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Bad weather can hit in time and travelers should prepare for the unexpected.

Bad weather can hit any time and travelers should prepare for the unexpected.

Have you been caught in turbulent weather: Possible tornadoes like the tragedy that happened in Moore Oklahoma; April blizzards in the Dakotas. So far it’s been anything but “spring-like.” To top it all off, experts are saying the upcoming hurricane season could be worse than last year. One scientist even said watch out for Super Storm Sandy 2.0!

As healthcare travelers, you very well could find yourself assigned to any of the states that repeatedly get battered by hurricanes. Or you could be on contract in one of the 45 states and U.S. territories labeled as “moderate to very high risk” of earthquakes. Remember the 5.8 quake that struck Washington, D.C. back in 2011?

So what if you happen to be assigned to an area that falls victim to Mother Nature’s whim; would you know how to react? Do you have the emergency supplies readied?

The following are a few essentials to keep on hand and advice on how to stay safe as recommended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Ready Campaign (ready.gov).

THE BASICS
• Extra prescription meds and eyeglasses along with first-aid supplies.
• Water, nonperishable food, and pet food for three days. Remember dietary requirements for both you and your animals. Tip: Avoid salty foods.
• Keep copies of pertinent documents—insurance policies, identification, medication list, allergy list, and bank accounts—in a waterproof container.
• Paper towels, plates, and plastic cups and utensils. Oh yeah, and a manual can opener so you can get to the food.
• Change of clothes, including cold/hot weather attire. Also, stash an extra blanket.
• Battery powered or hand-crank radio and cell phone charger. Don’t forget extra batteries.
• Refresh the kit every few months. Tip: When it’s time to change the clocks, it’s time to change supplies.

EARTHQUAKE EXPECTATIONS
• Keep a pair of durable shoes and a flashlight near your bed.
• Stay inside and find cover from falling objects.
• Ask the hospital where you are assigned about its earthquake response plan.
• If the shaking starts while you’re driving, park in a clear area. Avoid bridges, overpasses, ramps, and of course, power lines.
• Don’t expect to be one and done. Aftershocks can follow for days, even weeks, after the initial rattler. Make no mistake, aftershocks are still earthquakes and should be treated as such.

HURRICANE HOW-TOS
• Tune into a NOAA Weather Radio (noaawatch.gov) for real-time updates from the National Weather Service.
• Bring in outdoor plants or furniture that could be tossed around by winds.
• Turn the refrigerator and freezer to their coldest settings. In the case of power outages, your food will stay colder longer.
• Fill up your gas tank.

TORNADO THOUGHTS
• Find a safe location, like a basement, storm cellar, interior room, or hallway.
• If in a car, keep your seatbelt on, duck below the windows, and cover your head.

Predicting Mother Nature’s next move is a fool’s game, but it never hurts to be prepared wherever you are assigned.

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

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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.

***

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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This just in…Healthcare Traveler (HT) is adding several new columns and departments to its print publication!

There will be an additional news section devoted entirely to those of you who are traveling rehab professionals. We also have a social networking department in the works and another that will bring you the latest on apps, sites, and technology to enhance your journeys. We’re even working on one that centers on your downtime.

What’s more, we are reintroducing a few of the tried-and-true, like Starter’s Kit, which covers the fundamentals of healthcare travel, and Travel Tips, to provide you with further resources and suggestions for success on the road.

You Said It, A Thousand Words, and In the Bag (formerly It’s in the Bag) are also making a comeback. As some of you may recall, your participation is essential to these three offerings. And to show our appreciation, if your contribution is used, you will be entered into a drawing to win a $25.00 Amazon gift card. To participate, you have to be a current healthcare traveler; to reacquaint you, here’s a quick overview of each.

You Said It: This column includes personal responses to a question posed by HT. Currently, we want to know: What is the best tip you ever received from an experienced healthcare traveler? Please e-mail your answers to me at bharrison@advanstar.com. If we publish your response, you will automatically be entered into a drawing for an Amazon gift card.

A Thousand Words: If you’ve taken a beautiful, funny, or heartwarming photo on the way to an assignment location/within your assignment community, we’d love to see it! As an example, here’s one that I took earlier this month on my way from New York to Cleveland…

This terminal was for the birds!

For consideration, e-mail your high-resolution photo to me at bharrison@advanstar.com and include a little background information, such as where the photo was taken and what it features, etc. If we publish your image, you’ll be entered into a drawing for an Amazon gift card.

In the Bag: When packing for a new assignment, what are some of your must-have items, the things you’d never leave home without? If you – and some of your stuff – would like to be highlighted in this department, please contact me at bharrison@advanstar.com. If you are featured, we will not only need your photo but may also request pictures of a few of the things you take, like a travel necessity or favorite object, and a little background info. And if you are selected for this department, you will automatically be entered into a drawing for an Amazon gift card.

Participating is super easy and a lot of fun. If you have any questions or would like additional information, just drop me a line. I look forward to hearing from you!

Happy travels,

Bobbi

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

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Ceramic pots are heavy and hard to transport

When you’re moving into new digs every few months, it’s important to make the place feel like home. Few things bring a generic apartment to life more than houseplants: ferns, cacti, blooms, and greenery breathe freshness into your surroundings — literally.

But carting plants from location to location can take a toll on them. Even the most hardy species fall victim to travel overload.

Before you ditch the real thing for silk or plastic impersonators, check out these simple packing and transportation tips to keep your plants alive and well from one assignment to the next.

• Use plastic pots

You may prefer the rustic look of ceramic pots over the more nondescript plastic ones, but they’re heavy and hard to heft in and out of your car. What plastic pots lack in artistic value, they make up for in portability.

Lighten your load with plastic pots

• Examine for bugs & mildew

A few days before you depart, assess your houseplants for bugs, mildew, and diseases. There are several reliable websites out there to help you return your plants to health (try Guide to Houseplants).

This is important because some states have strict regulations about what you can and cannot bring across their borders. California and Florida, for example, both have restrictions. For specifics, check out the state’s department of agriculture website.

• Prune, but don’t overwater

Trimming actually promotes growth in most plants, but it also prepares them for transport. Not only are they more compact, taking up less room, but you can remove fragile pieces.

Be sure to give your plants a good watering a day or so before the trip, too, but easy does it. If you overwater, they could grow fungus in warm weather or freeze in frigid temps.

• Take extra precautions

If you want to protect flowers or branches from breakage en route, cover your plants with a large bag. Prevent them from sliding around in the car by placing nonskid material on pots, or contain them in open boxes. Never pack live plants in the trunk because carbon monoxide can build up in it, which can be fatal to the greenery.

If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be able to keep the feeling of “home” alive wherever you go.

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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In my last blog, I discussed some of the unique insurance needs mobile professionals should consider for protecting their homes, vehicles, and personal items while on the road.

This time, I asked insurance expert Valerie Vollmer to share some pointers on evaluating different carriers. Below are some key factors to consider when shopping for insurance.

Reputation counts

Learn about the company’s history and its financial standing. Vollmer says to check out its A.M. Best ratings, and look for at least an A grade. Also, research its fiscal health. You want a company to have the funds readied in case you need to register a claim.

Geographic coverage

It’s not just about what types of insurance a company sells, but where those policies are honored — especially for mobile professionals. If you’re crossing state lines for contracts, make sure your insurance will go with you. Inquire about where the policy is in effect.

Lapse allowance

Of course, the best way to avoid any loss of coverage is to pay the premiums on time. Still, be informed on what kind of “forgiveness” period is allowed. Vollmer says most companies offer a 10- to 30-day grace period to get your payment on the books. To avoid that situation altogether, set up an automatic withdrawal program; chances are, you already have one with some of your regular bills.

Align with an agent

Because travelers move around so much, Vollmer says developing a relationship with an agent who understands your unique circumstances is even more important than for “regular” customers. Your agent can act as a surrogate in your absence, or at least an informed resource if you have to file a claim while on assignment. A single point of contact helps alleviate some stress or frustration. And, let’s face it; if you’re filing a claim, you’re already in a stressful situation.

Look for loyalty perks

While not every carrier offers every type of insurance, many sell multiple plans and offer discount premiums if you purchase a grouping, like home and auto. Others may reward long-term customers with loyalty discounts.

Good to know

Insurance may not be a topic you think about frequently — that is, until you need it. Regardless, if you’re in the market for a new company or it’s been a while since you reviewed your policies, it pays (or saves) to know that you and your belongings are protected if something happens on an assignment or at home.

Special thanks to Valerie Vollmer of Vollmer Insurance Services in Agoura Hills, Calif.

Anne Baye Ericksen has written for Healthcare Traveler Magazine since 1996. She resides with her family in Simi Valley, Calif. 

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