Living (and saving!) lives on the edge…
Imagine if coolly dangling from the side of a cliff while providing lifesaving treatment to a climber in need was just another day on the job.
Well, that’s the reality for Aya Healthcare travel nurses Bryan and Deb Simon. These two adventure junkies fell in love at 19,000 feet and have only reluctantly come down from that literal and figurative high ever since.
A chance encounter during a trekking expedition on Mount Kilimanjaro 16 years ago led to marriage, a career change, world travel and most recently…a book deal. Along with two friends/business partners, they just penned Vertical Aid: Essential Wilderness Medicine for Climbers, which is now available. As Deb says, “I just think it’s really awesome being a nurse and being a part of writing such a quality book for something that I love to do and that travel nursing allows me to be able to do.” As if travel nursing, writing and climbing don’t keep the pace of their lives frenetic enough, they also train other medical professionals to be expedition medics and guides. Bryan explained that he is going to spend his weekend “hanging off Seneca Rocks, this big piece of Tuscarora quartzite that comes jutting out of the Appalachian Mountains,” teaching others how to provide medical care while suspended hundreds of feet off the ground.
Just like with finding the courage to leave the earth behind and summit dizzying peaks, for Bryan and Deb travel nursing is “absolutely about freedom.” With the help of their Aya Healthcare recruiter Kat who Bryan “can’t say enough about,” they’ve traversed the country for almost a decade, living everywhere from the Deep South all the way out to California. They almost always extend their assignments and yet still find time to indulge their passion for climbing and international travel. In 2009 they took four months off and went to Nepal. Last summer they took six months off to visit a friend of Bryan’s in Ukraine and to explore European climbing spots. As Bryan puts it, “you could never get that if you worked as a staff nurse somewhere.”
It was a twist of fate that allowed Bryan and Deb this remarkable freedom. After an injury led West Point grad Bryan to leave the army, he had to reevaluate what he wanted to do with his life. While in rehab he spent a lot of time working with nurses and gained incredible respect for the profession. When he started to think about going into nursing himself, he conveniently had the perfect person to consult right at home. Deb had begun travel nursing soon after they met. Deb says, “I had always thought I would travel nurse one day.” But, “it was kind of a scary thing to do.” Falling for Bryan gave her the push she needed to leave her staff nursing job and give it a go. Because she was living in Ontario at the time while he was stationed in Georgia, when Deb met Bryan she found she had “no other option other than to travel.” Seeing how happy travel nursing made Deb, combined with the fact that he noticed “no matter where the army would send me Deb could always change jobs no problem,” and considering that travel nursing meant that they “could take off when we wanted to take off and go do things and travel and experience life on top of being able to help somebody every single day,” Bryan knew it was time to make the change.
And things could not have worked out more perfectly. In between their trips to exotic locales they now happily scrub into CVORs across the country together. Bryan and Deb are currently on assignment together at LewisGale Medical Center in Salem, Virginia.
Bryan reflects, “when you know what it’s like to work hard to defend freedom, you get a better realization of how much that freedom means, so I just love being able to limit myself to 13 weeks and then take some time off. Once you get used to it you can’t go back.”
-Submitted by Heather Gjerde