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    Belfast, Maine: Surgical technologist welcomes her travel assignment

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    Belfast, Maine, harbor at sunset.(Photo: Getty Images/Bridget Besaw Gorman/Aurora)
    After the bustle and whirl of administering to patients with gunshot wounds and other injuries, and conditions more common in urban settings, Sheila Bailey, ST, welcomes the change of pace offered by her current assignment locale.

    The atmosphere is laid back, and there's a great New England feel here," says Sheila, who has been a traveling surgical technologist with Cincinnati, Ohio-based Health-Force since 2004. "Belfast is a quaint little seacoast town. Right now, I'm pretty much enamored—if not enchanted—with it."

    Located at the head of the Penobscot Bay in Waldo County, Belfast was settled in 1765; Irish émigré James Miller named it for a city in his home country. The area, home to generations of lobstermen, became a thriving shipping town, and remains one today. It is populated by 6,381 residents and echoes of its past. A railroad terminal on the bay now acts as a stage for the Belfast Maskers theater troupe, and Waldo County General Hospital (WCGH), where Sheila has been on assignment since February 17, has cared for patients for more than 100 years.

    Warm work environment

    Sheila, who was voted one of Healthcare Traveler's Travelers of the Year in 2006, practices 5 days a week, from 7:00 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., in a three-room OR. WCGH, a small facility that boasts 25 beds, also has a two-room endoscopy suite that's used for patients undergoing surgery and orthopedic or gynecologic procedures.

    "I see about nine patients a day," says Sheila. "Coming from a 23-room trauma center, the pace is definitely less hurried. It's great, being able to switch things up and determine what's important. I feel fortunate that, as a mobile provider, I'm able to experience a variety of settings."

    Whenever she can, Sheila volunteers for on-call duty, working from 3:30 p.m. until 7:00 a.m. the next day. The norm for employees at her assignment facility is one day a week and one weekend per month. "When I'm on call, I might see someone who is having an appendix or gallbladder removed, or an older woman who slid and injured her hip," she relates. "Thankfully, most of the people I care for do not present with a dire illness or condition."


    Sheila says healthcare travel is amazing and that it has helped her hone her skills.
    As a surg tech, Sheila doesn't have the opportunity to spend much time with her patients before they go under anesthesia. So, she considers the moments she does have with them invaluable. "I particularly find it rewarding when I get to work with a patient who is having a C-Section because I'm part of bringing a life into the world." She also admits that she's usually the first to break scrub to bring a warm blanket to a patient.

    Sheila—the only mobile provider in the OR, with the exception of a locum tenens physician—has quickly become part of the team, which includes 13 nurses, two orthopedic surgeons, two emergency medical technicians, two gynecologists, three general surgeons, two urologists, and an eye surgeon. "The permanent staff members are remarkable. They are tremendously supportive and very traveler-friendly."

    From going out to breakfast with the nurses to shopping with other staff members, Sheila has been welcomed by the hospital's regular staff on a personal level. She says that everyone "has each other's back" and is so caring.

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    Brenna Ehrlich
    Brenna Ehrlich is a freelance writer based in Evanston, Illinois.,