I look back, as in one month ago, to realize I literally just finished my very first travel nursing assignment, during a global pandemic at that. I’m sure you’re thinking, what I was thinking?!
I was thinking that this would be an amazing opportunity personally and financially for myself and my family. Certain key adjectives came to mind: servitude, adventure, once in a lifetime, strength. Many colorful adjectives soon followed as my 8-week adventure in Brooklyn, New York unfolded.
So here are my recommendations prior to committing and embarking on your first travel assignment.
The two most important things
The two things that were most important for me was to know who my recruiter/agency was going to be as well as where I was planning to go to. If you have not noticed, you will, there are a plethora of companies with endless recruiters for travel nursing. This means you have some homework ahead of you.
Take the time and research the companies and how long they have been active for, read their reviews, check out their social media platforms – this is very much about finding the best representation for yourself! It can get tiresome talking with different people and navigating through the waters of who is truly dedicated to you and has your true best interest at heart versus who sees you as another notch on their belt. Other companies may try and bait you with a higher offer, just make sure you closely examine the proposal and contracts.
Companies who offer to pay for your travel and stay with a higher weekly gross rate may look good initially but then you realize the amount taxable is terribly high. I am fortunate to have a recruiter that truly has my back and works effortlessly at making sure I am not only supplied with contracts but the best ones suitable for me. Secondly, keep in mind that states pay differently, some more noticeable than others. For instance, I can tell you Florida is not at all a good-paying state for nurses in general let alone travel nurses. However, things can change when the terms crisis contract appears. Now take in mind this is NOT the norm.
Pick a state you are interested in
So, pick a state you have interest in, that you want to visit, or someplace where you might have family and friends in. What I am ultimately saying is do not pick a place that you have no interest in or that you feel may bring you down. Most contracts last anywhere from 8-13 weeks so you want to be in an environment that you will ultimately enjoy and look forward to being in.
10 Key Points When Starting a Career as a Travel Nurse
- First and foremost, make sure you have enough experience for the assignment. More states prefer two years of experience as opposed to less unless during times of need/crisis. This is also something you should be honest about with your recruiter so neither party is wasting time.
- You want to make sure you have proper licensing, especially if you do not have a compact license already in place. Check here to see if you need a compact license or not.
Up to date certifications
- Make sure all your certifications are up to date – BLS, ACLS, PALS, NIHSS, etc.
- Make things easy for yourself. I have a folder called “my resume package” which includes my up to date resume, cover letter, skills checklist, references, copies of licenses/titers to easily and readily send out.
Research your new area
- Research the city, hospital, and surrounding amenities and areas you will need access to. I had already pinned in google which laundromat I would use and what restaurants I wanted to visit. There are even websites dedicated to helping travel health care workers find housing at discounted rates (like Outpost Club and Furnished Finder to name two – there are several more just search on google). Check and see if any discounts are provided for bookings in advance and car rentals. I received 30% off for booking in advance for 4 weeks on Airbnb. Do not be hesitate to negotiate!
“Knowledge is power.” Research travel nurse websites and articles, join some travel nursing groups (check Facebook, Instagram, and Holliblu for a start) because most of the questions you have someone already has had and has already graciously written about. Another favorite site of mine is, The Gypsy Nurse
Consider a travel buddy
- Think about traveling with a buddy! Travel and lodging are cut in half and you also have someone you can vent to and share experiences with after a hard day.
- Make a list of things you need/want to pack. Most of us tend to overpack so creating a list will help consolidate things and keep you on track so you will not have to spend extra on baggage or transport extra unnecessarily.
Be flexible with everything
- Contracts can be canceled, shortened, or extended. Make sure you have some cushion for those days or weeks you do not find an assignment that connects with you. After you get started you have a little more leverage monetarily speaking, but it is important to keep backups in mind for any kind of instances. The more you prepare yourself to have a more “go with the flow” mentality, the less difficult it will be. I will be honest, I have been fortunate this year, after 21 weeks of working two travel assignments, I will have made a little bit over my annual salary as a nurse in my home state. I know it sounds crazy, but it is possible!
Lastly enjoy the time you have on your assignment.
- When things get tough remind yourself this is temporary. Interact with the locals and other travelers, explore your surroundings and things you have not seen before, do facetime, and zoom date nights for needed support and encouragement from family and friends.
Overall, just try not to be close-minded. Looking back and thinking of the could have and would have, I wish I started travel nursing earlier. The fear you have about meeting new people turns into excitement. Fear you have about others not being as cordial turns into bravery as you are the only one standing up for yourself. The fear of being alone and in unfamiliar environments turns into unabashed curiosity and wonderment.
By: Priya Moorhouse, RN, Travel Nurse