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5 Things to Keep in Mind When You’re Deciding to Become a Travel Nurse

I wanted to travel. But wait, I need money too—the perfect career that would allow both of those things come to fruition would be to become a travel nurse. I had heard of travel nursing here and there but truly did not understand it until I became one. I worked as a registered nurse on a Cardiac Progressive Medical Care Unit and felt like I was ready to take my skills on the road.  

Living in Florida, I often felt the fluctuation of people that came in and out of the state.  With the influx of people that either visited or lived there during the cold winters.

During the summers, you literally felt as people left the smoldering heat to go back to their homes.  With that, I began floating between several units within my hospital. By doing that, I became accustomed to expecting the unexpected.  I learned to adapt to different units on the fly, as we floated more often than not.  

As this became the norm for me, I gained the confidence to begin travel nursing.  Travel nursing gives you the opportunity to work as a nurse for either short-term or long-term contracts, at various hospitals.  As much research as I did online, you truly don’t have a clear idea of what you’re getting into until you begin. ‘

Now, I am walking away with a plethora of experience and life lessons. Here are my top 5 tips to keep in mind as you’re deciding on whether or not travel nursing is the route for you.

Apply for Your Licenses Ahead of Time 

So, you’ve made up your mind. You’re going to become a travel nurse—awesome!  But where should you go first? Create a list of potential places that you see yourself working, and look up the licensing requirements for that state.  Several states are now offering compact licensure. This is when you can obtain one license that will be valid for multiple states. This is an absolute must and benefit for you.  As of 2019, there will be 30 states included in this list. That’s a win for travel nurses! 

Once you’ve applied to be a nurse through your traveling agency of choice, you’ll want to make sure that you are prepared to submit your licensing information for those jobs. Those positions can fill up quickly, so you don’t want to lose out from not having your credentials.  If you are thinking about going to a state that is not part of the compact licensure, go to their governing body’s website to find out what the requirements are.

Decide What You Want to do for Housing

I was always told that travel nursing will give you “free housing.” Not quite.  You do have the option of either selecting company housing or receiving a stipend to go towards your housing. It is not free! It is a part of how you get compensated for your work. As a travel nurse, you give up the stability of being in one place, so your housing is part of how you get compensated for leaving your home.

There are pros and cons to both options. However, there is not a right or wrong approach.  You are able to capitalize more on your pay when you select the stipend, as you will have more control on how much you spend on housing.  If you’re going somewhere that you’re not familiar with, company housing may be a good option for you. The travel agency has pre-selected housing that you can choose to live in while you fulfill your contract. 

Keep in Mind that You are There to Help

I go in to work understanding that there is always a possibility to float. As a travel nurse, you’re there to help fill in those staffing gaps that the hospital may have on the unit.  If you are assigned to a unit as a traveler, and they are staffed properly, there is a high possibility that you will float for that shift. Remain flexible.  

Floating does not have to be a negative experience.  I’ve met some amazing people and have learned so much from going to other units. Think of it as a way to see what the other units are like, without a full commitment. This can help you in the future if you decide to return on to the floor as a staff nurse.

Make Your Requests Known Early On

When you are starting a new contract, let your recruiter know if you need any time off.  Let’s admit it—no matter how much we love our jobs, it’s not our life! We have other obligations outside of work like weddings, baby showers, graduations, and other events that we don’t want to miss. 

If you know these dates ahead of time, be sure to have your recruiter include it in your contract with the hospital ahead of time. Once you are contracted, requesting specific days may become a challenge.  As a traveler, the scheduler is expecting that you will be able to fill in the needs that they have.

Have Fun!

You’re in a new city. Potentially, solo or with a group of friends. Traveling as a nurse is a unique career in that you get to explore a new city without fully committing to it. You can maintain your permanent residence while “living” somewhere thousands of miles away. 

If you’re solo, be open to new friendships that you may create as you are living your best life in a new city! There are tons of ways to meet new people—take advantage of those opportunities. Sign yourself up for a city bus tour so you can get a full glimpse of the city.  Drive around on your day off, taking the time to eat out somewhere you’ve never been. Be safe but have fun! You made the decision to step outside of your comfort zone and you’re a boss for doing it!

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Mynouncka J. LaFalaise

About the author:

My name is Mynoucka J. LaFalaise, and I am of Haitian descent, born and raised in Southwest Florida. I am currently a travel nurse, with experience managing adults in Cardiac Progressive Care, Med-Surg, and Med-Surg Telemetry. My background prior to nursing includes Nutritional Sciences (Dietetics). I occupy a piece of the internet known as The Vintage Traveling Nurse Blog– it is a space created with everyone in mind!  The content discussed in the blog includes nursing, budgeting, healthy living, traveling, and regular blog features.  I enjoy writing and talking about self-care and mental health awareness.  I am excited to share my insight into the world of travel nursing. Be inspired. Be informed. Live and walk in your purpose. Follow along on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook!