By Lee Nelson
If you are new to being a travel nurse, it might seem a little overwhelming with so many things to choose, research and take care of before going on your journey.
Ellie Kanter works as a traveling nurse at Presbyterian Hospital Downtown, Albuquerque, N.M.
“I’ve moved around so much with my parents in the military and then with myself that I really don’t mind the move like other people do,” she says.
But she understands that it can be quite a process for people to store a bulk of their belongings or sell them or give them away to charity. She also knows that not everything will go perfectly at every assignment that you end up taking.
But Kanter, traveling nurse Michele Fitzgerald, and Mario Mucurio, recruitment team lead at Planet Healthcare in Westlake, Ohio, share some of their expertise to help first-time travel nurses get a great head start.
Here are some of their best tips:
Travel is not for everyone and some jump in without enough thought or planning, says Mucurio.
Ask yourself — Why do you want to travel? Is it money, is it the travel, or is it the experience? Can I afford to travel? How does this affect my home life, kids, school, and other parts of my life? Yes, your reasons to travel may change through the years, but doing an inventory every so often can help ensure you are set up for success long term.
Some agencies are known for high pay, some for having the most openings, some for going the extra mile in all situations, and a few are a combination of the previous three. Mucurio adds.
When identifying a recruiter within an agency its best to find one that fits your personality and what you are looking for. Do you want weekly check-ins? Do you want someone you can call with problems just like a friend?
Make sure during your interview to clarify if weekends, evenings or on call are expected, says Fitzgerald, who has been traveling for two years mostly in Arizona and now in Monterey, Calif.
“I also wish I would have walked the hospital before starting because orientation doesn’t give you the tools,”
Kanter explains. Arrive a day or two early and learn all about the area around the hospital. She always stays one night in a hotel and makes appointments to see a few rental places before committing.
There are tons of social media groups, travel nursing sites and experienced travelers to bounce all your questions off, says Mucurio.
“You need to understand how the process works to make truly informed decisions. Travel nursing is hard enough, so having a solid grasp of things can give you peace of mind and not compound an already difficult career,“ he adds.
It’s all about flexibility, Mucurio says. This is the number one reason some RNs have a limited amount of job choices.
“The more flexible you are the more likely you will be to not only find a contract but continue to stay gainfully employed with minimal time off,” he says.
Understand Shift, Location, pay requirements all factor into the number of jobs that may be available to you. An ICU RN that only does days, within 10 miles of Dallas, TX, and needs $1900 weekly take home will have a much harder time locating contracts than an ICU RN that will work any shift, in any compact state, and needs $1600 take home.
Kanter always rents near the hospital she is working at unless she can stay with a friend.
“If something happened to my car, I could at least walk or Uber to the hospital and not call off,” she says.
Fitzgerald always packs her passport, electronic copies of licenses and certifications, and things such as pens, comfortable shoes, lock for her locker at the job and phone chargers. For her dog that travels with her, she packs treats, comfy bed and vaccination records.
It’s good to have two accounts so you can keep track of expenses and also input everything on credit card for later tracking or taxes, Kanter explains.