- Hunter Marshall is an ICU nurse in New Mexico who’s spent the pandemic travel-nursing.
- Marshall made $90,000 in 28 weeks as a travel nurse, but still wants to quit due to burnout.
- This is Marshall’s story, as told to writer Fiona Lowenstein.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Hunter Marshall, an ICU nurse in New Mexico who has spent the pandemic travel-nursing. It has been edited for length and clarity.
When the pandemic started, I was in a full-time staff position at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque. I’d just been accepted into the family nurse practitioner program at UNM, and I was anticipating staying at my job— either part-time or in an as-needed position.
We were the COVID-19 unit, and there was frustration amongst staff. We were told we didn’t qualify for hazard pay, and that they wouldn’t allow non-COVID assignments for pregnant staff and staff over 60. I ended up doing an interview about working conditions in the Albuquerque Journal and was given a letter by the administration essentially saying: “If you talk to the media again, you will be disciplined.”
I wanted to stay. I liked the job. I liked the people I worked with. But if I’m going to be treated like crap, I’m not also going to be paid like crap — especially at a point when I would be incurring more costs for school.
I ended up taking a travel assignment in Wrangell, Alaska, over the summer
In 13 weeks, I made what I would have made in six months at my old job.
In New Mexico, I was making $32.34 an hour. In Alaska, I made $65 an hour and $100 an hour for overtime — plus, they provided free housing and paid for my flights. I still had to pay my $595 monthly rent in New Mexico, but I didn’t need a car because Wrangell is tiny. During my 13 weeks in Alaska, I made a total of $32,928.
When I flew up there, I was required to quarantine, and I was paid for it. We were also paid when we had exposures at my staff job, but it came out of our sick time and our vacation time. Once those ran out, we weren’t paid at all. It felt good to feel respected and compensated.
In late 2020 and early 2021, I did seven weeks in San Diego and made $17,804.34, working 36 hours per week. During that same time frame a year later, I went to Anchorage, Alaska, and made $35,834.37 over eight 36-hour weeks. My travel expenses to and from San Diego and Anchorage were covered, but I decided to rent a car in Anchorage for $2,986.66. …….