When we set off on our travel nursing adventure more than one year ago, we were nervous, excited, but overall ready for all the new changes that were bound to come our way. When we started traveling, pay packages were at an all-time high, sometimes reaching all the way up to $10,000 a week or more for crisis contracts. Seeing as though we were just starting out, we knew we weren’t ready to take on those assignments because most of the highest paying ones required 60-72-hour work weeks. We knew we wanted to make great money, but we also wanted to genuinely enjoy our time in a new place as well.
So, what have we learned more than a year into our travel nursing journey?
The money is great, more than we have ever made at our staff jobs, but it’s also not everything. Recently, a couple of our friends have also decided to dive into the world of travel nursing, just as eager as we were when we started all those months ago. During one of our regular video chats, they asked, “What has made travel nursing worth it to you, besides the money?”. We both thought long and hard about our answers and realized there’s more than just one reason we have fallen in love with this lifestyle, and spoiler alert, it isn’t the money.
#1: Freedom to explore as much as we want.
As a staff nurse, I remember planning vacations every few months. It brought me so much joy thinking about everything we could do and see. I would research for weeks or months ahead of time, trying to ensure that our experience would be incredible. As it tends to do, time would fly by, and before I knew it, we would be back home, back at work, and settled into the same routine. For some people, this is no big deal, but it felt a little suffocating for me.
Since we have become travel nurses, we not only get the freedom and opportunities to explore a new city and state (for at least three months!), but we also get to be masters of our own time and schedules. We can take off as little as a week or plan to take a whole season off if we want to. As staff nurses, there’s literally no way this could be a possibility. At the end of this current contract, we are taking five weeks off to go home and to travel to Europe. Ask yourselves, could you take five weeks off from your job right now? The freedom to travel, explore, or just relax with family and friends at home is hands down our biggest reason travel nursing has been worth it to us.
#2. Meeting new people around the country is another great reason we love travel nursing.
We have made friends from different countries, states, and backgrounds, and each of them have their own unique story. It’s been such a treat to surround ourselves with interesting people who have enriched our lives with deep, meaningful conversations, laughs, and perspectives.
Not only have our coworkers around the country taught us so much, but the patients also have. Getting the opportunity to relive our elderly patients’ fondest memories as they recount them for us, getting tips and advice on the must-see places to visit and eat at while on assignment, and seeing the looks on their faces when we tell them we are travel nurses from Texas. They usually have tons of questions, and it’s really nice to hear them say things like, “It’s so great you are doing this now, while you are young.” Life goes by in the blink of an eye, and we are reminded of this every day we get to live the life of our dreams.
#3 Learning new things.
Even though emergency rooms across the country are very similar in most ways, the way things are done is not always the exact same, and there can be huge learning curves in each one you take an assignment in, even if they are in the same state. I think as a staff nurse, I was initially fine with feeling comfortable at my job, but that comfortable feeling gradually turned into feeling stagnant. I didn’t know it at the time, but I think I was ready to learn something new again, ready to hear new ideas and new ways of doing things.
Something as small as an IV catheter or as big as which charting system the hospital uses can vary from place to place, and even those things can be considered learning a new skill. I think overall; these small but challenging things have the potential to make you a better, stronger, more well-rounded nurse who can take on new assignments easily. Remember, we should always consider ourselves learners no matter how many years of experience we have!
#4 Challenging ourselves.
Lastly, this past year we have felt more challenged than we have since we were brand new nurses. Living in a new place, having very little orientation to the unit, and being expected to carry out our jobs in these unfamiliar places is a huge challenge. In addition to that, being away from home and our loved ones has been challenging all on its own. These challenges do not come easy, but nothing good ever come from things being easy. We look back at all the hard days, non-stop busy shifts, and moments when we missed our families a little extra and are so proud of how far we have come. These challenges, in addition to all the new things we have learned, have helped us grow exponentially as people and as professionals. This growth is not something money can buy, and it does not discriminate between a lower-paying travel nurse contract or a high-paying crisis contract.
In short, we all have our reasons for being interested in or choosing to pursue travel nursing. With rates fluctuating as they always do, it’s important to consider these reasons in addition to the money you will be making. Remember, money is important, of course, but there are so many other ways travel nursing enriches your life.
We hope you enjoyed this article on why travel nursing is more than just great pay. Do you have other reasons that you think travel nursing is more than just great pay? Comment why you love travel nursing and why you do it below.
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