One of the great things about travel nursing is the variety of experiences it provides for those who choose this path. As an ICU travel nurse for the past 5+ years, I’ve learned a lot through trial and error. If you are interested in becoming a “Gypsy” or are new to travel nursing, there are 8 things I wish I know before I became a travel nurse that I hope helps you in your journey.
1.) Have A Safety Net!
Traveling is a risky business, and it may sound like a no-brainer but do not start traveling without some savings. You have to be ready for the unexpected, like when your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere or a contract gets canceled. You may have to live without working for a few weeks. SO, be prepared for it.
2.) Trust your gut!
I had a pretty lucrative contract in CA, but I sold my soul for it. It was a pretty rough assignment using the most outdated charting system and floated from one end of that hospital to another. Yes, I got paid well, but I certainly worked for it. My gut was right when it said, “this is too good to be true.” If you feel after an interview uneasy about anything, ask more questions, and don’t be afraid to pass on it.
3.) Read your contract!
You have to go over your contract with a fine-toothed comb. Ensure you understand everything in your contract and that it includes all the things you have asked for. Some of the top things I make sure is in my contract are pay rates for the first 36 hours, hours from 36-40, and hours from 40+ (the exception is California), requested days off, cancellation policy or guaranteed hours, canceled contract policy, travel and any other reimbursements, per diems, shift times, the specific unit I will be working, and floating policy. Also, make sure you understand things like non compete clauses in your contract or any other terms you agree to.
4.) Educate yourself on taxes regarding travel nursing and what is meant by maintaining a tax home.
I spent hours researching articles related to travel nursing and taxes before becoming a travel nurse. This can be very complicated.
5.) Before starting to apply to companies have all your documents ready.
This will include a resume, certifications, copy of your diploma, vaccination records, copy of your identification card, nursing licenses, and references. Also, every company will request that you do a skills checklist before being submitted to hospitals.
6.) Learn from the experienced travel nurses.
All of us have made mistakes going in but if you know before you start what to look out for this may save you a lot of heartache.
7.) Travel nursing can be uncomfortable at times.
If you were to meet me now you would probably never guess I was not the most social and certainly not as confident as I am today. That I owe to travel nursing pushing me out of my comfort zone. I have learned to go at it on my own and not wait for anyone to tag along with me to have an adventure. I like to call it dating myself or solo explorations.
8.) Be ready for whatever is thrown your way.
Finally, your reaction to situations will make or break your travel nursing career. You can choose to throw in the towel or you can handle it. Travel nursing will test your limits sometimes but you have the power to run it or let it run you.
I hope you found these tips to be helpful. One of the keys to being a successful Gypsy nurse is the willingness to help your help your colleagues. Feel free to let me know if they do by leaving a comment here.
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