Former Traveling Nurse opens up about time in St. Thomas


Photo submitted by Peggy Franklin

Peggy Franklin, left, and two nurses get ready to perform a surgery in the St. Thomas Hospital.

John Franklin

In the early 1990s, Peggy Franklin spent some time as a travelling nurse.  On her last assignment, she was an operating room (OR) nurse in the Caribbean Island of St. Thomas.  For Franklin, it was a great experience not only to see what life is like in other parts of the world, but also to see how healthcare worked in a place other than the mainland U.S.  She learned that although the OR looked a lot like the ones she learned how to be a nurse in, the ways around the OR is a lot different than people may expect. 

(Story told by Peggy Franklin to John Franklin) 

Okay. Hello, I’m Peggy Franklin. I am a registered nurse and now a nurse anesthetist and several years ago in the 1990s I was a traveling nurse. Which entails picking up and moving every few months to a new assignment. It could be across the country and actually across the world, depending on where you’re interested in traveling. 

Well, at the time I started traveling nursing. I was a nurse in the operating room at a university hospital. And yeah, I really enjoyed it. I also kind of specialized in heart surgery at the time and I decided I want to see more of the country and, and see how things were done in other places. So I filled out an application and my first assignment was in New Jersey. But prior to that, I’ve been working in Columbia, Missouri. At the University Hospital, there. 

St. Thomas was actually my last assignment. And I was living in Idaho doing a traveling assignment there. And I had submitted an application to go to England to work. And this would have started in November of that year, which I think was ‘91, maybe. And I was excited for that planning on it. And I got a call from my recruiter saying that that Job had kind of fallen through due to some legislation or something in England. So as kind of a little perk she asked if I would like to go to St. Thomas and the US Virgin Islands, and I didn’t want to go, I was mad I couldn’t go to London. And ultimately, though, I said yes, because I couldn’t go to London. 

Everywhere I’d been in the United States. It was all pretty standard. I think most of the places I was at, well I was gonna say I think most of them were university hospitals or teaching hospitals. But I think some of them were private as well. But anyway, once I got to St. Thomas, it was shocking to me. Well, actually a lot of things but how it had, how things ran or didn’t run, and how the remote location kind of played into some of the situations there and and the differences between being in mainland USA 

In St. Thomas, it’s a smaller hospital than what I had been used to working in and they did General surgeries, which kind of encompass most everything outside of orthopedics or neurosurgery or heart surgery, but no, they didn’t do those bigger services in St. Thomas. It was a lot of general surgery for appendixes that had ruptured like say people on cruise ships that had gotten sick or broken a bone. Those kinds of things and then we didn’t do a lot of obstetrics, like cesarean deliveries that I recall though, they must have happened in that hospital. 

Well, I learned how cushy we have it in the United States where we have high expectations about our health care, to drugs we get that they’ll be there on time that everything we need is kind of right there. Or within a few miles distance from our homes. And I realized in St. Thomas, that wasn’t the case. You know, they might be out of things. And they might not be in for a week or two depending on when they would arrive through the mail or a ship or whatever. And also there wasn’t a terribly high level of care there. You would if you were very sick, they would have to transport you to Puerto Rico or possibly even Miami to get the kind of care you need. So I guess Yeah, kind of kind of the insurance that you’re gonna have what you need. That it will always be there is one of the primary things I noticed that we’re lacking in the Virgin Islands at that time, anyway.