By Sarah Gaines
When my vacation was denied after my father passed away, that was the last straw. I was overworked, underpaid, and completely fed up when my manager refused to give me time away to grieve the most important person in my life. Less than 24 hours later, I accepted my first job as a travel nurse, signed my contract, and put in my two weeks notice. It’s safe to say that I did more than just take the leap into travel nursing — I dove in head first without looking back.
Becoming a travel nurse gave me the autonomy to quit the job I hated and choose the job I wanted. Now, I have the freedom to vacation as long as I want, and I’ve more than doubled my income while only working 9 months last year!
But, I have to be honest, starting off wasn’t so easy and I made a lot of rookie mistakes. Even though I struggled for a few years, I don’t regret becoming a travel nurse. Though, there are a few things that I would do differently.
After some initial research, I found a reputable company that I liked and gave them a call. Once I connected with a company recruiter, I immediately began working with her to find a job placement. Seems simple, right? That was actually the first big mistake I made. As a travel nurse, it’s smarter to work with more than one company especially if you’re new to the industry. This will allow you to compare the benefits that each company offers to ensure you’re getting the right fit for you. It also allows you to compare recruiters — which leads me to the next mistake I made.
Unfortunately, not all recruiters are created equally. Any experienced travel nurse will tell you, your recruiter can make or break your entire experience as a travel nurse. When you’re looking for a recruiter make sure that they have great communication skills. Are they easy to get ahold of? Do they respond in an appropriate amount of time? You do not want a recruiter who’s MIA! This will make all the difference if you run into any problems during your assignment.
Also, make sure that your recruiter listens to your needs and makes them a priority. You should never be pressured into something you don’t want to do. For example, working night shift is a deal breaker for me, so I hate it when recruiters send me offers for night shift. It’s a waste of time and it shows me that the recruiter failed to listen to me and make my needs a priority when looking for jobs.
Lastly, your recruiter should be upfront and transparent about pay packages. You should never be submitted to any position without fully understanding every aspect of what you’re offered.
This mistake should cost you money, so pay attention. Signing your first contract can be really exciting, but it’s important you know what you’re signing yourself up for. This sounds like common sense, but many new travel nurses don’t bother to read the terms they’re agreeing to. Double check everything you and your recruiter discussed, so there’s no discrepancies that could lead to surprises later on.
Things to confirm before you sign your contract:
If you have any planned vacation, make sure that your vacation time is written in your contract AND confirmed by the hiring manager in your interview if possible. Shift and hours may seem like a small detail but it’s often overlooked — never assume you’re working three shifts per week (36 hours). Although, it’s common, shifts and hours will vary by facility. Many facilities require 8 hour shifts instead of 12.
Last but least, have fun! No matter where you end up, make the most of every experience.
Sarah Gaines, MSN, RNC-OB is a labor and delivery nurse, nurse mentor, and educator that has been a travel nurse for the last three years.
Passionate about travel nursing (14 contracts and counting!), she’s created the 6 Figure Travel Nurse Course to educate and empower nurses to maximize their income so they can work less and travel more.