So you want to be a travel nurse? Galavanting from state to state, making good money, and having great flexibility, right? Well, although it is a GREAT job, it’s not all unicorns and rainbows.
But if you are flexible and adventurous, it truly is one of the coolest professions ever! Here are 5 things you should know before you become a travel nurse.
1. Research, research, research!
There is a ton of information to try to absorb before taking the plunge to do travel nursing! What company do you want to go with? Where do you want to go? How do you find travel nurse housing? Can your pets come, and how hard is it to take them with you? How do you make money?
Luckily these days, there are a ton of resources, most notably groups on Facebook. You have to be added to these groups, but they are worth their weight in gold. Some of the admins of these groups have even been so kind and helpful to actually have compiled files for such topics as travel nurse housing, hospital reputation, taxes, travel companies, etc. Some of the few I have found helpful are:
Traveling the Country, One Hospital at a Time (around 15k members currently). This one has those files I was telling you about!! This group also has a subset of groups that are area-specific, like Traveling New England One Hospital at a Time and Traveling Florida, One Hospital at a Time which makes it nice as well if you are looking for one specific area or to meet up with others in the region!
Travel Nurse Network – The Gypsy Nurse has over 106k members, so a wider array of resources from all the members.
Insider pro tip: use the search function relating to your question. For example, looking to see if someone has experience in the same hospital that you have a potential job offer from? Search the hospital name, city, or both. You will usually find some helpful information, and whatever you don’t find, feel free to post a question and ask!
2. You have to adapt quickly as a travel nurse
Most travel nurses get around 2-3 days of orientation on average. Some a little longer depending on the hospital and if they want you to do their own specific hospital orientation (I try to avoid these like the plague, haha, when you change jobs every 3 months, orientation gets monotonous and boring REALLY quickly).
Regardless, once you are on the floor/your particular setting, you are expected to be ready to go in 3-4 days. That means absorbing the new computer system and charting, learning your way around the unit, and your new coworkers are all done in a hurry! So you obviously need to have experience in your field before doing travel nursing. I traveled for the first time with 1.5 years of experience, but most places prefer at least 2 years. They are not there to teach you how to do the nursing job. They are just teaching you the unit and their way of doing things. So as we used to say in the ER, get your roller-skates on!
3. Be Prepared
Travel nursing can be a flighty kind of job! Not trying to discourage this profession at all, but all I am saying is to be prepared! When I say be prepared, that means be prepared for things to go wrong, hospitals to back out of contracts, and you to not get your dream job (i.e. location, money, etc.), among other things.
In my nearly 3 years of travel nursing at this time, I have luckily not had any major issues, but I hear of this enough to where it warrants mentioning. Hospitals back out last minute, positions close, you are holding out for that one job with the perfect money situation, your recruiting company drags their feet or makes a mistake, and next thing you know, you are out of a job for 6 weeks! I have known a couple of travel nurses to have spent time living in their cars! (This is more the exception than the norm, but still, yikes!)
Top tips to be prepared:
- Always have a savings fund for 3-6 months of expenses if you are in between jobs.
- Be prepared to take a job that is not your dream job/location.
- Know your company’s policy regarding cancellation.
- Research the hospital/facility experience in the Facebook groups I mentioned.
4. Your travel nurse job may not be like your permanent job
Now this is meant to be a broad brush covering many ways your job may not be the same. Yes, you have a general specialty that you will work in, say emergency department. But the way they do things may be different. The hospital may likely be going through a huge management/hospital administration turnover. Sometimes, you may even be floated to different areas (always ask the nurse manager you are interviewing with about the float possibility), among other things.
Just be flexible and willing to go with the flow, and you will be fine!
5. It can be a little lonely as a travel nurse
It may seem that this post is a little dismal, but in all honesty, just trying to point out a few things that a lot of travel nurses have difficulty with. In my personal opinion, the pros heavily outweigh the cons (more on that later), but just so you are prepared.
I assume if you want to be a travel nurse, you have to be pretty darn adventurous and independent! But being on the road a lot can get lonely sometimes if you don’t happen to be traveling with a significant other. You are in a town/city where you don’t know anyone, starting a new job, and your friends and family are hundreds if not thousands of miles away.
So whereas normally you can lean on your family, friends, and coworkers who are nearby for support after those tough days at work or whatever may be going on, it may not be the case during your travel nurse assignment. On the bright side, it forces you out of your comfort zone to get out there and make new friends or explore your surroundings by yourself! In my opinion, if you take the plunge to be a travel nurse, you are awesome! So remember that and wear it as a badge! Not everyone has the cajones (nor the opportunity because of obligations) to take off into the unknown and kick butt!
With that being said, here are some tips to stave off a little of the loneliness.
- Go explore your town/surroundings.
- Plan a trip home.
- Plan a road trip to another close destination.
- Pack things from home.
Well, again, this post may seem a little discouraging at first, but take heart! Being a travel nurse is one of the most incredible jobs out there! I can’t tell you how many people come up to me who want to know all about travel nursing and are beyond envious of my life. And I must say, their envy is well warranted.
I have been to more amazing places in my going on 3 years of travel nursing than some people have their entire lives! So go get your travel on!
Be prepared, be flexible, and get out of your comfort zone. You won’t regret it! Good luck, gypsies!
Interested in a travel nursing job? Our job board is a great place to search for travel nurse assignments, and if travel nurse housing is an issue, our housing page can help. It’s time to make a difference!