Crystal Gustafson
Crystal Gustafson
April 16, 2015 - 4 min read

How Travel Made Me a Better Nurse – One Nurse’s Decision to Hit the Road

For me, deciding to become a travel nurse, was way more of a personal goal than a professional one. Even before starting nursing school, I knew that traveling was an activity I enjoyed and even think it played a role in me becoming a nurse in the first place. I am going to share my personal travel story with you, along with all my fears and how I prepared myself for the greatest adventure in my life thus far.

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Why I hit the road

I spent my entire life living, working and attending school in Colorado and I was in need of a change of scenery. My goal was to use travel nursing to explore cities I have never been to, looking for a place that I wanted to spend the rest of my life. I love warm weather, so I kept all my travel assignments in the southern part of the country chasing summer. I also needed a break from my family. I don’t know about any of you, but my family will suck the life out of you if you let them. The third reason I decided to travel was more of a professional one.  I only knew of one way of taking care of patients and wanted to see how other facilities functioned in order to expand on my own skills. I was also very involved in the politics of the hospital and was becoming very frustrated with the lack of change that was occurring. I guess you can say that I was in search of a place that could offer me peace and tranquility in both my personal and professional life.

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How I prepared myself for my big adventure

I started preparing myself for travel nursing approximately 6 months prior to my first assignment. I worked with a travel nurse previously who gave me the name of her recruiter and that’s how I chose my travel agency. I didn’t do any research about the company because honestly I didn’t know much about the profession. I had all the paperwork completed within 2 months but I wanted to make sure I had my CCRN (Critical Care Registered Nurse) certification prior to traveling because I thought it would help me get better travel assignments. In between studying for my CCRN and filling out paperwork, I moved out of my place and into a temporary living situation. I downsized all my belongings, only keeping the necessary things that would fit in my SUV.

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The reality of my biggest fears

I had heard from some nurses that travelers get treated poorly, floated first, and often get stuck with the worst assignments. Being treated poorly was a fear of mine in the beginning, but I quickly learned that people will only treat you poorly if you let them. I was fortunate to “grow up” in an ICU where people were free to speak their opinions without judgement, so I felt very comfortable standing up for myself when I needed to. In reality, I was never treated poorly and most people were very friendly and helpful. They didn’t give me the worst assignments as I feared and in fact, my assignments were really great most of the time.

Another fear of mine was that I was going to lose my critical care “skills.” As a travel nurse, some places will not give you the CRRT’s, swans or the balloon pumps because they have their own staff to take those patients who are certified with that particular equipment. Despite not receiving these types of patients, I still had my fair share of sick ones; Plus, re-learning how to use that equipment is like riding a bike. In reality, I learned many other skills, like being flexible and going with the flow, that are much more valuable than working a machine.  In fact, it was my experience with floating that landed me my current staff position.

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Traveling truly changed my life

I knew there were many benefits to traveling, tax free money, free housing, getting paid to travel, and flexibility with time off. What I didn’t realize was that my experience as a travel nurse would forever change the way I take care of my patients, my lifestyle and how I value my family and friends. Not having to participate in the politics of a hospital allowed me to focus on the most important part of nursing…taking care of patients. Floating to different floors allowed me to see how other nurses cared for their patients and ultimately influenced the way I care for mine. I no longer felt the moral distress that accompanies nurses who continuously work in the ICU.

Develop new skills by becoming a travel nurse!

Traveling has made me simplify my life. I realized that I don’t need as much stuff as I thought I did. I lived out of my car for 2 years and survived just fine. Experiences are now more valuable to me than material things. I developed a new sense of pride for my hometown. I realized how amazing Colorado really was and how much it had to offer. I realized that I don’t hate the cold as much as I thought I did. Traveling brought me closer to my friends and family. I didn’t realize how much I missed them until they were too far away. I learned what I love…being active and also what I hate… big cities. I believe that my travel nursing experience brought unimaginable insight into my life.

I know I would not be where I am today, personally or professionally without having experienced travel nursing. At this stage in my life, I feel that being a staff nurse is in my best interest, but the allure of traveling has not left me. I will travel again but next time it will be for different reasons and without fear and worry.

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