It has been an incredibly busy, immensely informative, beyond frustrating, and wholly satisfying 11.5 weeks in Minnesota.
Before bed this morning, after the first of one of my last 12 hour night shifts on assignment, I crafted this gorgeous little list of travel nurse truths that was as funny as it was helpful. I found a moment at work to wrap it up only to find the entire draft had been lost in cyberspace. Gone forever.
SOOOO… here’s attempt #2.
1. People don’t know what travel nursing is
This is a fairly new pocket in the nursing world, which is believed to have begun around the 1970s. While that may seem like more than enough time for such a market to have grown to at LEAST be well-known within the nursing community, with little large-market recruitment, a fairly “undesirable” and unorthodox nomadic style of living (for most, but not all), and a huge learning curve, there are a number of reasons why it’s not as common as champions of the nursing world think it should be.
2. You’ve got to be a self-starter
Travel nursing takes a lot of research, paperwork, phones calls, organizational skills, and patience. PATIENCE.
When I moved back home after a failed attempt to flee to NYC, I legit locked myself in my bedroom for a week and taught myself nearly everything I could possibly know about the travel nursing industry without ever actually being a travel nurse. Even still, I’m learning new things every single day that are more administrative than nursing-related!
The single biggest, best resource I could possibly pass on through this (besides my own blog because, duh, I’m awesome) is Blue Pipes Blog. Besides having travel nursing-related posts, such as “what to pack” and “tips for travel”, they have a service that will consolidate all of your qualifying professional information for ease of transmission to potential employing agencies. BECAUSE…
3. You don’t have to be an RN!
Seriously. You may have to call around a bit before you find the agencies that work with LPN/LVNs, but I’m an LPN and I travel! It’s possible 😉
And because I’m not gonna leave you hangin’: Aya Healthcare, Trinity Healthcare Staffing Group, Supplemental Healthcare, NuWest Group, and Atlas MedStaffing all work with LPN/LVNs. You’re welcome. (**If you would like the names of my recruiters, please contact me directly.)
4. The bane of your existence will be getting started
Every travel nursing agency will have their own set of standards by which you are measured for fitness to become a travel nurse. You will have a nurse recruiter speak with you over the phone at length, no matter the agency, to determine your level of skill, your knowledge base, your restrictions for travel, preferences, etc. etc. etc. Plan ahead and gather your credentials beforehand. Set aside a couple of hours. Know that it’s worth it.
Great digital organizational tools include Evernote (just get the subscription. seriously.) and the Blue Pipes Blog.
5. It gets lonely
Unless you’re traveling with your family, be advised: traveling for a standard 13 week stint is tough. You’re (likely) in a new locale, new living space, with new coworkers, bosses, and patients, working your tail end off as per the nursing usual, and it’s not always possible for you to have a shoulder to lean on! To that end, make sure you know how to be comfortable alone or throw yourself into your hobbies. Hell, make a Tinder and swipe right on men and women to show you around their city! No shame. (*just be safe and meet in public!)
6. Friends, family, and coworkers will all want to talk to you about your job
I created this blog so I didn’t have to have the exact same conversation with every single person I know, ad nauseum, day-in and day-out. It still happens.
I love my job, don’t get me wrong! But honestly, you’re going to get sick of constantly (and mostly) talking about what your daily life is like. Or answering “what’s a travel nurse?” or “when’s your assignment up?”. Then, just when you think you’re sick of talking about it, you’ll bring it up in random conversations!
Really, if you’re not a people person, travel nursing is going to be a hard damn life for you. Grin, bear it, and get creative in your delivery.
7. That saying “nurses eat their young” will never hit closer to home for you
Look, people fear what they don’t know and what they don’t understand. You wanna talk about some threatened nurses? Fill in during a strike! I have not personally done this yet, but there was a local healthcare system on strike for a few weeks after I first started, and the nurses I encountered who were on strike did not have such kind words for any nurse filling in for them. They believed these nurses were engaging in a practice called “stabbing”, which undermines a striking worker’s position and gives little incentive to the employer to change their business practices. With travel nurses and/or strike relief nurses, the exact opposite is true, however: hiring travel/strike nurses will actually, on average, cost those employers MUCH more in the long-run, so the takeaway is, fellow nurses: WE’RE HERE TO HELP. Be nice to us! lol
8. Lazy nurses need not apply
Speaking solely from my own experience, you’re gonna work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life. It is imperative to know how to manage your own stress levels, because not only is getting started as a travel nurse and maintaining all your paperwork as stressful endeavor, but being locked into a contract that truly can be terminated at any time, for any reason will keep you on your toes. If you’re at the top of your nursing game and ready for a challenge, #Godspeed.
9. You’ve got to honor your need to decompress
This is something I always learn the hard way. It is natural to want to get out and explore every chance you get. It is natural to want to make friends to hang out with, and if you’re lucky like me, you’ll have people who want you around all the time! Even if they don’t want to hang, rest assured they’ll be interested and asking all sorts of questions once they catch wind of what your role is as a travel nurse.
It’s simply. not. realistic. to expect yourself to be a boundless fountain of energy.
Take the time to make your living space comfortable and a safe haven, free from work. Know what your self-care needs are. Honor them often, and don’t feel guilty about it.
10. Protect yourself/Enjoy the ride!
Know your nursing practice laws before going to a new state. Make sure you’re insured — malpractice insurance (try NSO Insurance), auto, life, medical, dental, vision, the whole 9. Ask all the questions you possibly can in a contract interview. Know your tax laws, and if you need to, talk to a tax assessor who deals specifically with travel nurses/contract workers. Document everything and make digital copies. Make hard-copy duplicates. Be meticulous in your charting. Be polite, be respectful, be charming, but take no shit. This isn’t an endeavor for the faint-of-heart, after all! And PLEASE — don’t take your travel for granted. Get out and get excited! You’re getting paid to “vacation” every weekend! (lol) 🙂
After learning some serious life lessons in this first foray, I hope that these pointers help you out! I can’t stress enough how important it is to do your research beforehand.
As I make the transition to this new assignment, which is highly likely to be on the West Coast, I’ll be brainstorming and compiling a ton of helpful tips, tricks, and pooling my knowledge of the industry so I can one day have a complete Guide to Travel Nursing available. Be on the lookout!
In the interim, follow me on Instagram @nomadnadiad for pictures of my travels, and email me if you have questions! I promise I’ll get back to you. Eventually. 😉