Why Travel Nursing Shouldn’t Be “One and Done”
During one of my initial, lengthy conversations with my new best friend (read: my recruiter), I was shocked to learn that most nurses only do one travel assignment. What!? One!? Do they know there are 50 states!?
I understand there are a lot of different reasons why one might not try for a second assignment-homesickness, loneliness, maybe you thought that hospital’s policies were off base, or you think you found your new home unit.
These are all real things that could definitely send someone running back home or ready to buy a new home and settle in their new city. Let me share with you why I believe it’s so important to do more than one assignment.
The Ultimate Road Trip
First, we’ll start with the most obvious. The more assignments you do, the more places you get to see! If I would have stopped after just one assignment all I would’ve seen outside of tiny little Rosebud,Texas was Las Vegas, Nevada. Okay maybe that wasn’t a good example because Vegas is well, Vegas.
After Las Vegas however, I went on assignments in Los Angeles, San Fransisco, San Diego, Houston, New York City, Baltimore, San Antonio, Knoxville, and Chicago. And it’s only been three years!
With a permanent staff job it would take 10 years to see all those cities; five, if you’ve got lots of flier miles and two vacations a year. There were cities that weren’t even on my radar that I absolutely fell in love with. Namely, San Diego-it’s my soul city.
Maybe your reason for traveling was to pay off debt or to build up a savings account (I’m looking at you fellow Millennials.) Yes, money is a major reason why so many are initially drawn to travel nursing but the experiences of living in new cities, meeting new people, and making new ‘forever friends’ is equally if not more, valuable.
Stay Ahead of the Curve
Speaking of valuable life experiences, expanding one’s knowledge base is a welcomed side effect of travel nursing. There is an infinite number of things one can learn working in a new unit.
Limiting your travel to just one assignment really sells yourself short on all the things a new hospital has to offer. With a new hospital or unit comes new equipment, new disease processes, different patient acuities, different coworker dynamics, and different charting, just to name a few.
I learned so much from my first assignment but it was still pretty similar to my home unit, all the way down to the paper charting. I started off with general Pediatric ICU experience and it wasn’t until my second and third assignments where I really started to see more than just the regular ol’ ‘PICU potpourri’.
After Vegas, I got to dabble in Pediatric Cardiac ICU. Lucille Packard Children’s in Palo Alto, California is where I got my first dose of all things regarding congenital cardiac defects and the surgeries that repair them. Lucille Packard was also where I learned how to care for patients that were status post liver and kidney transplants.
13 Weeks May Not Be Long Enough to Fully Adjust to the Traveling Lifestyle
Alright, I’m going to be real honest here and admit that I haven’t absolutely loved every single one of my 11 assignments. Out of those eleven, there were only two assignments that left me with a bitter taste in my mouth.
However, I feel like those are pretty good odds (Vegas got to me!). Even at a permanent job there are going to be days or weeks where you feel overworked or under appreciated … October through March, anyone? The reason I say this is because even though the odds are that your first assignment will be great, there’s a small chance it might be rough.
The first assignment is going to be an emotional rollercoaster. At the beginning it will be exciting and a little scary at your new job. Then you’ll get settled and start feeling comfortable. Next at least for me, you’ll feel a tad bit homesick. Lastly, excitement again and you’ll start working with your recruiter to find your new destination!
The first assignment is an adjustment and just like with anything else in life, the more you do it the easier it will become and the more you get out of it. All of the anxieties that I had initially with my first assignments are gone. Now as crazy as it seems, I get anxious when I think about settling down somewhere. And please don’t even bring up buying a house, that one freaks me right out!
Logistics are on Your Side
Lastly and logistically, the process of doing a second and third assignment (or more) is much easier than the first. With the first assignment comes lots of paper work, tax forms, checklists, document faxing, and doctor visits. After all that mumbo jumbo is done, it is only required that you renew those things once a year.
Consecutive assignments are much less stressful to begin. All that is required is picking a new spot (and maybe a drug screen and a handful of online learning modules) and hitting the road!
Travel Nursing can Change Your Life – If You Let It
Becoming a travel nurse has been the most rewarding life decision I’ve ever made (okay, maybe marrying my husband is the most). Travel nursing will mold you into a person who is more culturally informed, brave, creative, flexible, knowledgeable, and adventurous.
It will test you and stretch you to limits you didn’t think you could handle and you’ll come out on the other side a stronger nurse who can handle anything life-or the charge nurse-throws at you. Though one assignment can be rewarding, I believe two or more (or 11!) are necessary in order to get the most out of travel nursing and for it to truly transform your life.