What is Travel Nursing?
With Covid bringing such a spotlight to all healthcare providers and nurses, at least since 2020, a lot of people have heard of travel nursing. For those not in nursing/healthcare, a travel nurse is similar to a person working for a temp agency. Typically the nurse has a ‘recruiter’ that works for a staffing company that connects the nurse with facilities that are in need of extra staffing. The nurse travels to that facility as contract staff for an agreed-upon period of time, typically for thirteen-week stents. Nursing shortages are, unfortunately, not new and travel nursing has been around for about forty or so years. It seems more commonplace today as Covid has strained an already stretched workforce.
Why Travel Nursing?
Why would a nurse want to be a travel nurse? Most would probably say pay is the most compelling factor and there is definitely truth to that statement. Travel nurses do typically make more money than staff nurses. But it is not just the money that makes travel nursing beneficial. In the beginning, my main reason to begin a travel nursing career was for the travel. I love visiting new places, meeting new people, and enjoying new experiences. Another reason people enjoy travel nursing is that a contract worker doesn’t have to get involved in workplace politics. And with assignments that are typically thirteen weeks long, there is no room for complacency. You are constantly learning- new faces, new policies, and new surroundings. Moving to different facilities and units also helps with the feeling of burnout that nurses can experience.
Travel nursing does not come without its challenges. Orientation for each assignment is typically two days. Travel nurses are expected to pull their full load after this very short orientation period. Another potential downfall- no paid time off- if you do not work, you do not get paid. Also, your contract can get canceled at any time leaving you without employment. Another consideration is that a travel nurse may be across the country away from friends and family leaving their support systems at home. And the pay may be lucrative, but you have to duplicate expenses to receive stipends. I have a mortgage at home, but I also pay rent for an apartment near my assigned hospital.
My Travel Nurse Beginnings
I first began travel nursing in June 2016. My first assignment was at a hospital in Florence, SC. From there I worked in hospitals in Glendale, Arizona, Yakima, Washington, Stockton, California, Delray Beach, Florida, and Charleston, West Virginia. In 2019 I returned home and worked in Charleston, South Carolina for two years. After two years at home, I was ready to return to the world of travel nursing.
A Needed Change
Last May (2021) I knew I needed a change, but I wasn’t really sure what that change would be. I had taken a step back from working in the Intensive Care Unit and was working as a Hospice Nurse. Caring for patients nearing the end of their life was not new to me, it’s a part of nursing, especially when you work in critical care. Working outpatient was completely new to me. I found that I enjoyed visiting patients and their families in their homes. This was a kind of care that you couldn’t provide in the hospital setting. And the families- they were so inviting and happy for your visit. I provided a lot of teaching and was able to ease a lot of anxieties making a sad and stressful transition from life to death a little more bearable. It was worthy work.
As much as I enjoyed this position, it also had some drawbacks. My position was every weekend on-call. That’s what I signed up for and I knew what that meant, but over time it began to wear me down. I usually had a few scheduled patients to see and I had call as well. This meant that any patient needing assistance would need to be seen in addition to scheduled visits. It may be one, it may be many. I could put in a 12 hour day and get woken up at night for more calls. The driving became an issue as well. I put thousands and thousands of miles on my car in a few short months. I came to dread every weekend and that is not the way I want to live my life.
Back to Intensive Care
So I needed a change. While working in Hospice I also worried that I would lose my critical care skills. Being an ICU nurse has been so much of my identity for the last 16 years and I just wasn’t sure if I was ready to let that go. I began to look at travel positions, The pay rates have definitely increased since Covid as the need for nurses has been in a steady increase. So I made the decision to leave Hospice and return to the ICU and travel.
I am currently working for a hospital in middle Tennessee. I am enjoying my return to critical care and the clocking in and clocking out of a time clock- no more on-call!