Ftravel nursing stories or those contemplating the travel nurse field: The best way to learn about the travel nursing field is from those who are actually in the travel nursing trenches.

The following are the travel nursing stories that have been sent to me by other traveling nurses.

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Martha from Alabama

Martha informs me that location and benefits are most important to her.  She prefers to take the housing stipend and travel in a recreational vehicle.  Her favorite city has been Port St. Lucie, Florida, with her least favorite being Lubbock, Texas.

On her first assignment, she was newly divorced and had an empty nest when she decided to spend the winter in Florida.  It was the first time that she had ever been alone in her life.  She was pretty miserable because of the loneliness.  Then came September 11, 2001, and all she wanted to do was hug her granddaughter and be near her parents and children.  She was afraid, upset, and lonely.   She finally convinced her agency to let her go back home for a week and see her family.  She never went back.

What would Martha like to tell the first timer?  “Even though my first experience was bad, I really like the hospital, the job, and really loved the area.  I have since remarried and as soon as I can talk my new husband into going with me, I will head back to Florida.”

I include this story just to show “newbies” that life can be lonely out there.  You MUST be prepared for a life of loneliness on the road, and be prepared for loneliness.  There are plenty of things that can take up your time.  I have the hobbies of quilting, golfing, and writing.  My days off give me plenty of time to do my hobbies and NOT feel lonely.

Get involved by joining a community group or church group.  We have a “family” no matter where we go because of our affiliation with the church that I have grown up in.  No matter what town I go to, I know that I have a family.  I know that my son already has friends, because of our affiliation with the church.

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Melissa from Oregon

Melissa writes that she was a travel nurse for ten years, but because of her current family situation, she is unable to travel at this time in her life.  Location was most important to her with the financial aspects being second important.  She prefers two-bedroom housing, and doesn’t mind paying some to get the housing that she needs.

The nightmare hospital for her was Dorchester Community Hospital in Cambridge, Maryland, and her favorite place was in Corpus Christi, Texas.

About her first assignment she writes:  “We went from Portland Oregon to Cambridge Maryland. The security officer met me and drove me around town and told me what streets I could walk down and what streets I couldn’t.  It was the most bigoted town in the world.  But, I learned that if you just hold your peace, even BAD assignments will come to an end.”

Her advice to a new travel nurse would be to plan on doing more than just working.  In one town, my husband and I discovered a walking tour.  The tour took us along the same paths that runaway slaves took to escape to freedom.  When I went to work and told ‘the locals’, they didn’t even know the walking tour (in their town) existed! Also, don’t discuss what the agency is paying you.  It makes the local nurses resent you.

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Margie from Kansas

Margie is a surgical RN who has been travelling for 1-2 years, writes in that the personality of the recruiter is number one to her followed by money, benefits, and location.  She prefers a one-bedroom house paid for.  Her favorite city to work in has been El Paso, Texas.  Her least favorite cities have been Pittsfield, Massachusetts with Pittsfield Medical Center and Brownsville Medical Center in Brownsville, Texas.

About her first travel experience she writes, “My first travel experience was great.  I learned a lot and experienced so much.  It was very hard to leave.”

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Trish from Connecticut

Trish is a telemetry nurse who also specializes with HIV/AIDS patients.  Through her 2-5 years of travel nursing, she has chooses her assignment based on location, followed by money, recruiters, and benefits.

Trish prefers a one-bedroom apartment paid for and is currently working with Star Med.  If something came along she definitely would switch companies, but is happy with Star Med for now.  Upon working for RN Network, she was sadly disappointed with their quality of service to the travel nurse.

Trish reports that in all her 12 assignments, all have been positive experience with traveller friendly staffs.  Her favorite city has been San Francisco, CA, with her least favorite city being New London, CT.  She was with RN Network at that time and experienced horrible housing and was lied to a lot by her recruiter.

Her first experience as a traveller was at the University of California, San Francisco.  She found it a huge adjustment for me, as I’d never worked at a large teaching facility before.  I did two assignments there and loved it.  First time living alone, first time living in an apartment, first time living in a city and first time using public transportation to go to work.  All in all it was a wonderful experience.

Her advice to a first time is, “Be open and flexible…  Go with the flow.”

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Helen from Florida

Helen specializes in orthopaedics, medic, surgical, and psychiatric nursing writes to me that for it’s location, location, location!  Second importance is money, benefits, and then recruiter.  She is now travelling with Healthcare Everyone, but would switch companies if another company offered her the exact location that she wanted to visit next.

Helen has been travelling for one to two years, and expects a comfortable 1-bedroom apartment in her new location.  Her favorite city has been Hilton Head Island, SC, with her least favorite being Lancaster, PA.

About her first experience she writes…  It was really scary.  I worked in a HCA facility where they didn’t know when I was to start.  I showed up on the Saturday before I was to begin and was at the hospital bright and early Monday morning, only to find out that I really wouldn’t start until Wednesday.  The worst part of the whole deal was when they tried to float me to a unit where I was not qualified.  We had no supplies.  The friendly staff is what made it bearable for the 13-week assignment.

Her advice to a new traveller is, “Do your research.  Pick a good company and a hospital with a good reputation.”

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Dawn from Michigan

Dawn works in Labor and Delivery and states that her number one factor in choosing a location and company is money and benefits followed by recruiter and location.  She has been traveling for one year now and as traveled with Mobile Medical Staffing and Life Science Resources.  For living arrangements, she prefers a one bedroom furnished apartment.  Her favorite city has been Tallahassee, Florida, with her least favorite being Patterson, New Jersey.

About her first travel nursing experience she writes, “It was great, I worked at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital on their Mother/Baby unit. The staff there was wonderful and most appreciative. The people within the city were very friendly and the area in the panhandle of Florida was terrific for exploring (we never left it to visit central Florida in the 13 weeks, too much to do). My company at the time, LifeScience Resources was great with my first assignment. This was definitely a most awesome first assignment.”

Her advice to a first time travel nurse is, “Do a lot of research and ask a lot of questions. Go in with open eyes and be willing to explore your surroundings on your days off. Make the most of this time. But, don’t let people use you and walk over you either, you are there to help them and are human with feelings, speak up, don’t be afraid.”

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Jeanine from Texas

Jeanine is a Pediatric nurse, who works NICU, PICU, and ER, chooses location as her number one importance with benefits as second.  Least important to her is money and the recruiter, and she prefers a one bedroom apartment paid for.

Her first assignment was at Doctors Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas, and ended up being the assignment from hades.  She could not believe all the horrible stuff that was happening to her.  Although she had heard bad things about her travel company, All About Staffing came through for her and got her relocated.  She states, “they really came through for me, big time.”

Her advice to a new traveller is:  “Be flexible, but don’t take any crap.”

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Eva from Washington

Eva is an emergency room nurse from Washington who rates money and recruiter as being most important, with benefits and location lagging not far behind.

She has been travelling for almost five years, and prefers a one-bedroom apartment paid for.  Eventhough she has travelled with other companies, she is currently with Cross Country Trav. Corp.

Her favourite city has been Gardena, California, with Fresno, California, and St. Agnes Hospital listed as her least favourite hospital and city.

About her first assignment she writes, “I was fortunate with my first assignment, Holy Cross in Silver Spring, MD.  The core staff was VERY traveler friendly and the ER had a lot of travelers.  You hit the floor running, the docs respected the nurses, ancillary staff was helpful, it was just a great first experience in travel nursing.  I was hooked right then and there.  Oh yes, the money was really good, too.”

What she would tell a first timer:  “Its scary, but go for it!  The experience has made me a better nurse, and I truly think I have become a more compassionate nurse because of being a travel nurse.  The reason? I don’t have to deal with the ‘politics’ only my care of the patients.”

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Patty from Wisconsin

Patty is a critical care nurse who has been travelling for almost 2 years.  She ranks her number one in importance as recruiter and money with benefits and location ranked next.  She prefers a one bedroom paid apartment.

She is currently travelling with American Traveler, but would switch companies depending on the job.

Her favorite city has been Phoenix, Arizona, and considers Dover, Deleware, has her least favorite city, but “wasn’t that bad!”

About her first travel experience she states, “I loved meeting new friends, and it is very interesting to learn how other hospitals do things.  I’m lonely at times, but I find it exciting to explore different parts of the country.  There is so much out there!  Also, the solitude can be refreshing at times.  When I’m home, I rarely get any time alone.”

     What would she tell a first time traveller?  “Do your best at your assignment and you will get along just fine.  Offer to help your co-workers; a lot of times YOU are the more experienced one, and new nurses appreciate having you around when things get hairy or a patient crashes.”

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Mary from Texas

Mary has been traveling 2-5 years with Clinical One as a surgery nurse.  Most important to her is the assistance for a recruiter and the location followed by money and benefits.  She prefers to having a one bedroom furnished apartment paid for.  Although she didn’t have much fun in Lewiston, Maine, or Wichita Falls, Texas, she had a blast in Norwalk, Connecticut.

About her first travel nurse experience she writes, “I had wanted to do travel nursing for many years, and when the chance came, I tried too hard to do a great job. The hospital I went to was having terrible personnel problems and I became fair game.  I did not let the experience stop me and I have had some really great assignments and some worse assignments.”

Her advise to a first timer is, “Sit back and see how things are done at the hospital where you are assigned. Not every facility does things the same way and many options are just fine. As long as the patient and your license are not at risk, go with the flow.”

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Vernell From Alabama

Vernell is a psych nurse who has been traveling for a little over one year.  She is with Supplemental Healthcare and doesn’t plan on switching anytime soon.  Her favorite city has been Raleigh, NC, with Baltimore, MD, being her least favorite.

She has traveled twice in her career.  Once in the late eighties then early 2000.  She worked for John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. The hospital was huge, but the people she worked with were very friendly and helpful. The residents and the staff were grateful for the help and welcomed her to the unit as a working member of the staff and not as some one getting paid and wasting their time. Because it seemed to always be under construction, Baltimore was very difficult for her to get around.  She was there for seven months and just beginning to understand how to get around. One nurse and nursing assistant, took her under their wings and took her to sights of interest.

Her advice to a first timer includes, “Be careful, know your surroundings, don’t be scared to explore and to realize nursing care is nursing care, just the surrounding and policies will be different.

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Kimberly From Colorado

Kimberly is a orthopedic and spine nurse who states that money and location followed by benefits and recruiter as being important to her.  She has been traveling for almost give years, and prefers a one bedroom apartment that is paid for.  Her favorite city has been Santa Barbara, CA, with Century City being her least favorite.

Her first travel assignment was a real eye opener and she used all her courage and found her survival resources.  For a first timer she states that it is important to jump in with both feet.  Don’t worry about the small stuff and use well known travel friendly facilities, and by all means speak up if you are getting ditched on!

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Lynn from Missouri

Lynn is a critical care nurse who rates money and location as priorities over benefits and a great recruiter.  She has been traveling for almost five years with MedStaff, StarMed, Nursestat, RN Stat, and her current company, Health Specialists.  Her disaster hospitals include:   Cox South, Springfield, MO ; St. Louis University Hospital, St. Louis, MO; Raleigh Community Hospital, Raleigh, NC; Bothwell Regional Medical Center, Sedalia,MO; Golden Valley Hospital, Clinton, MO.  Her favorite city has been Kansas City with her least favorites being St. Louis, MO, and Raleigh, NC.

Her first travel experience was very stressful related to dangerous housing in the worst part of St. Louis, MO; the horrible drive of 1.5hrs to drive 17 miles from the apartment to the hospital; the traveling company which refused to move her even though pimps, prostitutes, drug addicts hung around the door of the apartment building; the same company which never paid her correctly so she spent long periods of time fighting with the payroll department trying to get the correct pay when she needed to be sleeping. Needless to say.  She worked the thirteen weeks and went to another company. The company was StarMed.  She liked the hospital through StarMed, but just didn’t see eye to eye with the company.

What would she like to tell a first timer?  “Be assertive. These companies and hospitals need you worse than you need them. Remember, you are a valuable commodity. If RN’s did not exist none of these travel companies or hospitals could operate. Get along with the staff nurses you work with, but do not get sucked into their problems.  My personal opinion now is that a nurse works for a hospital that treats them badly and pays them poorly, they must be a masochist at heart.  You will find very few places where the nurses are happy; if they were, you wouldn’t be there as a travel nurse.”

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Cheryl from Louisiana

Cheryl is an RN that has been traveling for over two years.  She prefers a one bedroom apartment for housing and places priorities on a great recruiter and pay scale.  She is with Travel Nurse Solutions (previously World Health) and has absolutely no plans on changing.  She previously worked with Professional Placement Resources, but has no plans on returning to them.  The least friendly hospital that she has been in was Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, CA, with her favorite being Rancho Mirage, CA.

This is what she had to say about her first assignment, “she was a very new nurse graduating in February 2001, she started my first travel assignment in early 2003 locally, just 30 miles from home. It was a very large teaching state hospital with primitive testing and limited orientation but was traveler friendly. The nurse patient ratio was 6-8 pts and she worked the night shift. One of the busiest floors in the hospital, the tele floor, we handled a lot of new admissions and the hospital employed “admitting nurses” but only until 10-11pm which was a major plus. They also were in nurse manager transition mode which made it a little more challenging to get info and scheduling issues solved. she enjoyed it b/c it was fast-paced and challenging to say the least. The location was top priority at that time so money wasn’t the biggest issue. However, being my first assignment, you find out quickly that travel companies make a chunk of change off of us and she learned real fast that the travel nurse industry is worth minding your p’s and q’s.

Advice to a first timer includes not being afraid of the unknown!  Just jump in with both feet and give it your all. After all, you did it when you first started nursing school! Be PREPARED and keep in touch with other travel nurses with your same goals and make sure they are POSITIVE in thinking! Why, positive produces positive and life has enuff negatives already. Encouragement and support is much needed and sometimes the least provided. Enjoy life and your family! If you do as a person AND nurse what you don’t get paid for, the rest takes care of itself! Go for it and don’t look back! Tomorrow is a new day!

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Judy from Florida

Judy is an ICU RN who prefers one bedroom paid for housing.  She placed money and benefits as being most important.  Her disaster company is listed as Lifecare Associates.  She is currently with RN Demand and does not plan to switch companies anytime soon.

Her least favorite hospital was Northern Arizona Medical Center with King City, CA, being her least favorite city.  Her favorite city has been Farmington, NM.

On her first travel assignment she was 1600 miles from home, knew no one, and was scared to death.  She was afraid that she couldn’t catch on in the short orientation, but managed just fine which she survived related to the hospital staff that was very helpful and friend.  She quickly learned and gained the confidence that she CAN do it!

What would she tell a first timer?  “Make sure everything you agree upon is relayed in your phone interview with the hospital, and it’s in your contract. Make sure your hours are guaranteed in your contract. Listen to other travel nurses and learn from their mistakes.

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Connie from Nebraska

Connie is an OR nurse who has been traveling for almost a year.  She takes the housing stipend and travels in her RV.  She currently travels with RN Demand and her favorite city has been Sandpoint, Idaho.

She had a one day orientation with three staff nurses on her first assignment, and none were much good at teaching or had a complete working knowledge of the unit.  It took about two weeks to put if all together, then things started going great and she extended her assignment.  The trick to surviving an assignment, according to Connie, is to keep smiling and realize that not every day is going to be your best day.  And most importantly, ask questions, ask questions, and then ask more questions.

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GiGi from North Carolina

GiGi is a Stepdown/Telemetry nurse who prefers to be housed in a two bedroom apartment, which the company provides.  She has been traveling for almost two years, and places money and location above benefits and a great recruiter.  She is now traveling with Cross Country TravCorp, but is open to other companies.  Her favorite city has been High Point, NC with Cape Fear Valley and Fayetteville, NC, being her least favorite.

Her first travel nursing experience was fun, exciting, and nerve-racking, but a great learning experience.  Her advice to new travelers is to always check on your floating status and to what unit…  Some hospitals will put your license in jeopardy.  When you are orienting to the unite, make sure that you know where ALL the policies, procedure, and protocol books are located at a moments notice.

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Tekoa from Tennessee

Tekoa is a NICU nurse that has been traveling for over two years.  She is now with Strategic Healthcare after leaving the disaster of American Mobile.  Her favorite cities have been Washington, DC, and San Francisco, CA, with her least favorite being Corpus Christi, TX.

Her first assignment was fun, exciting, and completely under paid, but a great learning experience.  She would like to remind all first timers to talk to many people as possible and READ your contract before signing it.

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Judy from Florida

Judy is an OB nurse with over a year’s worth of experience.  She travels in an RV and placed location and money as priorities over a great recruiter and benefits.  Her worst hospital was Naples Community.  Her favorite city was San Diego, CA, and named Crossville, TN, as her least favorite.

She traveled from South Florida to California in an RV with her husband and dog for her first assignment.  It was very exciting to see new country while we traveled and settled in to a campground and located the hospital. The first day was a little scary but also exciting to meet new people, see how things worked there, and say “she am a travel nurse”. They saw many places that they had only read, seen or heard about in the year we were in California.  They made many wonderful memories together. The work experience has made her see and do some things differently, and take those to new places and share. She loved the flexibility and adventures that travel nursing gives to her.

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Kathy from Idaho

Kathy is a telemetry nurse that prefers a one bedroom apartment.  She has been traveling for two years and is now with National Healthcare and is looking to switch.  She states that has been unhappy with both Medical Express and National Healthcare.  She places money and benefits over location and a great recruiter.  Her favorite city has been Seattle, WA, with Santa Clara, CA, and Kaiser being her least favorite city/assignment.

Her first assignment at Oschner Clinic Foundation in New Orleans just five months after Katrina was great.  It was the most wonderful place to work.  She would like to remind all new traveling nurses to get a signed contract BEFORE you leave for the assignment.

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Twana from Illinois

Tawan is a labor and delivery nurse who has been traveling for less than a year with Trustaff and is looking for a new company!  She places location as most important with money and benefits coming in next.  Her favorite city has been Lake Jackson, TX.

Her first assignment was a very new experience.  She had to deal with the darker elements of Trustaff.  Everything that that company provided came out of her wages, and they only have the tax advantage as an option.  She found herself looking at what seemed to be a very small paycheck.  She changed recruiters and dealt with a different housing person and managed to survive related to a great hospital.  The nurses at Lake Jackson were very traveler friendly as well as the management.  “If you’re looking for a great small town feeling, this is the place!”

What would she like to tell a first timer?  “Have everything in writing. You must make sure that sure that your recruiter answers all your questions to your satisfaction. Don’t fall for the sales pitch. Take care of yourself because the company will not at all times.

 **Note from Epstein:  As stated before in this book, hospitals pay the company a bill rate…  all benefits, company expenses, and your wages come out of that bill rate.  Twana is correct in that, you need to keep the company honest!  If you truly think that you pay rate is low, go to www.pantravelers.org and use their salary calculation tool and see if the bill rate sounds right.  California bill rates now are at about $70 and Florida bill rates are about $50.  Everything else is USUALLY in between.

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Leslie from Pennsylvania

Leslie is a progressive care unit nurse who places location and a great recruiter as priorities.  She has been traveling for under a year with American Mobile and stays in a two bedroom apartment.  Her favorite city has been Beaufort, SC.

Her first traveling experience was a very positive one in that she found a job within a week of looking.  Her recruiter is wonderful and talked her until she was ready to go.  The hospital was filled with traveling nurses and she had a great time.  She would like to remind all nurses to make sure that everything you want is in your contract!

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Dawn from Wisconsin

Dawn is a dialysis nurse who placed location and recruiter has most important with money and benefits secondary.  She has been traveling for a year and a suite is fine.  She has been traveling with Foundation Medical Staffing, but would consider another travel company.  Her favorite place has been Anchorage, AK, with Madison, WI, being her least favorite.

Her first travel experience was totally awesome.  She appreciated many of the people that she met there, at work and at play.  Most seem “nicer” there than other places. She learned to cross country ski, caught her first Salmon, fell into the water and learned to dip net. She saw her first Moose and their babies! The summers are fantastic in Alaska!

She thinks that it’s a plus for a traveler to have a personality that works well either alone or with others as we never know what’s going to happen on assignment. Also, being outgoing is helpful so you can initiate conversation as well as activities.

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Mia from Ohio

Mia is a progressive care and intensive care nurse who travels mostly for he money!  Instead of company supplied housing, she takes the housing stipend and finds her own.  She has been traveling for almost five years with American Mobile, but is open to traveling with another company.  Her favorite assignment was in Raleigh, NC, with Naples Community Hospital in Naples, FL.

Naples Community Hospital is an absolute nightmare!  The director on my floor was completely rude, unwilling to work with staff etc…  The nurses to patient ratios are out of control.  They make you take a very hard written out test which is pass or fail…and if you fail, they cancel your contract on the spot!  It was the worst travel assignment ever.

For first timers, she would just like to remind them the get EVERYTHING in writing!

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Connie from Mississippi

Connie is an OR, PACU, and Endo nurse who places money and benefits as top priority.  She takes the housing stipend and uses her RV.  She has been traveling for almost a year and is not dedicated to any one travel company.  Her favorite city has been Birmingham, AL.

About her first assignment she states, “My first assignment was in Montgomery, al, at Jackson Hospital. they were very busy and very disorganized. The staff was friendly and worked very hard. and worked as a team.  The surgeons were arrogant and the reason she did not resign on.  There are too many other places to work to put up with that type of treatment.  Birmingham and St. Vincent east was great!  There were a lot of great team players. The surgeons were mostly very nice and competent. i enjoyed working there. i was treated fairly like one of them. They taught her so much.  The only bad thing was that I had a 30 minute commute to work, because I was staying in my RV and that was the nearest park.”

She would like to remind first time travelers to stay focused and work hard.  Do not take your work home with you and have fun!

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Kayci from New York

Kayci works in the Emergency Room and has been traveling for over two years.  She takes the housing stipend and finds her own apartment.  She travels with American Mobile now after her bad experience with Cirrus Medical Staffing.  Her favorite city has been Charlotte, NC.

Her first travel nursing experience was great fun.  She was so happy that she had taken the risk and did. Taking that first assignment is half the battle. Her first job was in NYC and it was GREAT. She loved her recruiter, loved her apartment, loved the hospital.

What would she tell a first timer?  “PLEASE..PLEASE…if you would like to resign at a certain hospital…  be FLEXIBLE!!! That is one reason why hospitals higher travelers. The more flexible you are the more money they are willing to offer you and better scheduling.  Be a team player…and WORK HARD and everything will run smoothly!!!”