. Day, Day, Night, Night. It was a dream. Each set was on the opposite unit (one on surgical, then the next set would be on the medical or long term care side). It was so nice to have those nice chunks of days off together. It made it really nice to go explore the area on my days off.
I explored Fort St John a bit one day. It’s the closest biggest city to Dawson Creek, only an hour away. Me and two other travel nurses rented a car for the day and went for lunch, shopping and to the brewery there. It is always so nice to hear about other travel nurses’ adventures and get ideas of where to go next! One of the nurses I went with is older and about to retire (again) from nursing so she had TONS of stories and hospitals that she has worked in over the years.
On the day that Camille arrived, we spontaneously drove to Tumbler Ridge, BC for a couple of days which was great! It was so nice to catch up and hear about her travels and tell her about mine. Tumbler Ridge is a huge Geo Park in Northern BC full of waterfalls, hiking trails, and dinosaur fossils. We went the last week of April and there was still a lot of roads and trails closed from the snow. We did a few nice hikes to Quality Falls, Flatbed Falls and Tepee Falls. We tried to go to the biggest waterfall, Kinuseo Falls, but we couldn’t make it very far on the road due to frost and construction. It was still a super fun adventure and we saw some beautiful views of the mountains and windmill farm along the 1.5 hr drive as well.
I would say the highlight of my six weeks in BC was the three day trip I took to Jasper National Park in the mountains. Mountains are my favourite and I just feel so inspired and happy when I am surrounded by them. I worked one shift with another travel nurse named Jordan who was on the same rotation as me and we randomly decided to make use of our five days off and drive the six hours there. *Worth it*. We hiked so many trails, ate amazing food, drank delicious beer, and saw tons of wildlife and breathtaking views. We hiked to Old Fort Point & Maligne Canyon and saw Athabasca Falls, Maligne Lake, Pyramid Lake and Patricia Lake. The weather was gorgeous (I even got sunburned the one day!). I’ll let the pictures do it justice because I don’t feel like I can properly explain the beauty I witnessed.
My favourite part of this assignment in Dawson Creek was the staff I worked with. The girls were UNREAL and were so welcoming. They always invited the agency nurses out with them on the weekends which doesn’t always happen, so I was really happy to be included. I don’t think they realize how important and meaningful it is to extend an invite to the outsiders. I went out the one night for karaoke then to the country bar and it was so much fun dancing and watching everyone two step. They actually have to learn it in school up there!! We went out for drinks one night after work on National Caesar Day, had many sushi and brunch dates and all got together to watch The Bachelorette on Monday nights. I am going to miss all these girls fiercely when I go home. There are a lot of travel nurses there and I connected with every single one that I met. There’s just something about the bond you share with like-minded people when you’re surrounded by people who really can’t relate to your lifestyle. It takes a special person to be a travel nurse and I’m so lucky that I was surrounded by so many strong independent women while I was there! (There are men travel nursing out there as well, but I didn’t encounter any while there! 🙂 ).
That about sums up my six weeks there. I was kind of dreading this contract because I thought it would be much more isolated and lonely than it was. It turned out to be my most social contract yet! Not having a car was completely fine but if my roommate Camille hadn’t been there then I might have a different opinion. She would let me take her car for groceries or I would join her when she went… she is the SWEETEST.
I am so excited to get home to Andrew and spend the summer at home with him. We have a ton of camping plans and a few trips in the works. I am hoping to go on another contract in the fall- hopefully on the coast!!
Thanks for reading,