Medical Technologist Takes Traveling to the Extreme
December 18, 2020
By Joseph Duffy, contributor
Medical technologist Patty Barlow, who's from Norton, Virginia, chooses her travel assignments based on how big a rush she can get from her adventures in that location.
She's a self-described adrenaline junkie, and her resume of activities puts her on par with some X Games athletes.
After traveling for two years with her two dogs, Bandit and Candy, she just returned home to Virginia for an assignment “because the mountain bike trails are awesome."
Patty runs, mountain bikes, rides horses, skydives, and kayaks through alligator-infested waters. And when she isn't pushing her stamina with some outdoor adventure, she is enjoying the history of her assignment locations.
Her first allied healthcare travel assignment was in Louisville, Kentucky. She visited the Mohammad Ali Museum and the Louisville Slugger Museum, where she watched them make baseball bats. She went underground caving for six hours, where she maneuvered through tight spaces, repelled and kayaked through parts of the underground cave.
She also went horseback riding twice, visited a farm for retired thoroughbreds, toured the bourbon distilleries, went to a minor league baseball game, ran the Urban Bourbon marathon, and visited a local musical theater.
"At my next assignment in Nags Head, North Carolina, I had a three-bedroom house right on the beach," Patty said. "I volunteered with a sea turtle rescue group. During the winter, the sea turtles would get cold and stunned on the beaches. You'd think they were dead, but they're not. We look for these sea turtles and take them to the local aquarium where they are rehabbed. Then the Coast Guard releases them into warmer waters."
She also went skydiving, kayaking in alligator country, ran a 100k marathon called Blackbeard's Revenge, and went hang gliding and white water rafting in Georgia, which boasted Class IV (Wild) and Class V (Extreme/Most Difficult) rapids. She also hiked sections of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee.
Then, Patty took an assignment in Onancock, Virginia, on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, living in a house on Chesapeake Bay. She enjoyed being close enough to carry her kayak to the bay to enjoy a morning paddle and to look out her dining room window to observe the area's sizeable bald eagle population.
Getting started as a healthcare traveler
Patty started traveling in 2018 after working 20 years in laboratory medicine. She was with a local hospital system as a bench tech and later as a blood bank supervisor. She then took a position as a lab manager, and then the system went through a merger, followed by downsizing. She was offered a job in another position.
With a daughter leaving for college and a severe job change, it seemed like the right time to give healthcare travel a try.
"Through a few travelers working at my hospital, I had an idea of how it worked," Patty said. "I'm a big outdoor enthusiast and love to travel and learn about new places. I'm also a big history buff. So I thought it would be really neat to see all these different places and learn about the history.”
"Plus, as a lab manager, I worked at least 60 hours every week, and I was on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” she continued. “I had very little work–life balance. It was just work, work, work. So when I started traveling, I found out very quickly that I was working half the hours and making almost twice the pay."
She had heard about a couple of allied healthcare travel companies, one being Club Staffing. So she called recruiter Melissa Dingee.
Melissa answered all my questions and was just really proactive in having me start traveling," Patty said. "So that's why I chose to go with Club Staffing. And I have stayed with them because they have always been able to get me assignments in the areas that I'm interested in because of the unfailing support of my recruiter."
Traveling as a medical technologist during COVID
Patty said she felt fortunate that when COVID-19 hit she was on an assignment that was close to home.
Today she works in a facility designated for COVID overflow patients, and the lab techs are required to help with the patient volume.
"One of my job duties is to go into COVID-positive rooms and collect samples if the nurses aren't able to do them," Patty said. "Working in healthcare during a pandemic has been challenging, but it has also allowed me to see how exceptional our healthcare workers truly are. I witness the care and compassion given to our most vulnerable patients by the hospital staff daily and am continually amazed by their skill and their dedication."
She said it's been a challenge, but living by herself in an apartment makes it easy to self-isolate.
Future travel plans for her active lifestyle
When asked if Patty had a list of places she wants to travel for future assignments, she replied, "I have a book."
"I want to go to the Desert Southwest to see Utah, Nevada and Arizona," she said. "I just got my Tennessee license, and I did that because I want to be in Tennessee and close to North Carolina for the mountain biking. I also want to go out to Colorado to mountain bike. And I'm hopefully going to start rock climbing this winter. So I need to find some places with good rock climbing."
Ready for some adventure in your personal and professional life? CLUB STAFFING has hundreds of opportunities for laboratory, therapy and imaging professionals around the U.S.