Inspiring Cancer Survivor Honored as Allied Traveler

From Cancer Survivor to Allied Traveler of the Month: James T.'s Inspiring Journey

Travel respiratory therapist and AMN Healthcare's March 2023 Traveler of the Month James T., RRT, was a manager in a hospital-based respiratory group a few years ago when he was diagnosed with cancer.

That was the beginning of a tough battle for James. He had been with the company for 10 years, and right after he finished his treatments, his company blindsided him.

"I had just finished going through chemotherapy and radiation treatment for cancer, and management did not feel I was doing my job adequately," James said.

The Texas-based company terminated James, but he kept a positive attitude.

"When you're in the world of management, nothing will surprise you," he said. "But it ended up being for the better."

James started looking for permanent respiratory therapy jobs and got a few interviews. But after a while, he still hadn’t landed a new position. So he turned to allied travel.

James, who had hired and worked with respiratory and nursing travelers at his former job, said, "For the most part, it seemed like travelers were people who were on top of their game and [this change] would provide a short-term solution for a long-term problem."

After researching more about travel respiratory therapy, James realized it was more than just a solution to his current job challenges, but also a way to see the country and expand his education. He was ready to give it a shot.

So, in 2017, he contacted numerous travel staffing companies, and the first one to respond was AMN Healthcare. After discussing opportunities, James took his first travel assignment and has continued working exclusively with the company for the past six years.

He currently works with recruiter Ashley F., whom James considers "long-distance family."

"My relationship with Ashley is very, very good," he said. "She calls and checks on me, and I call and just touch base with her. About every two or three weeks, I get an email or a call from her to see how I'm doing. And to me, that makes a huge difference in why I stay loyal to AMN Healthcare."

Life as an allied traveler

James' first assignment was in Marshalltown, Iowa, which sits along the Iowa River. That was important for him because he enjoys travel spots where he can fish and explore nature.

"I was there for about 10 months," he said. "First day I went to work, it was 20 degrees below zero with a windchill factor of 45 degrees below zero. And believe me, a Texas boy is not used to that weather."

James is currently in Des Moines, logging his third travel assignment in Iowa. He keeps returning to the state because he enjoys a location offering four seasons.

Other locations where he's worked as a hospital-based travel respiratory therapist include Oklahoma City, Lubbock, and El Paso, Texas, and O'Neill, Nebraska.

"One of the things I really like doing is finding home-owned or local restaurants and learning to eat what the people eat in the area," he said. "I find meeting the mom-and-pop restaurants and store owners very exciting, which makes me feel like I've become part of the community."

While in Nebraska, he covered a good portion of the state on his time off, visiting some of the state's waterfalls. He also spent time with a good friend who owned a ranch in the stabilized sand dunes area, where James learned how to brand and care for cattle.

"I got to do things I probably never would have done had I stayed home," James said.

During his last six years in allied travel, he has also remained cancer free.

"I'm actually cured of my cancer, and I've been almost six years out since I went through my chemo," he said. "As far I know, I'm in top health. My condition's good and everything else, and at 68 years old, I can still keep up with the young people, so I consider myself doing very well."

AMN Healthcare’s Traveler of the Month Award

James said his favorite part about being a travel respiratory therapist is getting to know his patients.

He had a close relationship with one particular patient, who looked forward to talking to James daily. The family said that James lifted the patient's spirits and was an appreciated part of his treatment. In the end, James had to adjust the oxygen level as the patient began to pass. James reassured the family that the process was peaceful, and they commended James for his caring attitude and competent work.

The patient's family even nominated James for a Daisy Foundation award, an accolade that honors nurses who provide above-and-beyond compassionate care to patients and families. Being a travel respiratory therapist, James could not win the award, but being nominated for his professionalism, care, and ability to influence patients positively was an extreme honor.

James's high-quality patient care, excellent demeanor, and loyalty to his company are also why he was named AMN Healthcare's March 2023 Traveler of the Month. He recently noted how being nominated for the Daisy Award and winning Traveler of the Month have helped him to feel appreciated.

"Therapists and nurses go in and out of patient rooms all day. But when a family takes time to recognize you personally, it just puts you on a different level and makes you feel like, 'Well, I know I'm doing something right,’” he said.

James also attributes part of his success as an allied traveler and respiratory therapist to goal setting and a determination to learn something new every day.

For the near future, he has set a goal to sit on the side of a creek or river to do some fishing and enjoy nature. James said he will likely retire at the end of the year and return to be with his family outside of Austin, where he is sure to have plenty of travel stories to share.

READY to start making lifelong memories as James has? Just apply with AMN Healthcare, and our recruitment team will help find your ideal assignment and guide you through every step of the process.   


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