Hinkley uses pronouns she/they.
Alexis Hinkley RN, BSN, known as @wanderlex on Instagram and @travelingnurse on TikTok, is a well-known figure for their content about her life as a travel nurse, advocate for issues such as inclusive care and reproductive health, and her daily TikToks for her community of over 373K strong. A long-time member of the social media world—in fact, they got their start on Tumblr back in the day at only the age of 14—Hinkley has been open about the journey along the way, including all of its challenges.
But the hardworking nurse who admits that they have been called “too controversial” in the past recently got recognized and chosen for the high honor of being personally chosen and invited by Dr. Jill Biden to attend the 2023 Presidential State of the Union address as a representative of U.S. nurses. “Never in my life did I think I would be writing this,” Hinkley wrote on Instagram after announcing her invitation. “After years of advocating for our nursing profession (in my less than professional way) online, this feels like the start of a new chapter.”
Learn more about the nurse who represented a part of the U.S.’s more than 4.2 million registered nurses.
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Choosing Nursing, Encountering Challenges
Hinkley, who identifies as queer and uses she/they pronouns, has a background in neuro and ICU and has worked as a travel nurse for two years, primarily in PCU, but also floats everywhere. Hinkley describes how she decided to go into nursing not only because she knew she “loved helping people” and science, but also because she wanted a job that would always be secure.
“Nursing felt like an obvious choice,” she says. “In high school, I was working at a salon, and a client of ours would always drive up in a beautiful Mercedes and wore designer clothes, and one day I asked wha
t she did for a living,” she adds. “She was a CRNA, and told me she made around $300,000 a year, and I decided then that I wanted the growth potential a career in nursing would give me.”
Despite her determined resolution to become a nurse, Hinkley’s journey to actually become an RN was not easy. She tells Nurse.org that nursing school was “impossibly hard” and she often felt targeted and like she didn’t fit in. She asserts that her nursing school even tried to kick her out twice, accusing her of being hungover after catching the flu and failing her entire med/surg clinical because she clipped the edge of her patient’s toenail, which she says she didn’t know she wasn’t allowed to do.
“I had to fight tooth and nail to stay in that program, and really only had two staff members I trusted,” Hinkley relates. “It was a horrific introduction to the bullying in our industry.”
Unfortunately, Hinkley’s challenges continued after graduation as well, when she took her first job as a nurse on a neuro stepdown unit only 9 months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. When the virus finally did hit, Hinkley says she volunteered to work on the COVID floor. And during that time, a patient assaulted her while she was at work, resulting in three ligaments being torn in her right knee and forcing her into reconstructive surgery.
She then moved to an ICU in a nearby hospital, when COVID was still in full swing. “Starting in
the ICU during COVID’s peak months was traumatic beyond words,” they recall. After experiencing what she calls “horrific bullying” at the job, being ignored by HR, and low pay, Hinkley made the decision to turn to travel nursing. “I wanted to take my career and mental health into my own hands,” they say.
Travel Nursing Helped With Feelings of Burnout
Hinkley found that travel nursing was perfect for what she was looking for out of her nursing career. “Because of traveling, I was able to work 6 months out of the year and spend the rest of time taking care of ME,” they describe. “It saved my career, as I was so close to leaving the profession entirely.”
“I love the independence, the removal of workplace politics, the ability to experience different floors and locations, and the time off,” she adds.
As a travel nurse, Hinkley says her best jobs have been in Southern California and Oregon. They also “adored” working in Portland, Medford, and San Diego. “They say that San Diego is where travelers go to die, and that might just be true for me, as I’ve actually applied to go back to staff here now,” Hinkley laughs.
Along with growing her travel nursing carer, Hinkley also grew her social media influence through her Instagram and TikTok platforms. A longtime “influencer” before influencing was even a thing, Hinkley tells Nurse.org that she started a Tumbler page when she was only 14 that she quickly monetized.
“I had around 100,000 followers and ran Google ads on my blog that made around $300 a week,” she recalls, adding that she saved that money for college. “ I fell in love with connecting with people through my tendency to overshare online… and that piece of me has never really changed.”
Hinkley has pivoted her love of working online into a passionate platform as a nurse advocate.
“Through social media, I am able to advocate freely for the causes I am passionate about, as well as connect with new people around the world,” they say. “It is a major outlet for me, and I don’t keep many aspects of my life off my social pages, for better or for worse. I’m pretty open about my family struggles, my mental health journey, my career, as well as my opinions and experiences in niche topics.”
As a nurse advocate and social media creator, Hinkley is passionate about working to raise awareness and help solve many different issues, from in their words, “tackling the pervasive bigotry in healthcare, advocating against unsafe work environments and the rates of assault we face, exploring the compounding mental anguish we endure with little to no help from our employers, or simply just making a nurse who is struggling feel less alone.”
“It all needs addressing,” Hinkley adds. “I truly love our profession. I think the world of healthcare workers. And there is so much work to be done in getting our profession to a better place.”
They also feel very strongly about addressing healthcare needs for the queer community. “There is a huge and undeniable knowledge deficit regarding anything the queer community faces in the world of nursing,” she says. “I have had to educate coworkers on things that I thought were common sense…I spend a lot of time educating the public on gender-affirming care, especially now that there has been an allout culture war started regarding these kids. It is exhausting, but I know the trans community is much more tired than I could ever be.”
Being tired isn’t the only challenge Hinkley has faced in being a public nurse advocate. She tells Nurse.org that she has had other nursing creators harass her, people submit false reports about her and has faced slander online. “It’s been a burden on my career more times than not. I’m realizing now that there is a lot of risk being so open online, especially now that I am regularly recognized at work,” she admits.
Despite the challenges, they soldier on. “I feel obligated to advocate because I’ve been blessed with a platform,” Hinkley says. “And I often feel guilty that I can’t do more, but I have to balance it with taking care of myself.”
All the Way to the White House
Hinkley’s hard work was clearly recognized when a non-profit advocacy group that she had done some social media campaign work in the past, contacted her letting her know that she had been chosen to represent the nursing industry at the White House for the February 7, 2023, State of the Union Address.
“it was an extreme honor,” Hinkley says. “I was in total disbelief when they contacted me, and it all happened so fast. I was asked if I was able to attend 8 days before the event, said yes, submitted my information for the background check, and then the invitation was finalized the Friday before.”
As part of a group that got to hear more about Biden’s plans and meet First Lady Dr. Jill Biden personally, Hinkley describes her time at the White House as a “fever dream” that was wrought with imposter syndrome.
“I was in a room with creators I idolized, at a level of political excellence that I never dreamed I would even get close to,” they describe. “I just felt so lucky, so thankful, and so proud of baby Lex. As a kid, I was always told I was ‘too much,’ ‘too loud,’ ‘too political,’ and those comments have never stopped, but I also never let them stop me. The experience was the ultimate validation that all of the stress I have endured caring for causes that extended past my own identity was worth something, and I left the experience crying uncontrollably in the back of a cab from pure shock and joy.”
Nurse Practitioner Degree Coming Next!
Since leaving the White House, Hinkley has found a renewed sense of purpose and dedication, both personally and professionally. After suffering through pandemic-induced depression and working very hard to get back to a healthy place, both financially and mentally, Hinkley is currently working to save up enough money to go back to school to earn her Nurse Practitioner degree.
“I have always wanted to be an NP, but my purpose became undeniable,” she relates. “Watching millions of women lose the right to bodily autonomy, becoming a nurse at an organization for queer and transgender youth, and fighting to protect the rights of the trans youth I love more than anything is my life’s work.”
“I found my purpose,” they add. “So now, I need to take care of Lex, so that I can find a school and get the licensure I need to become the Queer Primary Care and Reproductive Health Provider that I was put on earth to become.”
Hinkley dreams of starting the next leg of her career journey by working for California Planned Parenthood because she believes in their mission of offering both queer primary care and abortion services and reproductive healthcare—“I love that organization; I stand with them in their fight to provide health and justice to all people, and it would be a dream to work for them someday,” they note.
After that, she dreams of opening up their own clinic that could provide her with more autonomy as a practitioner and serve as a safe space for people of all backgrounds, but especially for birthing people and queer folk: “The girls, gays, and they’s…if you will,” says Hinkley.
But no matter where her career will take her next, Hinkley says she will never forget what her time at the White House meant to not only her, but to all the different communities she represents.
“Being able to represent nurses, queer people, and all the little girls out there who were sent home with ‘too talkative’ on their report cards was the honor of a lifetime,” they say. “I am still filled with gratitude for that night, and I will carry that feeling with me the rest of my life.”