Travel PT: Western North Carolina: Healing a Broken Arm, A Total Eclipse, and Tons of Outdoor Adventures! (August-December 2017)

*by Whitney*

Timeline: August-December 2017

Previous post on our job timeline: Travel PT: Living in WVA, Working in VA… A Crazy Assignment, Plus a Broken Arm! (April-August 2017)

Getting Started

So, I had just broken my elbow at the end of our last assignment, but we had to move to our new location anyway so Jared could start working. We were going to be working for the same hospital system in rural Western NC, primarily in outpatient but with some inpatient responsibilities as well. I was able to attend orientation with Jared on our first day, but after that I was not allowed to work because I was on lifting precautions.

The first few weeks were filled with uncertainty about whether or not I would be able to work at all. I was afraid I’d lose the contract altogether and they would find another traveler to replace me. Fortunately, I was able to get clearance to begin “light duty” at about 4 weeks after my injury (3 weeks after our start date), which meant I could only work in outpatient. Then at 6 weeks after the injury I was able to return to “full duty,” meaning I could work inpatient as well. I was very thankful that I was still able to keep the contract so I wouldn’t be out of work for longer than I already had to.

So I got to be a Stay-At-Camper Girlfriend for a few weeks, while Jared went to work everyday. This time was trying for me personally, as I struggled with emotions over my injury and my inabilities. But in some ways it was nice to have the time off. I was able to get a few things done during my time off, but mostly I caught up on a lot of sleep and tried to work on healing and regaining my elbow range of motion. I mostly did my own rehab for my elbow and didn’t actually go to see a therapist. I did have Jared work on it some and also got some advice from the hand specialists at work.

Our Jobs

Once I was finally able to start working, Jared and I were at the same clinic. We were both at the smaller of the hospitals within this hospital system, in their outpatient building. Across the parking lot was their “Swing Bed” inpatient unit, which was a very small, <50 bed critical access acute/rehab hospital. Our jobs were slow-paced and pretty laid back. In outpatient, we had 1-on-1 appointments for 45 minutes to an hour with every patient, meaning a maximum of 8-10 patients per day. This means more quality time spent with each patient and less rushing around. We would occasionally be required to go across the parking lot to help in inpatient, which generally never had more than 5-10 patients during our time there. This was such an awesome change of pace for us compared to some other contracts we have worked.

Initially, our contracts were only for 9 weeks. However, we had been holding out hope that they would extend our contracts for several reasons: we really liked the area; we really liked the jobs; we were staying at a very cheap campground; the jobs were high paying; and it’s overall much easier to stay in one location for a longer period of time. Fortunately for us, they were able to extend our contracts another 8 weeks, because they had not fully filled their permanent PT needs.

I ended up moving from the smaller hospital to the larger hospital in the next town, which worked out well because we were living between the two towns in anticipation that we may need to work at both hospitals. I was slightly busier at the new location, but it was still fairly laid back. The inpatient and outpatient were in the same building at this hospital, and I covered inpatient more often. But although it was the “larger” hospital, was still only a small < 100 bed hospital. And they had the same setup with 1-on-1 appointments in outpatient, which is always nice.

Our Adventures

We really enjoyed being in the mountains of North Carolina, including both the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains. We are from the upper portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, and we were only about 6 hours away from home. We also had been to some of the areas near Western NC in the past, but we were still able to see and do so much we had never experienced before.

We took advantage of a lot of outdoors adventures, including hiking, kayaking, leaf-peeking (fall in Western NC was awesome!), train riding, and scoping out waterfalls. We were also fortunate to be right in the “Path of Totality” for the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse, which we got to watch right from the parking lot at work! And we had our first Thanksgiving together “just the two of us” in the camper!

During this assignment, we got to experience various cities and states, including:

  • North Carolina:
    • Bryson City, Cherokee, Sylva, Asheville, Highlands, Hendersonville, Waynesville, Franklin, and some places in between!
    • Some highlights included:
      • Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
      • Nantahala Outdoor Center and kayaking on the Nantahala River
      • Hiking local trails (Whiteside Mountain, Oconoluftee River Trail, Fontana Lake, Shining Rock, Devil’s Courthouse, Graveyard Fields)
      • Exploring waterfalls near Highlands/Cashiers, NC
      • Hiking to the state high point at Mt. Mitchell State Park off the Blue Ridge Parkway and enjoying the beautiful sights of the parkway that never get old!
      • Local breweries/cideries
      • Cherokee Casino
  • Alabama:
    • Birmingham
    • The state high point in Cheaha State Park
      • To make things interesting, we learned the hard way about sunset times in different parts of time zones, by getting lost in the dark and almost having to spend the night in the woods! This was a very scary experience for us and we learned a lot about hiking preparedness after this. We fortunately did make it back safely to the car, eventually!
  • Tennessee:
    • Nashville: We were so excited to finally visit Nashville & it sure did not disappoint! We loved it! We got to see a few of my friends who lived around there and enjoyed honkeytonkin’!
      • We also had an interesting drive on “Dragon’s Tail” to get there!
    • Gatlinburg: We’d been here before but got to explore it again
    • Visiting Clingman’s Dome, which is the TN state high point, the Appalachian Trail high point, AND the highest point in the Smoky Mountains!
    • Hiking Mt. LeConte, which was an awesome experience and a beautiful fall hike. Unfortunately we did not pay to stay at the cabins at the top, which can only be accessed by hiking trails!
  • South Carolina:
    • Greenville: Where I had been before but Jared had not. It’s a pretty cool city!
    • The state high point at Sassafras Mountain (not a very high elevation at all, ha)
  • Georgia:
    • Atlanta: Where we got to enjoy some good food, see some of my ATL friends, and get to experience “Atlanta Streets Alive”
    • The state high point at Brasstown Bald where we caught an amazing sunset view (but luckily it was a short walk back to the car, so we didn’t get lost in the woods in the dark this time!)
  • Virginia:
    • Home for a wedding and to see family!

Onto the Next One

Overall we really loved this assignment. We have even talked about this being one of our top picks for locations we would consider settling down once we’re done traveling! Unfortunately, we were just not ready to settle down yet! We would’ve stayed for a longer travel contract had they needed us. But, by the end of our contract extension, they were not able to extend our contracts again, so we had to look for our next move.

We had been working on our licenses for Arizona at this point, in anticipation of heading out to the West Coast. However, the AZ licensing process was slow and wasn’t looking promising for our desired start date in January. Meanwhile, an opportunity came up to return to a location where we had been before, on the coast of North Carolina. This came completely out of the blue for us. But, although it wasn’t in our original plans, we decided it was too good to pass up, because we loved it in Eastern NC. So we decided to put our West Coast plans on hold (yet again), and head back to the coast of NC!

Stay tuned for my next post on our next contract in Eastern North Carolina!

 

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