Career Curator: Brittany Hamstra

pediatric nurse

Brittany is a pediatric nurse from the Sunshine State but can’t seem to stay in one place for too long. She started her career at the Disney Children’s Hospital in Orlando with Pediatric Oncology and Epilepsy/Neurology. Since leaving Orlando, she landed a job as a nurse in London, England, then packed her bags for a Camp Nurse position in South Florida, then onto Chicago for an Oncology assignment at Northwestern, and now is a traveler at Stanford Children’s in California. When she’s not taking care of the kiddos, she’s exploring the amazing outdoors in Cali or writing blogs for Nurse.org. She’s an avid traveler, hardcore animal lover, and plant-based foodie 🙂

What influenced your decision to become a nurse? Did you ever think twice about it?

I experienced life in a hospital from a very young age. My dad was diagnosed with a rare and complicated sarcoma cancer when I was in elementary school, and after years of treatment, he relapsed and went through treatment all over again. He is a badass fighter and he’s 16 years cancer-free today. My theory is that when you grow up around the hospital, you live your life one of two ways: you either never want to step foot in a hospital again, or you decide that it’s your purpose to give back. For me, it was not a clear-cut decision what I wanted my role to be, however. I actually graduated from college pre-med, but had major hesitations when I thought about my personality and the line of work as a physician. I ultimately wanted to spend as much time as possible with patients, I wanted to be able to travel with my job, and I honestly did not want to make the serious time commitment of going to med school (props to you guys, docs). I would be lying to say the decision was without hesitation, but the further I advance in this career field, the more confident I feel that this is the perfect profession for me.

Jedi pediatric nurse

We talk a lot about building a personal and professional brand as a nursing professional, what’s your take on this? How do you do this yourself?

I think it’s very important to consider your personal and professional brand as a nurse – and its ever-evolving. It is exciting to create career goals for yourself and work towards those with a sense of purpose. What aspects of your personality are important for others to know about you? What kind of nurse do you want to be branded as? What can you do to create that brand and advance your professional career? Sure, these questions take some thought, but it’s empowering and exciting to create a brand for yourself. As an example, most nurses I know don’t have a Linkedin profile. That is certainly understandable since most inpatient jobs don’t need to look beyond your resume, but think about the opportunities it could create for yourself that you didn’t even know about. For myself, I try to build a brand in a few different aspects. On the job, I want to be the ultimate team player, an excellent communicator, self-motivated to learn, and relentlessly compassionate. I try to push myself to constantly ask questions, seek answers, introduce myself to new faces, understand the needs of my patients, and really think outside of the box with holistic treatment. Outside of my hours in the hospital, I set other goals for myself that ultimately help my identity as a nurse – I’m active, I eat healthy, I enjoy time outdoors, and I do things that make me happy.

If I take care of myself during off time, I can be the best version of myself during my time at work. I never want to be that nurse complaining every shift about having to work – it’s all about attitude. Create a positive one and it will be infectious.

And beyond day to day brand identity, I think about my future in healthcare and where I want it to go. I don’t have all the answers for that, but it’s really fun to think about the possibilities of where nursing can take you.

When did you realize that you could build a side gig and a brand out of writing?

I always loved the creative fields of art and writing, and kept those purely as hobbies for years. But one day, I was browsing Instagram and saw a posting by Nurse.org looking for nurses to help write blogs and thought it sounded fun! My intention was never to make a part-time job out of it, I just thought it would be exciting to share my thoughts with the nursing community and earn a little extra cash. I sent in my resume and my only writing sample, which was a true story I wrote in my personal diary about an experience I had saving a woman on a flight to Chicago. Nurse.org loved the story so much they offered to publish it as my first piece and I was offered the job immediately. Freelance writing came naturally to me, and luckily my articles were well-received by their nursing audience. It slowly turned into a side gig that gives me massive happiness and purpose, and it’s sparked so many ideas for where my nursing career can go.

What made you want to start travel nursing?

Two things: 1. The obvious – I love traveling. 2. I get bored quickly. I’ve been lucky enough to experience travel often during college and afterwards, and it’s really an itch I can’t seem to scratch enough. Travel nursing is such a cool way to see the country and explore places on your bucket list. And it’s also very challenging and rewarding as a professional. I enjoy constant change and learning, so travel nursing keeps things new and interesting. I have become a much stronger nurse by doing so, and I have so much learning ahead.

What do you think about nurses who know they don’t want to stay clinical for an extended period of time?

Absolutely fine. Our parent’s generation is impressively dedicated and hardworking, but times have changed so much for all job fields. Gone are the days of studying for a degree, and committing yourself to a employer for 20 years at a time. I love how quickly evolving knowledge, technology, and medical advancements are changing. Especially in the field of nursing, there are so many opportunities to explore away from bedside nursing – management, leadership, legal, occupational health coach, education, etc. I don’t think nurses should feel bad about moving away from clinical positions – they aren’t for everyone. You don’t have to “prove” yourself as a nurse by sticking out clinical nursing for years if you don’t like it. You can use your knowledge base and personality in so many ways, and clinical nursing will always be there as an option to return to if you miss it.

What do you think is in store for the future of nursing? How do you think the career will change for us? What about for your nursing career?

The future of nursing is so hard to imagine but I know it’s about to change massively. Technology is going to take over a huge proportion of nurses and doctors do. I believe artificial intelligence and nanotechnologies will make diagnosing, assessing, and treatment much more standardized and effective. I also foresee a shift from treatment-heavy, specialized care, and pharmaceuticals to preventative and holistic healthcare (with more of a focus on lifestyle habits, healthy eating, and stress management). I think as hospitals rely on technology to support clinical management, they will rely heavily on nursing for more humanitarian qualities and bridging the gap between diagnosis and care.

As far as my future, I’m working on a project alongside my nursing job right now that I’m really excited about. I’m using my creative writing skills combined with my pediatric oncology nursing background to author/illustrate a children’s book for young cancer patients to help cope with the journey of fighting cancer. I’ve dreamed about writing this book for a while, and I finally landed on a story line that I’m excited about. It will be an imaginative and fantasy story with underlying truths and hard topics to breach about the journey cancer treatments, that hopefully parents can use as a bedtime story to evoke conversation, facilitate learning and understanding, and create a less traumatic hospital experience. We’ll see what comes of it but I would love to transition my nursing background into authoring children’s medical books.

nurse surfingHealthiest habit for work days: No matter how busy I get, drinking water all day.
My work mornings usually start with…My night shift “mornings” usually start with a little jog and a hot shower.
Go-to meal that I pack for work: Soup – it’s the only thing I feel like at 2 am. Not too heavy and I’m always freezing at work so it warms me right up!
Favorite thing to do on a day-off: Play beach volleyball or explore hiking trails nearby.
Favorite app: Spotify! Music all day every day
Clogs or sneakers? 1000% sneakers – I’ve never not tripped in clogs
If I wasn’t a nurse, I would probably be..an artist
Compression stockings, compression socks, or neither? compression socks
Puke, poop, sputum, IV starts in babies, we’ve all got our aversion, what’s yours? collecting a sputum sample – literally the thought of it right now elicits a slight gag reflex…
Go-to choice of caffeine? La Colombe Draft Latte from Trader Joes YUM
Sarah Gray
Sarah is a Pediatric Clinical Nurse III at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital and a UCSF 2017 Evidence Based Practice Fellow. A New Jersey native, Sarah graduated from Penn Nursing and has been living in San Francisco ever since. She's been an athlete her whole life and continues to be passionate about health, fitness, and making the most of all opportunities. She continues to harness her passion for innovation and process improvement in her role as Founding Clinician at Trusted Health.