Typically, when starting a new job, you can probably think of the first week like “syllabus week” was in college. Sure, classes are back in session, but no one’s fretting. Still got a week to get situated.
It’s not so much the case with travel assignments. The contracts are short term, and thus the onboarding and training are expedited. One day getting a general orientation for the hospital and a tour of the different units (we’d be working in the float pool and needed to know our way around), one day to crash-course the new electronic health record (Epic, in this case). We hit the floors on Wednesday to begin our first day back in the clinical setting since our last day on the prior contract, September 3.
The commute to work couldn’t be easier. Hop on the bikes, take the first left at the end of the block, and a mile later, we’re at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital (SBCH).
As is the case with any new travel assignment, stress and feeling overwhelmed come with the territory. I find myself thinking, “Why do we do this to ourselves??” Of course, there are a number of reasons, but they aren’t readily apparent as I try to tread water through the first few weeks. The one saving grace is that everyone we’ve met here at SBCH has been incredibly kind, welcoming, and helpful. The culture is collaborative, and the standard of care is high. It’s the kind of place that you feel proud to be a part of because of its stellar reputation.
Another not-so-glamorous part of traveling are the hospital specific computer-based competencies required in the first couple weeks. Typically packed with useful information, we find them tough to sit through as there are usually several hours of material in dozens of modules.
As we grew accustomed to our new surrounding at work, our poor Charley girl had to adapt to long boring days at home as Jamie and I were gone. We searched Rover on our phones, coming across several potential dog walkers. We were fortunate that the first person I contacted was available and willing to walk Charley for at least the first few weeks on days we worked. Sending us pictures of our pup throughout the day while we work, it was nice to see Char exploring the neighborhood with her new friend.
Travel nursing affords us a lot of new and exciting opportunities. Eating new places, checking out different natural areas, seeing what the city has to offer. And as such, we typically run into other travelers doing the same thing. Jamie had met Maggie, another travel RN, at orientation. She and her partner Brandon have been traveling for a few years and committed to the full-time RV life a couple years ago. On Friday we headed over to their RV at a park down near the beach in SB. A 35ft fifth wheel, the rig seemed like it had more space than our living situation, and all very nice and homey. It was our first up-close look at the RV life, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t interest me at all. They kindly fielded all 100 of my questions about the RV life as we enjoyed some pizza and beers.
We got a slow start out of the house Saturday, but made our way up to a trailhead in northern SB to hike the Jesusita trail to Inspiration Point. It’s incredible how accessible the hiking is out here. Only a 10 minute drive brought us to the trailhead, and a jump off point to many different paths. We’re used to traveling at least an hour for a good hike, so it was exciting to get outside and on the trail so quickly.
We learned quickly that we need to start earlier in the morning, as we saw all the folks with dogs coming down the path as we were headed up. Climbing up just short of 2000 ft above sea level, we were met with intense sun that blasted us for most of the second half of the trail. By the time we reached the top, it was clear that we’d have to take it easy and rest much on the way down so Charley didn’t overheat.
The hike took us along San Roque Creek, a dry bed with debris strewn about from when it was a rushing stream earlier in the year. Zig-zagging some switchbacks, we caught a view of the Pacific and the Channel Islands just off the coast, hiding in the haze. It was a new perspective as we looked back upon the lowlands of Santa Barbara, and getting the macro view helped orient me to what’s where in the city.
On the way back down, Charley stopped a number of times as expected. Carrying her for part of the way, we were able to make it down safely and basked in the glory of air conditioning when we returned to the car.
That evening, Jamie and I decided to check out the Santa Barbara Public Market, a spot with a number of food and beer options with nice outdoor seating. Settling on some noodle soup and a local ale, we ate and enjoyed the evening and pleasant weather.
A bike ride down the main strip of State St after dinner took us past innumerable restaurants with lovely outdoor seating setups- string lights, space heaters and all. We stopped in the Funk Zone, where we walked around for a bit and settled on one of the numerous wineries in the area, Fox Wine Co. for a glass. We spun back after biking for a bit and grabbed desert at Mission St Ice Cream, a spot only a couple minutes from our place with excellent ice cream options. (Definitely our new go-to ice cream place.)
We spent Sunday morning grocery shopping for the week and doing laundry. Afterward, we headed back down to Brandon and Maggies RV to hang out and watch some football. Jamie and Maggie took the pups for a walk on the beach boardwalk while Brandon and I watched football. Charley is starting to warm up to her new buddies, their pups Gurley and Donald. Switching up the hangout after a bit, we all went down to Lama Dog, a pot with an incredible beer fridge and draft options, and great accompanying food as well. We played some board games and enjoyed the fact that the place was remarkably uncrowded for a Sunday afternoon.
We’d be returning to work on Tuesday, so we took the chance on Monday to go to the hot springs recommended to us by our friends Jesse and Maribel before they left town. An easy 1.5 mile hike took us past lavish estates in the hills of neighboring Montecito and up to an unassuming tucked away area. With a lack of good signage I’m glad we had AllTrails and my GPS watch to get us there. The hot spring pools did not disappoint, with their slate-blue water drawing contrast to the green vegetation that surrounded it. I’d estimate the water was about 100F, and there were maybe 6 or 7 pools, each one overflowing and pouring into the next. We stayed for a half hour or so, enjoying the natural spa and peaceful quiet. Being so close by and an easy hike, I imagine we’ll return again several times throughout our stay, especially as it gets cooler.
We wrapped up the four day weekend with another amazing sunset at Hendry’s Beach aka dog beach.
All in all, it was a solid introduction to our jobs and a great week, getting more acquainted with our temporary home. Hopefully the adventurous spirit endures and we continue to make the most of our time here in SB. Lord knows there’s plenty to keep us busy!