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Downtown Houston

Downtown Houston by telwink, on Flickr

When picking a new travel assignment, you can compare the “cool” factor of cities across the country.  Forbes ranked 65 American cities based on how cool a place they are to live. Cities with abundant entertainment and recreational opportunities, large number of restaurants and pubs (excluding chains), young diverse population, significant migration into the city, and low unemployment rate were the factors used to compile the list.

Houston’s strong economy has spurred its enviable growth. Residents and visitors enjoy world-class arts, pro sports teams, award-winning cuisine and loads of shopping in the nation’s fourth largest city.


  • •Buy a $2 METRORail ticket and go explore Houston’s Museum District. With 19 museums and a 50-acre zoo, the intellectually curious will find a range of satisfying topics from the Holocaust to postmodern art.
  • •Bike or hike on trails inside the 10.4 acre downtown Sesquicentennial Park or kayak through Buffalo Bayou during a four hour urban excursion.
  • •Play at the number #1 ranked children’s museum in the country or take the kids to the Health Museum—it’s part of the world renowned Texas Medical Center.
  • •Shopaholics can spend days in the Galleria with more than 375 stores. Take a break at the indoor ice skating rink.
  • •Spend an evening at the 17-block Theater District. Reserve a seat at the Alley Theater, the Houston Grand Opera, or Houston Symphony.
  • •Sports fans can back their favorite pro team. H-town has its own football, baseball, basketball, soccer, and hockey teams.


The top ten coolest cities in America are:

Houston, Texas

Washington, D.C.

Los Angeles, California

Dallas, Texas

Seattle, Washington

San Diego, California

Boston, Massachusetts

Orange County, California

San Francisco, California

New York, New York

Jim Twardowski, BSN, RN, CMSRN, is a travel writer based in Louisiana. His work has been featured in AAA Home & AwayGlobal Traveler, and QUEST magazines.

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On September 10, 2001, as I crossed the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, I looked to my right for a final glimpse of the cityscape. Since I’d moved away, the Manhattan skyline had become synonymous with “home.” From an eastbound viewpoint, it signified that I was almost there. And any time I traveled the bridge to return to Maryland, it represented the loved ones and lifestyle I would soon miss again.

The following morning—around 8:30 am on 9/11—I chatted breezily with my Healthcare Traveler colleagues about the John Mellencamp concert I’d attended at Jones Beach on September 9th. Not more than 20 minutes later, one of them abruptly swept back into my cubicle.

“Bobbi!” said Carolyn. “The news is on in the conference room. A plane just crashed into one of the buildings at the World Trade Center!”

I followed her to the area where a number of our coworkers had already congregated. As we stood there watching the live coverage, I wondered how the jet could have gotten so horribly off course. And I felt sick when I thought about the people on the affected floors of the tower who, like us, had just started their workday.

Then the second plane hit.

Oh, no, I thought in stunned silence, trying to process it all. This is deliberate.

I felt a sense of urgency in wanting to be near family and friends so I drove back to New York on September 14th. As I crossed the bridge into Brooklyn and looked at the skyline, I had to catch my breath. There was a large plume of white smoke hugging the area where the towers once stood. And while the vista still signified home, it was one of the most heartbreaking sights I’d ever seen.

I interviewed an RN and a CST who had been on assignment at two different New York City hospitals on that tragic day. Like so many in the New York metropolitan area, they wanted to do more.

Cover of the Nov/Dec 2001 issue of Healthcare Traveler

Dee, the nurse, donated blood and walked around the city for 9 hours handing out food, water, gloves, and masks with a colleague. Jason, the surgical technologist, volunteered at Chelsea Pier — where a triage center and ORs had been set up — and participated in a “bucket brigade” at Ground Zero.

Every year, in addition to remembering those lost on 9/11, I think about Dee and Jason—as well as the firefighters, police officers, paramedics, civilians, and other clinicians—who went above and beyond to help those directly affected by the unforgettable tragedy. Compassionate and dedicated, these exceptional healthcare travelers were a shining example of the inherent goodness in most people. And their selfless acts, along with those of countless others, provided a sense of comfort and community during a time of shock and overwhelming sadness.


As we honor the memory of those who lost their lives and those who volunteered their support and skills, we invite you to share your thoughts and comments here on our blog or via Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest.

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When you’re a travel nurse you basically have two choices when it comes to your housing; take the company provided housing or take a housing stipend and do the work of setting up and finding housing yourself.

If you decide to go the stipend route and wonder where you can actually find housing for a travel nurse who works just 13 weeks in one city, then stop wondering because it is easier than you think.

You can of course search sites like Craigslist or Apartments.com, but wouldn’t it be easier to search sites specifically for travel nurses?

Well you’re in luck.

Here are four websites designed specifically to bring together property owners and travel nurses looking for housing:

Jeff Long is the Marketing Manager at Medical Solutions, a travel nursing company. He has never been a nurse and is not a recruiter; his goal is to help you meet your career goals by sharing information, advice, and the benefits of travel nursing with you. He also blogs regularly at TravelNursingBlogs.com.

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Discomfort. Pain. Stress. Lethargy. So much comes with serious illness beyond diagnoses, tests, medications, and potentially taxing treatment protocols. There’s also pain management, patient education, and complex emotional swings. Palliative care specialists strive to provide patients holistic relief from their symptoms, pain, and stress associated with serious illnesses. Although akin to hospice, palliative patients aren’t necessarily dealing with life-threatening diseases, but intense medical situations nonetheless. And it’s that distinction that makes it a high-demand specialty. Unfortunately, resources nationwide continue to fall short.

The Center to Advance Palliative Care issued the America’s Care of Serious Illness: A State-by-State Report Card on Access to Palliative Care in Our Nation’s Hospitals, which judges how well—or not—facilities meet communities’ palliative needs. While the 2011 grades show marked improvement over the previous report card released in 2008, they also reveal notable disparities.

The Good News

More than half of the states earned a B mark. Even better, seven states and the District of Columbia made top grades, meaning more than 80 percent of their hospitals offer palliative services. Only 12 percent of states received failing grades.

Geographical Influences

For whatever reason, the South appears to be the most lackluster in palliative offerings. For example, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama sport the dubious honor of posting the lowest rates of palliative care among small hospitals while more than half of reporting small hospitals in Maine and New Hampshire sponsor formal palliative programs.

Bigger is Better

The report card also shows that larger hospitals are more likely to staff palliative specialists. Eighty-five percent of medical centers with a minimum of 300 beds employed palliative care teams opposed to less than one-quarter of small hospitals nationwide. What’s more, communities hosting only one hospital were highly unlikely to have palliative specialists on staff.

In an environment where the national healthcare community is already bracing for the projected onslaught of greater demand created by both the aging American population and newly insured individuals, the calls for palliative skills will probably react in kind. In other words, healthcare professionals trained in these services should experience a surge in career opportunities. And if you’re interested in pursuing mobile contracts in palliative care, it’s best to know how contracting facilities view and embrace this healthcare specialty.

See how the states rate at capc.org/reportcard. For more information on the palliative specialty, check out the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association at hpna.org.

Anne Baye Ericksen is a freelance writer based in Simi Valley, Calif.

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Photo: Antoine Henrich

I never tire of New York City–the place has an incredible energy. When my family visits

the Big Apple, we like to walk to the attractions. A hotel in Times Square is a perfect


Hilton has seven hotels in the area offering a special Times Square Entertainment

Package. Guests receive a coupon book with small discounts to attractions and

15-20% off select restaurants.

Participating hotels include:

  • Hilton New York Fashion District
  • Hilton Times Square
  • DoubleTree Suites by Hilton New York City-Times Square
  • DoubleTree by Hilton Metropolitan-New York City
  • Hilton Garden Inn New York/West 35th Street
  • Hilton Garden Inn Times Square
  • Hampton Inn Manhattan-Times Square North

As I was browsing the hotels online, I clicked on the “Book Now” link to determine rates. I

was surprised to see the reservation page allows you to check a box if your

dates are flexible–just like airlines. I quickly discovered we could save as much as

$200 a night depending on which days we travel. This is a terrific reservation tool–

thanks Hilton!

Book a hotel online  or call 1-800-Hiltons and request the LJ/LJ1 package, which is available until June 30, 2012.

Jim Twardowski, RN, is a travel writer based in New Orleans.

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You can already see yourself as a travel nurse. Setting off on an adventure. Meeting new friends. Experiencing a new location every 13 weeks. Learning new skills. Not being tied to one hospital. It will be wonderful, except for one problem. What is your spouse or significant other going to do for a job?

This is a common question for nurses traveling for the first time, so let’s explore some options. There are really four main life situations for the partner of a travel nurse so we will take a brief look at each one (these are ranked easiest to most difficult).

Your spouse or significant other stays at home or is retired

This is by far the easiest. Convincing your spouse who is already unengaged with a career to experience a new location with basically all expenses paid should not be a difficult sale. For many nurses nearing retirement travel nursing is not just an option, it is a retirement plan in itself. Free housing, great pay, and per diem allowances make it a very attractive situation.

Your spouse or significant other is a nurse too

This is the next easiest. The most difficult part of this situation is the extra time it will take to find assignments in the same city, if not the same hospital at the same time. But it happens all the time, so it’s definitely doable. Just find a good recruiter or two or three and let them know your situation right away.

Your spouse or significant other can work from anywhere

This is also very easy, but will take some prep work from your spouse or significant other to make a shift in his or her career. Some careers off the top of my head that lend themselves well to this include freelance writers, seasonal laborers, consultants, web-based business owners, work-from-home careers, and many more. After the first assignment is done and the mobilizing of your partner’s career is done, this can be a great situation for a travel nurse.

Your spouse or significant other would have to quit his or her job

Obviously this is the most difficult situation and one that will take the most deliberation between you and your spouse. If you are in this position, and in the event that you plan for your spouse or significant other to stop working, then many more factors come in, such as insurance, cutting household income in half, etc. If you plan on having him or her continue to work then there is a whole new challenge of finding a new job in the town your assignment is in or finding a new career that lets him work from anywhere, but even this can be overcome with some creative planning, and can be a great change for him or her as well.


No matter what your situation, travel nursing with your spouse is a great way to grow closer together while getting to see the country in a way most people don’t. So if you can make it happen, give it a try.

More resources

Here are some more articles that can help you decide if travel nursing with your spouse is the right decision for you.

Jeff Long is the Marketing Manager at Medical Solutions, one of the leading travel nursing companies in the industry. He has never been a nurse and is not a recruiter; his goal is to help you meet your career goals by sharing information, advice, and the benefits of travel nursing with you. He also blogs regularly at TravelNursingBlogs.com.

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Looking for a sweet whip that’s affordable to insure? You’re in luck!

The fine folks at InsWeb conducted a study on 400-plus, 2010 model-year vehicles—comparing all insurance rate quotes requested by consumers between January and September—to establish which cars are the least expensive to insure. Here are the results:


1.      Kia Sedona

2.      Mazda Mazda5

3.      Ford Escape

4.      Hyundai Santa Fe

5.      Mercury Mariner

6.      Chrysler PT Cruiser

7.      Ford Explorer

8.      Subaru Outback

9.      Kia Optima

10.  Chevrolet Equinox

11.  Ford Ranger

12.  Chevrolet Colorado

13.  Mercury Milan

14.  Buick LaCrosse

15.  Ford Taurus

16.  Jeep Compass

17.  Dodge Grand Caravan

18.  Dodge Nitro

19.  Toyota Tacoma

20.  Chevrolet HHR

21.  Toyota Sienna

22.  Honda CR-V

23.  Honda Element

24.  Toyota RAV4

25.  Subaru Forester

What determines the most inexpensive insurance rates? The top two variables: Vehicle value and loss history, which reflects the total cost an insurance company pays out if a car is totaled, as well as its likelihood of being in an accident. Other important factors include driver’s age and driving record, repair costs, safety features—such as vehicle stability control (VSC) and side curtain airbags—and security features, like LoJack.

Where you reside also has a bearing on insurance rates. The top five most expensive states for car insurance are Louisiana, where the average premium is $2,510.87; Michigan; Oklahoma; Montana; and California.

What about the most expensive cars to insure? Yep, InsWeb compiled a list of those, as well. They are:

1.      Acura ZDX

2.      Audi TTS

3.      Audi A5

4.      Cadillac Escalade

5.      Chevrolet Corvette

6.      BMW Z4

7.      Lexus SC

8.      Jaguar XF

9.      Cadillac STS

10.  Dodge Challenger

11.  BMW 128i

12.  Ford Mustang

13.  Mitsubishi Lancer

14.  Dodge Charger

15.  Nissan 370Z

16.  Nissan Maxima

17.  Lexus IS

18.  Lexus GS

19.  BMW 328i

20.  Chevrolet C1500

21.  Audi A6

22.  Chevrolet Avalanche

23.  GMC Yukon

24.  Chevrolet Camaro

25.  Mitsubishi Eclipse

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Ah, the Thanksgiving four-day weekend! There’s nothing like it, from enjoying a festive meal with loved ones, to bargain hunting on Black Friday, to visiting with old friends who are also home for the holiday.

If you’re a healthcare traveler who plans to fly tomorrow, you’ll be doing so during the busiest travel time of the year. Add National Opt-Out Day, an organized protest against TSA screening policies, to the mix and—depending on the campaign’s momentum and effects—your ETA at Aunt Sally’s Annual Turkey Day Wingding could be later than anticipated.

Even so, it’s smart to be prepared for delays, just in case. But there are certainly a few tips and holiday-specific pointers that will help you move you through the security checkpoint process more quickly.

·       Whenever possible, it’s best to pack liquids in luggage you plan to check. (Bonus: In your checked luggage, you can carry a big ol’ industrial-sized can of Aqua Net instead of a teensy one. Yee haw!)

·       Remember, liquids = liquids, as well as gels and aerosols. So, items like hairspray and face cream = liquids. Capiche?

·       If you have to stash liquids in your carry-on bag, you must stow them in a clear, quart-sized, sealable bag. The bag may be filled with as many liquids in 3.4-oz (or less) containers as you can cram into it. But—and this is key—you must be able to seal the bag without difficulty, so do not overstuff!

·       Be sure to remove the clear, sealable bag from your carry-on before you reach the conveyor belt, to send it through the X-ray.

·       If you’re taking your laptop, you should think about investing in a TSA checkpoint friendly laptop bag. This way, you don’t have to remove it from the bag when placing it on the X-ray belt. Convenient and time saving!

·       When possible, pack coats and jackets in checked luggage. If you don’t, they will have to be X-rayed, too.

·       You can actually bring some foods in your carry-on. Cakes and breads are fine in general, but pies and some other baked goods may be subject to further screening.

·       Foods you cannot pack in your carry-on bag include cranberry sauce, dips, spreads, syrup, jams, jellies, peanut butter, oils, sauces, soups, and other liquid foodstuff.

·       If you’re bringing your aunt a snow globe, don’t put it in your carry-on! The liquid-filled orbs are strictly prohibited. So, put it in your checked bag or send it ahead with the gel shoe inserts (also not allowed in a carry-on) you bought for Uncle Joe. To find out more about what you can’t bring, go here.

·       You may take wrapped gifts. But the TSA agents may open them, so it’s much smarter to wrap everything after you reach your destination.

·       When in doubt, leave it out. If you aren’t sure an item can go through a checkpoint, you’re better off leaving it behind or packing it in your checked bag.

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Let’s face it—nothing feels like a real book. Also? Nothing feels like a real book. Did you know the average hardcover weighs about a pound, give or take a few ounces? Unfortunately, when you have to make every precious, packable square inch count, an armful of novels, cookbooks, or memoirs can quickly add up to excess baggage.

If you’re an avid reader like me, you may have already succumbed to the charms of a Kindle or an iPad. Sure, these electronic devices don’t have that new-book smell. And there are always instances where I will want (and buy!) a physical book in lieu of its electronic counterpart. But, me-oh-my, an eReader can definitely make it easier to take an assortment of books on the road.

That said, this doesn’t mean you can (or should) only use such a device to purchase books. Au contraire, voyageur! Apart from the freebies you can often get (for example, Kindle owners can find a plethora of books to download at no charge on Amazon.com), thousands of public libraries throughout the country have expanded their collections to include eBooks, as well as digitally downloadable audio books.

How does checking out an eBook work? If your library offers the technology, you simply go to its website, type in your card number, browse through its catalog, and download your choice(s) to your PC or Mac. Generally, just as with a traditional book, an eBook may be borrowed by only one person at a time. And after you check out a selection, you will have a specific amount of time to read or listen to it—usually one to three weeks—before it is automatically deleted from your account.

While eBooks offered through libraries are not widely available to Kindle users at this time, the technology—and terms through which it is employed—is still evolving. Currently, most eBooks are compatible with the Sony Reader and Nook, as well as a number of other mobile devices. To learn more about your options, contact your local library.

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When I first heard about the saddle-esque SkyRider earlier this month, I thought, Uh-uh. Not even if it’s strapped to a pink unicorn and comes with a hunky, chaps-wearing chauffeur. (Well, OK. Maybe then!)

My next thought: I wonder how many healthcare travelers would consider it? Sure, most mobile nurses, therapists, and technologists drive to their assignment locations. But there are definitely instances when flying is the best option. For example, if you were to accept a contract in Manhattan, Hawaii or Alaska, having a car may not be practical…or even possible.

The recently unveiled SkyRider—a newfangled seat earmarked for a new “budget class”—would enable airlines to squeeze more passengers into less space and offer cheaper fares. Now, I appreciate a bargain as much as the next traveler. However, I often feel somewhat cramped an hour—or less!—into a flight. So it’s hard to imagine purposefully choosing a seating option that offers between 7 and 9 inches less room than Coach. But if it were a short flight—and a substantial savings—would you give it a shot?

While it isn’t currently an alternative (it hasn’t even been approved by the FAA as yet), a SkyRider Class—or something similar—could be an option in the future. In fact, some carriers, such as RyanAir and Spring Airlines, have let it be known they would even accommodate standing passengers if regulatory authorities would allow it.

Dominique Menoud, director general of Aviointeriors Group—designers of the SkyRider—had this to say about his firm’s product: “The seat…is like a saddle. Cowboys ride eight hours on their horses during the day and still feel comfortable in the saddle.”

Point taken. But I am not a cowboy. And straddling my seat (!) aboard an airplane—for even the recommended limit of one to three hours—figures into my future about as much as a free in-flight meal and complimentary headset. But that’s just me. If the opportunity were to present itself, would you try the SkyRider?

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