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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.

WHAT TO SEE

  • •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.

TOP TEN

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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BDesotelle1

Photo courtesy Bruce Desotelle

I love this time of year, when every weekend, stadium parking lots come alive with a sea of tailgaters. For example, Kansas City Chiefs’ fans are known to get the party started a few days early. Each football town has its own way to boost team spirit. As healthcare travelers, you have the opportunity to witness first-hand how different fans in different cities honor their teams’ tailgating traditions.

Regardless of where you attend the party while on assignment, there is a certain etiquette expected of all tailgaters. Here are a few of the basics for beginners.

• Fanfare: Unless you’re a diehard fan for your own team, invest in some local spirit gear, such as a cap or T-shirt, so you fit in with the crowd.

• Car show: Once on the scene, stroll the grounds to see how vehicles have been decked out and customized to display their owners’ over-the-top team loyalty. Most people will be happy to explain how they converted an old school bus into a football lounge on wheels.

• Personal chef: One of the best parts of tailgating is tasting regional favorites prepared on portable grills or creatively constructed cook tops. If you’re in Boston on assignment, you’ll find kettles of New England clam chowder at Gillette Stadium. Every grill at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisc., will be loaded with brats. Even if you’re not hosting the football fiesta, offer to contribute to the menu, maybe a side dish or dessert. Extra ice and drinks are always appreciated, too.

• Dress code: Better to be over-prepared than get caught in the rain or snow. Bring an umbrella, or gloves, scarf, and hat if you are on contract in a northern town. Here’s a thought: battery operated portable heater.

• Keep cool: Sure, the majority of people will be cheering for the local pigskin players, but there could be visiting fans, too. Good-natured teasing might be okay, but keep the “game talk” G-rated so everyone has a good time.

• Clean-up service: No matter if you’re attending the big game or watching the gridiron showdown on TVs set up in the parking lot (yes, that happens), don’t leave a mess behind. Bring along extra trash bags to pick up after your neighbors if necessary.

Whatever the final score, everyone wins when tailgating is done right.

Anne Baye Ericksen is a professional writer who has contributed to Healthcare Traveler since 1996. She resides with her family in Simi Valley, Calif.

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Florida vacation & June 08-45

Flordia vacation & June 08-45 by juliawhite1115, on Flickr

For years, my family has spent summer vacations soaking up the sun on different Gulf Coast beaches. It is one of my favorite ways to relax.

In July, we drove to Florida’s Navarre Beach. Situated between Pensacola and Destin, its welcome sign reads, “Florida’s Best Kept Secret.” I have to agree. If you are on assignment in northwest Florida or just looking for a place to rejuvenate, Navarre Beach is a narrow strip of heaven on earth.   

WHAT TO SEE AND DO

  • Playing in the sugar white sand and clear, emerald green waters is the number one reason to visit Navarre. Beach umbrellas and lounge chairs can be rented for $25 per day.
  • Walk or fish on the new Navarre Beach Fishing Pier, the longest of any piers in the Gulf of Mexico and a short stroll from our condo. Visitors pay $1 each to walk the 1,545-foot pier and $7 to fish. On weekends, live music plays at the adjacent Pier Restaurant.
  • Bike along the National Seashore–an eight-mile stretch of undeveloped shoreline protected by the federal government. Only ten coastal areas in the U.S. have received this recognition. Take a camera to snap photos of nesting sea turtles or the towering dunes.
  • Hang out at Juana’s Pagodas (look for the thatched roofs) beside the Navarre Bridge.  The complex includes a restaurant, bakery, and pub. You may also rent jet skis, a sailboat, boogie board, stand-up paddleboard, bike, and/or a surfboard.

WHERE TO STAY

If you are within driving distance but too far for a day trip, you may opt to stay overnight. My family and I stayed at the new high-rise condominium, Beach Colony West. Our 1,700-square-foot unit had three bedrooms and three bathrooms. A large picture window and sliding glass door in the living room provided views of the water. The best spot to enjoy morning coffee was the outdoor, circular porch with a table for four. This complex boasts the largest swimming pool in Navarre.

Condos are an affordable option for multiple families or couples who want to share the cost. Contact Gulf Blue Vacations (gulftbluevacations.com for information. Rates vary by season. (The condo, for example, rents for $2,420 per week in July.) After September 15, the weekly rate is half that amount. Taxes and cleaning fees are additional.

MORE INFORMATION

Visit floridabeachestorivers.com for tips on planning a laidback beach getaway.

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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Festive Shopping

Festive Shopping by Richard Collinson, on Flickr

Don’t hit the panic button just yet. There are still a few weeks to find presents for your loved ones. Thanks to online shopping, the process for healthcare travelers is so much easier than going to various stores, wrapping the items, sending them out to family and friends, and hoping they arrive in time for Hanukkah, Christmas, or Kwanzaa.

However, anytime you buy something online, whether away on assignment or from the comfort of home, there are a few precautions to follow to protect your identity and hard-earned traveler’s salary. Here are a few tips from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (www.privacyrights.org).

1. Security Clearance: Before browsing through a site’s inventory, take a look at its Internet address. It should have “https://” at the beginning, a closed padlock, or an unbroken key, all of which signals a secured system. Sometimes, though, these indicators do not pop up until you on are the ordering page.

2. The Fine Print: How many times have you robotically clicked “agree” when prompted to read terms and conditions? No matter how laborious, it’s a good idea to read the privacy policy portion because it’s where you find out if the business shares your data with other organizations—not a good idea.

Also, see if the data, especially your credit card numbers, are stored as encrypted files. This means they are always scrambled and only authorized personnel can descramble them.

3. Contact Credentials: Look for the business’s physical mailing address and phone number, and give it a call to confirm everything’s legit.

4. Point of No Return? Check out how the retailer handles returns. Who pays for the shipping to send back the product? Do you get a refund on your credit card or only store credit?

5. Charge It: Never, ever—repeat: never, ever—give out checking account or debit card numbers. Also, never use a money transfer system like Western Union. These could give hackers direct access to your accounts, and most banks do not guarantee refunding unauthorized purchases. Credit card companies offer better protection.

Have you heard about single-use credit cards? Apparently they are virtual and generate a random account number in place of your actual number. One drawback is that they are store specific. Once you use it to buy from a website, that virtual card is forever linked to that merchant and cannot be used elsewhere. Inquire with your credit card company to see if it offers this service.

6. Hard Copies: Either save or print all receipts or email confirmations just in case.

Happy (Safe) Holiday Shopping!

 

Anne Baye Ericksen is a professional writer who has contributed to Healthcare Traveler since 1996. She resides with her family in Simi Valley, Calif.

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The arrival of September signals fall harvest is ready for the dinner table. But don’t expect to find the same cornucopia of goodies at every farmer’s market. Those travelers on assignment in the Northwest will find something different from travelers in the Northeast, and so on.

To find out the season’s top crops for your current contract, check out this quick guide.

NORTHEAST
Pumpkins — Okay, so this is an obvious choice, but did you know this squash is loaded with vitamin A? Cut it up, drizzle with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast it in the oven for a flavorful potato substitute.

Pumpkins

Pumpkins by RichardBowen via Flickr

Radicchio — There’s more to this bitter lettuce than just salad fixings. Cut it in half lengthwise and pop it on an indoor grill for a smoky side dish.

On the Chopping Block: Radicchio

On the Chopping Block: Radicchio by madlyinlovewithlife via Flickr

MID-ATLANTIC
Leeks — Don’t like the taste of onions? Try the more subtle leeks. They’re great in soups and stews.

Leek Stalks

Leek Stalks by LollyKnit via Flickr

Brussels Sprouts — Low in calories and high in fiber, these mini cabbages are good to the core. Roast them in a hot oven to caramelize the natural sugars.

Brussels sprouts before roasting

Brussels sprouts before roasting by johnsu01, via Flickr

SOUTHEAST
Eggplant — Research shows that eggplant contains chlorogenic acid, which helps lower LDL cholesterol. Even better, this veg is super versatile. Serve it on its own or stirred into pasta sauces.

Eggplant

Eggplant by NellieMcS, via Flickr

Okra — If you’ve eaten gumbo, you’ve had okra. It’s a natural thickener, but just as tasty breaded and deep-fried.

Okra

Okra by NatalieMaynor, via Flickr

MIDWEST
Beets — I was one of the those kids who had to force down beets at dinner, but I have come to enjoy them now, especially in salads with a little goat cheese. And don’t ignore the leafy tops; they’re chocked full of vitamins and minerals.

Beets: Chioggia, White, Gold, Red

Beets: Chioggia, White, Gold, Red by Suzies Farm, via Flickr

Parsnips — One cup of this carrot cousin will provide you with 25 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C.

Parsnip

Parsnip by ©HTO3, via Flickr

SOUTH
Figs — With or without the cakey Newton, figs are sweet treats. Interestingly, the dried version has more protein, vitamins, and minerals than the fresh ones.

Michelangelo's Forbidden Fruit was a Fig

Michelangelo’s Forbidden Fruit was a Fig by Rubber Slippers In Italy, via Flickr

Kale — This is one of those wonder greens nutritionists are always reminding us to eat more often. Here’s a secret: Top any dark green with a little freshly grated nutmeg.

Kale!

Kale! by B*2, via Flickr

WEST
Peppers — Red, green, yellow, orange, purple, spicy, mild: Peppers come in a rainbow of colors and varying degrees of heat. Experiment with different kinds in dishes like stir-fry.

peppers

peppers by killrbeez, via Flickr

Pomegranates —You may have to put in a little effort to get to the juicy seeds, the only edible part of the fruit. An average-sized pomegranate can contain 600 seeds.

Pomegranate 4 רימון

Pomegranate 4 רימון by shyb, via Flickr

PACIFIC NORTHWEST
Artichoke — This thistle flower is tasty when dipped in melted butter or a kicked-up mayo. If you’re an artichoke newbie, ask an experienced friend to demonstrate how to scrape off the meat from the leaves and dig into the heart.

Artichokes

Artichokes by TonalLuminosity, via Flickr

Huckleberries — Think long-lost relative of blueberries. They’re similar in appearance, taste, and application, like sweet jams and preserves.

Huckleberries

Huckleberries by outdoorPDK, via Flickr

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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.

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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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Happy Labor Day, everyone! While everyone’s favorite September holiday tips its hat to the economic and social contributions of American workers, it also also signifies the unofficial end of summer/beginning of fall. And of course, it is often celebrated with friends and family, and a variety of food-related festivities—from brunches and barbecues to potluck suppers and picnics.

As a traveler, you get to experience new beginnings every 13 weeks or so. You also have the opportunity to try regional fare and unique dining options in countless locations throughout the U.S. and beyond. Odds are you’ve discovered some pretty amazing and tasty treats along the way. You know, the kind of stuff you may never have stumbled upon if it weren’t for your mobile career.

We would love to hear about your picks for the best restaurants and takeout places in your assignment communities. We’d also like to learn about great eateries you’ve discovered en route to a contract destination.

To kick things off, I thought I’d tell you about one of my favorite haunts in New York City. If you find yourself in or close to the Big Apple during a travel assignment, consider a trip to Britain. No, that’s not a typo; I’m talking about Little Britain, the wonderfully Anglo-centric slice of the city’s West Village. It’s where you’ll find Tea & Sympathy.

Tea & Sympathy (right), situated in New York’s West Village.

For more than 20 years, owners Nicky Perry and Sean Kavanagh-Dowsett have provided New Yorkers and out-of-towners with the opportunity to enjoy a “proper cuppa” and traditional English fare. Once you set foot in this charming, authentic British café, you will be swiftly and happily transported to Dear Old Blighty. The atmosphere is intimate and cozy, the service impeccable, and all of the staff hail from the United Kingdom.

My recommendations? A proper bacon butty with HP brown sauce and of course, Tea & Sympathy’s famous scones with raspberry jam and clotted cream. As you may expect, there are a plethora of options for tea lovers, from black currant, to Chai, to my pick, Typhoo.

A delicious bacon butty!

Tea & Sympathy’s famous scones with raspberry jam and clotted cream. Yum!

A variety of teas in the sweetest little teapots.

Tea & Sympathy also serves spot on bangers and mash, and the best treacle pudding this side of Tooting Broadway. Located at 108 Greenwich Avenue, it is open Monday through Friday, 11:30 am to 10:30 pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 am to 10:30 pm.

Happy travels,

Bobbi

Bobbi Harrison is content channel manager for Healthcare Traveler and LocumLife.

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Like to recommend a great place for a bite? Contact Bobbi Harrison at bharrison@advanstar.com.

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