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Ask the EVP: Cristina Duncan, BSN, RN

Do you have questions about traveling as a nurse? Our EVP of Clinical Operations, Cristina Duncan, BSN, RN, is here to answer them! In this episode of Ask the EVP, she discusses travel nursing opportunities, nurse leadership, and more!

Will you please introduce yourself?

Cristina Duncan: My name is Cristina Duncan. I am a registered nurse. I am the Executive Vice President of Clinical Operations for Travel Nurses, Inc. and OR Nurses Nationwide.

What inspired you to become a nurse, and how did you choose your specialty?

Cristina Duncan: I knew at the age of 14. I volunteered at a local hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, as a Red Cross volunteer, and I spent the summer in the hospital doing you know, various tasks. From about that age at 14 I fell in love with the profession and knew that’s what I wanted to do.

Fast forward a few more years, in my senior year of high school, my father had a heart attack and was hospitalized in CVICU. The experience that my mother and I had while he was in the hospital just interacting with that intensive care unit nurse and seeing the way that she, you know, cared for my father and supported my mother and me and our family going through that difficult time… I just I looked at her and she inspired me, and I just knew that that’s what I wanted to do is to be a critical care nurse. That’s how I chose my specialty.

Was there anything your father’s nurse said that you found inspiring? 

Cristina Duncan: When my mother, of course, bragging that, you know, oh, my daughter’s going to be a nurse, and, you know, bragging on her daughter, as mothers do, when she told my father’s nurse that’s what I was choosing, and, of course, my mother asked, do you have any advice for her? She said, yes. She said the best advice that I can give you is that you would treat every patient as if they were a family member, your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, aunt, and uncle, and so on. Treat them with the same care that you would want your family treated with, and then you will succeed as a, as a nurse.

What brought you to travel nursing?

Cristina Duncan: In the early nineties, it was really starting to be a very popular thing. I worked at our level one trauma center here as a trauma ICU nurse, intensive care unit nurse.

We had a lot of travelers that were coming in and, you know, staffing a hospital and just would come in and they would, you know, tell stories about, you know, their adventures, and the places that they had gone and, you know, the things that they were able to see. It spiked an interest in me, I guess, but I was a single mother and I had a five-year-old son at the time. I didn’t think it was anything that I would be capable of doing. But I decided that I would jump in all, you know, all four feet or all fours.

I would just jump in and take a chance. I researched, decided where would be a really cool place to spend the summer and to go, you know, take a travel assignment. I chose Colorado. I took a 13-week assignment in the middle of the summer in beautiful Colorado, and I packed up my son and away we went.

I took an assignment as a pediatric ICU nurse.

Was Colorado your favorite assignment destination?

Cristina Duncan: I would say it was. After going there and experiencing the beautiful state of Colorado, I decided—which I think a lot of travel nurses get to do once they go around and they get to visit different areas in the United States that they can find someplace that they would like to relocate and call home— and that’s what I did. I ended up making Colorado my home for eight years.

What is your role as a Nurse Leader?

Cristina Duncan: My current role as a nurse leader has been able to really let me mentor and work alongside our clinicians daily. I get to support them, advocate for them. I get to hopefully inspire them, you know, with the old nurse stories from, you know, the earlier days in our nursing career.

I also get to come alongside our recruitment staff, our sales team, our marketing team to give them some insight on what it’s like to be a clinician in health care. I think what it does is it really gives them a good idea of what it’s like to be a nurse on a day-to-day basis.

When you’ve done it and you’ve done it for a long time, it’s very important. Sometimes our recruiters are able to speak to our nurses with a really good, clear knowledge of their specialties, what they’re going through every day, what they’re experiencing out in the field. I think it’s very important to have a leadership team that can provide that kind of insight to our sales team and our recruitment staff.

Why is Nurse Leadership important?

Cristina Duncan: Nurse Leadership is important because it gives us an opportunity to empower our clinicians. I think we can use the opportunity to come alongside them, to educate them, to support them, to mentor them.

When you’re a travel nurse, you’re out there alone a lot of times. I think what we’re able to do is provide them with that opportunity to know that they’re not alone.

That’s huge in the travel industry for health care that when you’re not the staff nurse, you know that you have a company that truly supports you and shows you on a day-to-day basis that we’ve got your back.

What do you think the future of travel nursing looks like?

Cristina Duncan: I think it’s exciting for nursing in general and even more exciting for travel nursing. I think we at Travel Nurses, Inc. have embodied what the true adventure of travel nursing was meant to be.

I think we have found a way to make it fun and a way that you can experience it no matter where you are at, what season of life. Whether or not you’re a new nurse, a in the middle of your professional career, or in the season where your children have left home; it’s your time to go and see the world. I think it’s a very exciting place to be.

I think we have learned that there’s nothing that you can’t do as a travel nurse and to me, that’s very exciting.