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Travel Nursing: The Adventurous Job for Couples

April 30, 2018

By Lee Nelson

For the past 2 ½ years, Andrew Craig and his wife, Sarah, have been living in different parts of the Midwest and Northeast being travel nurses and enjoying adventures along the way.

“We both had heard of travel nursing throughout our career. It has a romantic and almost exotic connotation until you learn that the job is quite challenging. It’s not always greener on the other side,” he says.

Both of them are registered nurses, and it made sense to do travel nursing together. Right now, they recently moved to Waterloo, Iowa. This is the first assignment where they are not working the same unit. However, they are both on the 3rd floor, so they see each other regularly. “I work the medical-surgical-oncology unit, and my wife works the surgical unit. However, we both regularly float back and forth to a variety of units. That is very common as a travel nurse,” he adds.

Why did you want to be a nurse in the first place?

Craig’s journey to becoming a nurse took a few years after not being able to go into the Navy like he had planned right after high school. “I didn’t have a plan and spent a few years in many types of jobs. I remember vividly while I was roofing in the winter that maybe this type of work wasn’t for me anymore,” he explains. “Can you believe that there are people that roof their houses in the middle of winter? You bet it happens.”

He went to community college to become a paramedic in Moline, Ill., where he was raised, and decided to become a paramedic. That was for no particular reason other than he liked medical shows. He had no family in the medical field. Craig ended up volunteering in a local emergency department to get some healthcare experience and hoped to get some exposure to paramedics. “It’s a funny thing. I had way more exposure to nurses than I did paramedics. I liked the work even though I really had no clue at the time what they were doing. I thought it was cool, and I got hooked at the interaction with the patients and families at the bedside. The feeling I got that I was making a difference in another person’s life was intoxicating,” he states. He switched majors shortly after that, got into nursing school, and survived the “torturous” three years of his life to become a nurse.

Where did you start out being a nurse and in what departments?

He worked in skilled nursing facilities for about two years. He then applied to multiple positions at the University of Iowa Hospitals in Iowa City after he needed a change from long term care. He accepted a job on the Pulmonary Step Down unit there, and was there for about 1 ½ years before starting travel nursing.

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What age were you when you decided it was time to be a traveling nurse?

He was 27 at the time.

How long have you been married, and where did you meet?

They have been married almost four years. “We’ve been together nearly eight years, and we met on a free dating website okcupid.com,” he says. “Legend has it that she was going to delete her profile the day I contacted her. Good thing she didn’t.”

Why did you feel it was the right time to be a traveling nurse with your spouse, and what were your main reasons for doing it?

My wife and I had just got back from our trip in Scotland. We took our honeymoon there. We rented a car and drove all over the country. When we got back, we wanted more adventure. We subsequently put in our notice in at our jobs shortly after and started travel nursing soon after we got back. We still had the travel bug and wanted more adventure. We had no serious ties keeping us in one place. We also found that travel nursing can be quite financially lucrative which was another huge motivating factor.”

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Do you two always work in the same hospital or department? Do you always have the same shifts?

Except for this assignment, we have always worked the same shifts and the same unit. It works for us. We’re a good team and work well with each other at work,” he says. He thinks couples that do this must have excellent communication and have some separation of work and home life. “If we were to bring our baggage to work, it would not be good for us or our co-workers. Not that we have much of that, but it’s an important skill to develop if couples are to work with each other regularly,” he says.

Tell about the absolute best days you’ve ever had as a traveling nurse.

“One is driving the California coast from Los Angeles to southern Oregon. We worked in Klamath Falls, Ore., for six months,” he adds. “The drive is absolutely gorgeous. The mist that blankets the scenery coming off the coast is breath taking at times.” The couple also absolutely loved Madison, Wis. The people, the food, their co-workers and the state, itself was great. “When we stop travel nursing, Madison is a strong contender for settling down some roots,” Craig explains.

Explain in a few sentences some of the things you two have been able to do as a couple as travel nurses.

“We’ve been on countless road trips. We’ve driven well over 40,000 miles all over the country. We’ve been to over 40 states together,” he says. They have drank beers in Portland, Ore.; took a road trip to Las Vegas to visit United Kingdom friends; driven through mile high, snowy mountain tops in Colorado; and taken cruises and extended vacations to rest and relax. In some cases, they were able to earn double what they made as staff nurses. So, that leaves money for adventures.

What destinations do you hope to go in the future as pair of traveling nurses?

Currently, on their list is: California, Hawaii, and Alaska. Otherwise, they are pretty flexible.

How long do you think you will be traveling nurses together, and why?

“It depends on when children enter the picture. Otherwise, I could foresee us traveling indefinitely,” Craig says.

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What are your best tips for couples who are thinking about being travel nurses together?

* Communication.
* Don’t bring your home life issues to work. Keep it professional on the unit.
* Learn conflict resolution.
* Sometimes swallow your pride and conclude a disagreement. It can spill over at the work place.
* Embrace that you are a couple.

“Some people find it weird that couples work together. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, ‘Well, I could never work with my husband,’” he says. “Be a team player and leader on the unit and show people that it’s perfectly cool that couples can work the same unit without it being weird.”