Diverse Perspectives & Advocacy

On the Road with Russ: A Father's Day Special Feature on a Trusted Travel Nurse Dad

Audrey McCollough, RN, BSN
June 13, 2023
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Meet Russ: Not Your Average Dad

As we approach Father’s Day, we at Trusted Health want to shine a spotlight on one of our own—Russ Mortland. Not just a member of our team, Russ is also a seasoned travel nurse, a loving husband, and a dedicated father who knows how to balance career and family life like a pro. His unique experiences have been a powerful force in shaping his role at Trusted Health, inspiring him to leverage our platform to create a more supportive, engaging, and beneficial experience for travel nurses and healthcare facilities alike.

In this interview, we dive into Russ's fascinating journey from his scrub-clad days to his current role as Solutions Manager at Trusted- living out of an Airstream with his family every step of the way!

Russ's Evolution: From Scrubs to SaaS

Can you give us an overview of your career pivot from travel nursing to working with Trusted? 

In early 2019, I was on my 8th travel nurse job in Santa Rosa, CA. It would end up being my last. During that assignment, a friend at Trusted approached me to encourage me to apply to their Nurse Advocate role. After talking it over with my wife, we decided to go for it. I was offered the job on the last day of my travel assignment and coincidentally the anniversary of passing my NCLEX- it felt like fate! 

In the early days at Trusted, Nurse Advocates wore many hats, and we were building the ship as we sailed. It was an energizing experience and one of the most fun periods of my life. 

Over time, I transitioned into different roles, and eventually landed in my current position as a Solutions Manager. Along the way, I learned so much- about the staffing industry, technology, operations, and business strategy.  Ultimately, I switched to the side of our company that is building a product that will change the way healthcare facilities manage their workforce- Works.  We're building some much needed and very impactful solutions, and seeing them create positive change for both employers and employees is incredible.

Master of Multitasking: Being a Dad and a Travel Nurse

What motivated you to become a travel nurse and how did you balance this role with being a father?

Back in 2017, I was a staff nurse in South Carolina, making $23.24/hr caring for the sickest patients in the upstate area. While I did enjoy what I was doing, to attain our lifestyle and family goals, I needed more freedom and a higher income. I’m sure many of you can relate.

So, we started exploring our options.  We didn’t want to move from apartment to apartment with two small children, so initially it seemed that travel nursing would not be the solution for us.  Then one night, as I was up scrolling YouTube for inspiration, as you do, I came across a family who traveled with small children in their Airstream. Bam! That's it! 

Traveling in an RV would allow my wife to stay home with the children, I would make more money and have more time at home, AND we would be able to explore the country!  6 years later and we’re still traveling in our Airstream. 

What were some of the challenges and rewards of bringing your family along on your travel nursing assignments?

Our experience has been incredibly unique, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  The most challenging part of our day to day is navigating the unknown, but that's also the joy and excitement of the whole lifestyle.  We are always planning- where we’ll stay next week, next month, the next night even. 75% of the time we’re camping off-grid, so there are additional considerations that come with having your family fully unplugged. It’s a beautiful thing, though. 

Our kids have been living this lifestyle for their entire life, so for them this is just how it is and I love seeing how our lifestyle choice is impacting the people they’re growing into. I’m proud of my children. They make friends quickly and they’re not shy in the least to interact with people of a different generation. They are receiving what I would deem an incredible education- an education with a strong emphasis on experience and immersion. To hear them tell stories from our life on the road, but from their perspective, makes me happy. 

The Traveling Tribe: Family Airstream Adventures

Can you share a memorable experience from your time living in an airstream with your family while working as a travel nurse?

Living in an Airstream may seem like a crazy choice to some, but it has made us realize how little we really need of everyday conveniences and has allowed for re-focused attention on what really matters to us. There are so many little moments that stand out in stark clarity because we’ve been removed from distractions.  I’ll never forget being parked amongst the Redwoods in Northern California when we welcomed our third child into our tiny home. It was a magical time and will probably remain my favorite memory.

How did your family adapt to the nomadic lifestyle? How did you maintain a sense of normalcy?

Our home, regardless of whether it's in a Walmart parking lot, someone's driveway, or a national park, serves as the anchor of routine and comfort for our family.  Once we close that front door, we’re in our home, which is really a state of mind. Our family has routines just like any other family.  We eat our meals together, we have toothbrushing routines, we have books before bed, but the views outside our windows change frequently.

How did living in an airstream influence your relationship with your family?

We live in 240 square feet, so we're definitely tight knit- you have to be. Issues have to be resolved quickly if we want to live in peace, and I think we’re better for that.  We know each other’s quirks, we know one another’s poop schedules, and we know who’s tossed and turned through the night since it gives our house a slight shake. Poop schedules and all, I feel so fortunate to be this close with my family.

Roadside Assistance: How Agencies Can Support Travel Nurse Families

As a travel nurse, what kind of support did you receive from your recruiters or the agencies you worked with?

Choosing to live in an Airstream is a lifestyle with quirks that may not be fully understood by those who have never done it.  You are lacking some daily conveniences- sometimes it’s trouble with Wifi or minimal cell service and sometimes you can’t take a call because you’re busy pumping the toilet or filling the water tank.  I didn’t always have recruiters along the way that understood this, so I’m glad I’ve been able to share my experience with the Care Teams at Trusted.

I did have one recruiter who stood out to me. I was between assignments and we had the Airstream down in Mexico.  I didn’t have access to a computer, but a skills checklist needed to be completed for one of my job applications.  This dude sat with me on the phone and read back a skills assessment questionnaire while I gave him answers.  Those of you who have traveled before know how tedious of a process that is. He was invested in me and I really respected that.  

How has your experience influenced or motivated your work at Trusted?

My experiences traveling taught me a lot about how the overall nurse experience, but particularly the lifestyle around our careers, can be different. Name another profession where you can work 3 days a week, save lives, see the country, save up money, and experience life in such a unique way.  My experiences as a travel nurse and growth as a person during the time I was traveling with my family is what motivates me in my work at Trusted every day.  Life is about experiences, relationships and memories - if I can help other nurses optimize for that, I’ll always feel good about the work I’m doing. 

Roadside Revelations: Teachable Moments for Traveling Families

What life lessons do you think your children learned from this unique experience?

This is a big question. I’ll try and condense it down into a few main learnings. The world is a big place, there are many ways to see that world, many ways to experience the world- I would say try all of them. I encourage my family to keep saying yes to new opportunities and learning as much as possible along the way.  If you can do that with those that you love by your side, your life will be so much richer and fuller for it.

Fast and Fun: Rapid Fire with Russ

What's your go-to snack during a busy shift? Nuts and dried fruit.

What's your favorite way to unwind after a long day? Splitting wood, gardening, or the like.

One word to describe your life on the road? Well, in 3 words, “Go with the flow.” 

Coffee or tea? Coffee 

Favorite place you've taken the Airstream with your family? Baja Mexico

Airstream or traditional home? A homemade home.

One word your kids would use to describe you? Funny. 

One piece of advice for travel nurse dads? Make the goal of traveling the adventure, not the money.  Enjoy where you are, use your days off, take time off.  

Most memorable Father's Day? My first Father’s Day.  It was special to be officially celebrated. 

Mile Markers of Fatherhood: A Day for Dad

Father's Day is coming up - any special plans or traditions you'd like to share?

I always get homemade cards with some abstract image of myself, usually a much taller stick figure with a beard. We always eat good food and just enjoy each other’s company.  We’ll probably do some fishing and swimming at the lake this year. 

Can you share a specific instance when you felt particularly proud of being both a father and a travel nurse? 

Every time I hear my kids describe what I do for work, I feel proud. “He helps sick people feel better and sometimes he gets blood on his scrubs”.  Their simple and honest assessments of what it means to be a nurse make me proud. 

The Open Road Awaits Embrace the Journey with Trusted Health

What advice would you give to other dads who are considering travel nursing and bringing their families along for the ride?

Do it! Make a plan and have a cushion of savings, but don’t overthink it. Land on a vision for what you want for yourself and your family and then go out and make it happen. You won’t regret the adventures and you’ll get to experience new places, people, and life with your family in a way that very few men can. 

Embrace the Journey with Trusted Health

Do you dream of taking the open road, combining a rewarding career with unforgettable family moments? If you’re considering travel nursing, you're not alone. Many nurses, just like you, are exploring travel nursing as a lifestyle and career choice.

Remember, the world is full of opportunities and experiences waiting for you to say yes to. Embrace the journey, and let's navigate the unknown together. Sign up to get started today! 

Audrey McCollough, RN, BSN

Audrey McCollough, RN, BSN, is a pediatric critical care nurse who traded her scrubs for a laptop to come work internally at Trusted two years ago. With eight years of critical care experience and four years of travel nursing under her belt, Audrey now uses her experience and expertise to support others in the healthcare industry, particularly her fellow nurses. When she's not at work, Audrey loves to explore the great outdoors! Hiking, skiing, or just soaking up nature's beauty - Audrey is all about it.

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