By Crystal Gustafson, RN
I don’t know about you, but the thought of settling down in a relationship or getting married was the last thing on my mind when I decided to embark in travel nursing. I didn’t really know what to expect from my travels, but I knew that I would meet lots of people in different situations that I had never been before.
And like with everything else, I did little to prepare myself. I’m no expert on dating and you will likely have unique dating experiences (both good and bad), but below are a few things that I learned along the way about dating as a travel nurse.
1. It expands your horizons. Dating on assignment encourages you to be open to meeting new people from different parts of the country, different cultures, and ethnicities that you have may have never been around.
2. It helps you create your life partner checklist. Spending time alone allows you to think about what it is that you want in a partner. Maybe there were characteristics that you admire in someone you met in another city that you find yourself missing. Or, maybe you realize the person you just left was the love of your life.
3. Temporary assignments provide space. Often when you meet someone travel nursing, the relationship initially seems exciting, which can cause you to overlook some red flags. When a new contract takes you elsewhere, you may realize the person you were so excited about wasn’t the person for you. Or, the opposite. Maybe dating long distance confirms things for you.
Overall, though, knowing that you are only in a city temporarily can make the dating scene a little more casual and fun — you can get to know people without worrying about marriage.
1. Usually contracts are only 13 weeks. It can take a few weeks to actually meet someone, especially if you don’t have any connections in that city. And, by the time you do meet someone, it may be time to decide on where your next assignment is going to be. Trying to decide if the person you just met is worth sticking around for can be a tough decision, especially if you don’t care for the city you are working in.
2. You may be more vulnerable than usual. Travel nursing can be lonely, especially at first. You may find yourself settling for someone not quite right for you to avoid loneliness.
3. Some people find travel nurses exciting. They may like the idea of a short-term, casual relationship with no commitments. If this isn’t what you want, then beware.
From my own experiences, I have compiled a list of dating tips. That doesn’t mean I actually followed all of them, but in hindsight, I was I had.
1. Do NOT cancel your travel plans. If you have always wanted to go to Oregon, then by all means go there. Don’t cancel your plans to stay with someone you just met. You can get to know people at a distance — long-distance relationships can improve your communication and tend to be more exciting.
2. Be creative. Don’t make “grabbing a drink” your go-to date. If the person you are dating is local, then have them show you some local attractions. Or, compile a list of things you want to do and turn those into dates.
3. Maintain distance. Avoid dating people who are in the same housing complex as you. Trust me, this can get weird fast.
4. Keep your work life separate. If you date a coworker, it may be wise to obtain your next contract at a different hospital in the same city. This helps minimize drama that may occur should things not work out.
5. Beware of serial daters (unless you are one). Some hospitals who employ a lot of travel nurses have employees who like to take advantage of their vulnerabilities. I witnessed one guy date five different travel nurses at a time.
6. Don’t force anything. The time constraint of a 13-week contract can be stressful. If the only reason you want to stay in a city is because of the person you are dating, then it may be wise to have a serious conversation with that person on where he or she stands. If you’re not on the same page, then move on.
I personally believe dating is at its best when the sole purpose of hanging out with that person is to have fun, but not to get married — especially for the first few months. Travel nursing is an adventure. Do not let dating take away from your experience. If you find more heartache than joy while you are on the road, then maybe it’s time to reconsider your priorities.
Read more about Crystal’s experience with dating on the road: A Travel Nursing Love Story.
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Crystal Gustafson is a Critical Care Registered Nurse who spent time as a travel nurse in various states including Arizona, Texas, Florida, and California. She has recently accepted a system wide float pool position with Exempla Healthcare System in her hometown of Denver, Colorado and has a blog about prevention and education in healthcare. You can learn more about Crystal at Google+ or you can visit her blog at http://grassrootsprevention.blogspot.com/.