President Bush Recognizes Traveler in Economic Address
By Debra Wood, RN, contributor
Although nurses often stay below the radar of U.S. presidents, travel nurse Jeannetta Smith, RN, made such an impression on President Bush during her first meeting
with him that he remembered her and referred to her during a recent address to the nation about the economy.
“He meets people all of the time, everywhere, and for him to remember our
conversation, interaction and consider that I am living the American dream was very flattering,” said Smith, who travels
with Preferred Healthcare Staffing. “I was very excited.”
Smith met the president at a job training and education event, in 2005, at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Maryland,
where Smith was attending an LPN-to-RN program. She told him at the time about working as a travel nurse and her aspirations
to return to traveling after graduation.
Bush called the concept interesting, but he seemed more impressed that she could
increase her salary by 50 percent by returning for an associate degree in nursing.
True to her plans, after graduation in May 2005, Smith worked for a year as a med-surg
nurse at a Maryland hospital and volunteered on a medical mission to Uganda before signing on again with Preferred Healthcare, where she is currently on assignment
in Tucson, Arizona.
“I enjoy meeting new people and having new experiences,” Smith said.
“I enjoy traveling and touring, and I can do that for free.”
Like many nurses, Smith began her adult life working in another field. Born and
raised in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, Smith graduated from high school and went to work in a textile factory. But as textile plants began closing and
relocating operations outside of the United States,
she knew, at age 23, it was time to look for something else.
“I decided to go for a career that would allow me to be independent and self-sufficient
with a lot of flexibility,” Smith said. “And I enjoy helping people.”
As an LPN, Smith accepted assignments from Preferred Healthcare in St. Croix and Baltimore, where she decided to return to school to become a registered
nurse, so she could earn more and do more.
Smith believes travel nursing has helped her develop into a well-rounded and more
insightful person. Fellow nurses warmly receive her, making each new experience enjoyable. She hopes to receive another Tucson contract so she can stay awhile longer.
“I’m loving it here,” Smith said. “The atmosphere is laid
back. I feel like I am on vacation.
While on the road, Smith likes to visit the city’s sights, horseback ride
and dine out. She makes friends at every hospital. A fellow travel nurse she met at her first assignment in St. Croix has become a close friend who Smith visits annually. That nurse stayed on in the Virgin Islands after meeting her future husband, something Smith still aspires to find.
In Tucson, Smith has
joined the Western Buffalo Soldiers Association, a nonprofit organization studying and honoring a group of black U.S. soldiers active between 1866 and 1940. She will ride in two upcoming parades with
Traveling also will allow her the flexibility to plan future medical missions. She
calls her trip to Uganda, providing simple cures to people with no access to care, the
most rewarding thing she has ever done.
“I felt I was helping people who really needed help. It was wonderful,”
A community college education has opened many doors for Smith. Low-interest loans
provided an opportunity to her enhance her professional skills.
During President Bush’s January State of the Economy Report, he said of Smith, “Education enables
one to gain new skills necessary to fill the jobs that are coming in the 21st century. She said about her new career, ‘It's
been very, very good. The opportunities are boundless.’ And that's what we want people saying in America: I have got the skill set to be able to say, the opportunities are boundless.”
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