• Natalie Nicole Wilson

Getting to Alaska

We are already one month into our Alaskan adventure, and we are feeling right at home! Although Alaska has always been on our bucket list, we hadn't planned on venturing up here so soon. As many of you know, Ford and I were originally booked to spend 13 weeks in Billings, Montana. With Ford being a recruiter and it happening to other travelers, I've always known being "canceled" is a risk of traveling. For those of you who are a little confused about what I mean by being "canceled" - as a traveler, you are there to meet the needs of the department you are working in. There are several reasons why facilities hire travelers including high census ( a lot of patients ), staffing shortages, nurses taking leave, and other reasons. It's always a possibility.

I remember going to Nashville for the weekend and staying an extra day to get some warmer clothes for Montana. We weren't even out of my in-law's neighborhood before I got the text, "Natalie, I just got information from the hospital that they no longer have a need for ER and are canceling the contract. I am very sorry". I remember looking at Ford in shock and we just kind of chuckled. We were at the two-week mark. We were SO stoked for Montana, so stoked that we were already talking about extending before getting there or being offered an extension. We had all of these warm clothes we were lugging home, and for all we knew our next assignment could be in Florida. At that point, it was all about having a positive mindset. Of course, it's a letdown to be canceled, but it's part of the gig. I won't forget Ford saying, "What about Alaska"? Annnnnnnnd here we are!

So what was the process of getting to Alaska? It was much harder than the last four assignments, but it wasn't crazy - just took a bit of extra planning. We went back and forth on if we should drive or fly, and we ultimately decided that it would be in our best interest to fly. Honestly, why did we ever think it would be smart to drive through Canada, which is closed to Americans more or less, in the dead of winter. Looking back, that should have never been an option. Our car stayed in Nashville, sadly. Although our 4runner is perfect for exploring, there was too much to do for it to survive -40 degree weather. We would have to winiterize the entire vehicle by getting snow tires, install an engine heater, purchase a battery charger, and be on top of having good antifreeze in the vehicle religiously. It wasn't worth the wear and tear. Our Ford Fiesta has served us very well! It may not have the four-wheel-drive but the snow tires are doing the job. Plus, my recruiting agency pays for the rental, which is very nice.

We flew Alaska Airlines, and we were impressed. Of course, getting Ruby to Alaksa, safely and non traumatically, was our biggest obstacle. At this point in time, Alaska Airlines had tightened its rules regarding pets on top of the plane. Having any sort of "emotional support" animal with you is no longer a thing. It was strictly service pets only. It's way harder than you may think to get your animal as a certified service animal. Sadly, Ruby flying cargo was our only option if we were going to fly. We were worried about Ruby traveling in a kennel, because this is not something she is use to. We purchased her kennel off amazon, and it worked great. The airlines have specific requirement for the kennel. I am assumming they are all pretty similiar in what they require, but it's best to check the airline's policy just to be safe. A few things that helped her adjust - we ordered it two weeks before we left for Alaska so that she could adapt to her new space. I recommend taking their favorite bed and placing it in the kennel for some familiarity. Ruby had no problem, in fact, she would take naps in her kennel on her own. We set her up for a vet appointment where they assessed and ensured she was in good condition to fly and up to date on all of her shots. Thankfully, Ruby is not a breed that vets are typically concerned about. She passed to fly, no problem. They provided us a health certificate that we presented at airport ticketing. Other than that, we paid $100 for her cargo ticket and got her to Alaska with zero problems. From ticketing to the flight attendants, everyone with Alaska Airlines was so comforting and loving towards our Ruby girl. It made the biggest difference. They even brought us a little card to our seat during boaring that assured us Ruby was aboard the plane. The plance was obviously pressurized and temperature controlled, so everything we felt, she felt. Another cool thing they did is waive the fee for re-checking our bags since we decided to break up our flight into two days - not sure if they always do this, but it was much appreciated. We paid $250/ per person for a one-way ticket from Nashville to Alaska, my company obviously reimbursing my ticket. **Also, a negative COVID swab was required upon landing in Alaska no earlier than three days before your flight. If you do not get a COVID swab beforehand, you will have to get swabbed in the airport you arrive in and quarantine until results are received.** Overall, the move to Alaska was pretty smooth. As usual, we found our house off of Airbnb and it ended up being everything we expected.

The most difficult part, by far, was obtaining the Alaska nursing license. This is a processsss. Alaska is not a compact state, so obtaining licensure by endorsement is necessary. It may have to do with COVID, but the Alaska board of nursing was extremely difficult to get ahold of, so I strongly advise involving the licensing department of your recruiting company for any questions you may have. In a lot of cases they will not reach out to you, so advoacate for yourself. Ensure that you have everything you need early on, because it does take a while for the license to be issued and you do not want any delays. Things you will need are a fresh background check, two sets of fingerprints (they cannot be electronic), your typical nursys verification, verification of employment (from your recruiting agency), and a notary signature page.

To say we are enjoying our time, here in Alaska, would be an understatement. Stay tuned for more Alaska updates!



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