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From the heartland to the coasts, travel nurse seeks adventure

Rhianna Becker, ’19, is a self-described adventure seeker. She loves hiking and exploring the outdoors. She spent a weekend in late March seeking out and observing alligators in the swamps along North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

It’s only natural that, after earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Baker, she would pursue a career as a travel nurse.

“My first job was at [Kansas University] Medical Center in its cystic fibrosis unit, but after a year-and-a-half, I decided I wanted to do travel nursing. I love it. You get to experience things in different parts of the country. I think seeing different places and experiencing different things keeps you from burnout, which a lot of nurses experience,” Becker said.

That longing for adventure has taken Becker most recently to Raleigh, North Carolina, which explains the Outer Banks gator excursion, and is a long way from her hometown of Sabetha, a rural community in north central Kansas. Becoming a nurse might have been preordained. Her grandmother was the CEO of the local hospital back home.

And when she decided nursing was her profession of choice, Baker rose to the forefront of her college choices immediately.

“I knew I wanted to go to Baker and one of the best nursing schools in the state. It was the first school I toured. I loved it. I didn’t need to look anywhere else,” she said.

Becker immersed herself in campus life during her two years on the Baldwin City campus, joining the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority and throwing shot put and discus on the Wildcat track and field team.

“Those two years went fast, but my time at Baker was spectacular. I have eight sorority friends I’m still in close touch with today,” she said.

Becker completed her final two years at theSchool of Nursing at Stormont Vail Health in Topeka. While she had made the decision to become a travel nurse, a chance encounter helped move things in that direction. Becker’s mother was a school teacher, and through one of her former students, Becker made contact with a recruiter for an agency that hires nurses for traveling assignments. Meetings were arranged, connections were made, and Becker became an employee of Medical Solutions, a nursing recruitment agency headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska.

Becker received her first assignment in Omaha in October 2020 and worked on the surgical floor of a local hospital. She extended her original contract in December, switching from night to day shifts, but that contract was cancelled soon after because of low patient census. In addition to having a great work experience in Omaha, Becker says she also made a best friend, Nichola, and when Nichola’s contracted ended, the two decided it would be less daunting if they traveled to a strange place together.

They also had an idea where. “We wanted to do East Coast and a larger city,” Becker said. “And somewhere I could hike.”

Enter Raleigh, North Carolina, a city of nearly half a million and right in the midst of the state’s famed Research Triangle. Except, she almost didn’t make it. After being back home for three weeks, she became sick and spent three days in the hospital with COVID-19-induced pneumonia and meningitis.

Becker recovered, although she still experiences bouts of fatigue, and she and Nichola made it to Raleigh, where she works on a surgery trauma floor, dealing with post-surgery and traumas such as motor vehicle accidents. That contract runs through May, and at the beginning of June, she will head to upstate New York and the Adirondack Mountains, where she’s worked the past several summers.

Becker already has ideas for her next contract. “We’re putting in for California licenses,” she said. “We want to try the other coast.” Wherever she lands next, Becker says she knows she’ll enjoy herself and excel, largely because of the education she received at Baker.

“I think where Baker prepared me best was people skills, 100 percent. Baker is all about connections. Sitting down and talking with patients and getting to know them. And then, there’s the hands-on experience. Getting out there and getting in maybe uncomfortable situations, but knowing how to deal with those and realize you’re strong enough to get through it and, if not, knowing how to reach out for help.”

Rhianna Becker,

It’s these skills, learned at Baker, that Becker knows will lead her through a lifetime of seeking new adventures.

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