This post was written by my friend, Nurse Mickelyn. Click here for a link to her blog: On The Road RN.
Pro #1- We get to spend more time exploring
Will (my husband) and I had taken two Western road trips when we lived in Florida, but we only got to spend a short amount of time in each place. This way, we get to thoroughly explore the regions that most interest us.
Pro #2- Finances
Obviously not every contract in the country is going to load our bank account, but once I found out that it was possible to work 3 shifts a week and make more than our combined income in Florida when Will was full time and I was part time, traveling was a no-brainer!
Pro #3- Every weekend is like a vacation
I try to always have 4 days off at a time, and even if that’s a mini vacation, we have four days off as a family to do fun things. Working staff in Florida, Will and I only had 2 full days a week together. Plus, with the added finances and our RV, when I have multiple days off, we travel to places outside of my work city that really do feel like vacations!
Pro #4- New relationships
Can I tell you about how much fun it has been to get to know my recruiter? He and I have a stellar relationship, not only talking about my assignments but also catching up on each other’s home lives. And while I probably won’t make best friends at my assignments, it’s so fun to meet the staff and travelers at each new assignment and keep up with them after I leave. People change you, and I love looking back on each contract and discovering who has impacted my life in a meaningful way.
Pro #5- Learning experience
There’s something new to learn at each assignment. Sometimes that’s new equipment or charting systems, other times it’s best practices that differ from what you’re used to. I’m finishing up an assignment in El Paso that I took to learn trauma ICU nursing since my background is a cardiac ICU nurse. Now I’ve added a list of new skills to my resume!
Con #1- Uncertainty
It’s rather unsettling to be looking for the next contract, hoping you land something before your current contract ends. So flexibility is key! I might not always get to go exactly where I want to go, but there are always options. I just have to be patient and put my name out there!
Con #2- Market fluctuations
I’ve heard that the current travel nursing market is flooded, meaning there are fewer jobs and rates are lower than experienced travelers are used to. Doesn’t mean you can’t land a good contract. It just means it might take longer and that you have to be flexible with location and pay.
Con #3- Being away from family and friends
I’m lucky that I get to travel with my best friend and our baby, but it doesn’t mean I don’t miss my family and friends back home. Single travelers talk a lot about being lonely in their travels. But the beauty of traveling is that we have the time and the means to go home if and when we want to!
Con #4- Learning curve
Usually travelers only get one to three days to be oriented to the hospital, their policies, and the unit in which they will work. When I had to learn a new charting system in two days, I was overwhelmed. But the job is basically the same everywhere, and I’ve been fortunate that the people at my assignments have been insanely helpful with my millions of questions and pleas for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Con #5- Disdain from staff nurses
In my experiences, travel nurses have been brought in so that patient ratios are better for the staff and so that they don’t have to work mandatory overtime. The places I’ve been have sent out big ol’ SOS signals because their staff is drowning! But sometimes the staff get upset because they know you make bank and their overtime is gone. It just depends on your location, and you have to grow tough skin and remember you’re there to take care of your patients.
What is your advice for nurses who want to travel but have a family?
A lot of the staff nurses that I’ve met in my travels say that they wish they could travel but that it’s impossible with a family. I beg to differ! Obviously not everyone is able to uproot their lives, but for our family at least, we have more time together and better finances with me working as a travel nurse and my husband taking care of our toddler instead of working a full time job. Our son is young enough that school isn’t a factor in our decision, but I have met and read about tons of nurses who homeschool their kids so that the family can travel together. I think it just depends on your preferences, but I can be done!
What are your travel logistics?
Our goal with traveling was to A) see as much of the country as possible and B) be financially stable. So my husband and I quit our jobs in Florida and headed to my first travel assignment. Most assignments are 13 weeks, and we agreed that we probably wouldn’t extend contracts anywhere so we could enjoy as much of the USA as possible. After my first contract, we purchased an RV to maximize our income and to make moving that much easier. Plus, we can up and take a vacation practically whenever we want without having to book hotels or board our dogs who also travel with us. We love the Western USA, so we try to go to places with mountains and cooler weather, close to National Parks and outdoor activities.
I work nights usually, so I sleep 3 days a week while Will takes the baby out hiking, to splash parks or to indoor play places, depending on where in the country we are. I try to clump my shifts together so we always have at least 4 days off together every week. This contract, I’ve been able to have 6 days off in a row three or four times!