Before I started travel nursing, these are some of the issues I wish I would have prepared for a little better.
Educate yourself on how travel nursing pay packages work. Do not be alarmed that your base pay is going to be significantly less than what you’re getting paid now. Just know that the tax incentives will make up the difference. It is also good to know that if you miss work you don’t get paid and you might actually have to pay your travel agency for part of your housing. Try to find a travel company that guarantees hours.
Packing up and moving every few months is a pain. Instead of bringing your dishes with you everywhere, maybe go to goodwill and buy just a few to get you through your assignment and then re-donate them when you move. As far a clothes and shoes go, if you haven’t worn it in three months, you probably don’t need it. Keeping your materials to a minimum is an important life lesson you will learn by the end of your journey.
You know how to take care of people, this is what you were born to do. The trickiest part of traveling is figuring out where all the stuff is and who to call. You will find that traveling brings back the best part of nursing. It allows you to take care of your patients without having to get hung up on the inner workings of the unit.
Just because you worked in an environment that embraced personal opinions it doesn’t mean other people feel the same way about your opinion. You will find it frustrating that nobody really cares what you have to say, even if it means improving current nursing practice; not to worry, someday someone will seek out your traveling expertise and it will land you one of the best jobs you have ever had.
Just because you are a travel nurse doesn’t mean you have to move every 13 weeks. If you are loving the city you are in, then try to extend your contract or find another hospital within driving distance that is in need of an awesome nurse.
This can be scary at first. You may want to quit an assignment or move back home. It is extremely important to push through this loneliness and find ways to combat homesickness. Plan for activities to keep yourself busy. Join a gym, buy a puzzle, plan touristy activities, get Netflix and make regular phone calls to the people you love. Learning to be your own best friend is priceless.
There will be times when you won’t get a paycheck for a month. Most of the time you will have at least a week off in between assignments and then it takes two weeks to get your next paycheck. Your budgeting skills will need to be on point. If you are smart, you will learn that buying material things does not benefit you in any way as a travel nurse. Not only is it usually a waste of money but then you have to lug it around with you all over the place.
I know it’s so much easier to just let your company do it for you but the financial incentives are way worth it. There are lots of furnished housing options out there and if you are feeling really zealous, you can even find a roommate. I know living with a stranger can be challenging but it will get you out of the house more and maybe expose you to some of the local culture.
There is only so much research one can do before going on an adventure. Most of the time, the unexpected experiences of the journey are the most important life lessons and are what make the adventure the most exciting.
By Crystal Gustafson, RN
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 also has blog about prevention and education in healthcare. You can learn more about Crystal on her blog at http://grassrootsprevention.blogspot.com/.. M