“Going to New York is the best decision I could’ve made.”

When Chandler Fulks heard about the need for nurses to help in New York, a hotspot for COVID-19 outbreaks, she didn’t hesitate. 

Fulks, 24, is an operating room nurse in West Virginia. And the hospital where she works was cutting back hours because elective surgeries were canceled.

“There are a lot of people I work with who have families to take care of,” she said. “When I heard that New York needed nurses, I decided to go so someone else could take my hours.”

Fulks, who started her nursing career in an intensive care unit (ICU), felt she could put her knowledge and experience of caring for critically ill patients to good use in the COVID-outbreak hotspot. She comes from a family of healthcare workers. Both her mom and sister are nurses, so Fulks said it was only natural to follow in their footsteps. 

“Nursing is hard,” Fulks said, “But it’s also rewarding.” 

Going to New York, she explained, was the best decision she could’ve made. Fulks is licensed in West Virginia and typically wouldn’t be allowed to practice nursing in New York without first transferring her license, a process that can take many months. New York is a notoriously difficult state to transfer a medical license to.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has changed that, at least for now. New York and a number of other states have eased the licensing requirements that typically prevent healthcare workers from practicing outside of their home states.

To get the ball rolling, Fulks searched online and found a traveling nurse company that would help her get placed in a New York hospital. It’s a process she describes in one word: psychotic.

“I was on the phone with my recruiter, and the website was hard to navigate,” Fulks said. “I filled out the application six times.”

As part of her application, Fulks was required to submit her nursing license, immunization records, and passport. In addition, her mom was asked to verify her identity separately via an I-9 form. And then came the stress of finding a place to stay in the city.

But within a matter of days after filling out the application, she was told that she’d been assigned to the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital system. Fulks left for New York on April 19th and plans to be in New York for two months. She’s rotating between hospitals within the Columbia system, going where she’s needed and can do the most good.

Once the pandemic ends, there’s uncertainty over whether licensing restrictions will go back into place. Fulks said she wouldn’t mind keeping things the way they are now; especially because she’s interested in travel nursing.

“It would be a blessing actually,” she said. “I’ve been wanting to travel nurse for a while. It would be really nice to not have to worry about licenses being approved and going through the entire process each time.”

While she’s worried about the stress of the job and dealing with all of the death, Fulks is ready to lend a helping hand and make a difference. 

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