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Part Five of our Inspiration Series: Making a living as a traveling nurse
As we strive to create a sustainable life of travel for ourselves, we rely on inspiration from outside sources. We are inspired by people who live the life they want; those who have rejected the typical path of a so-called ‘normal’ life and have determinedly searched to find what fits their soul. Everyone has dreams, but turning dreams into reality takes passion, persistence and sacrifice. We are, naturally, inspired by other travelers, but we are equally motivated by friends and acquaintances who have created a way to earn money by doing what they love. These people have taken their passion and made it their reality; their living; their lifestyle. We hope their stories inspire you, too
Meet Maria. She is making a living as a traveling nurse.
When and how did you decide to pursue your career?
I took a pretty big leap of faith when I decided to become a registered nurse. I was a freshman at Virginia Tech and although I hadn’t had much experience in the healthcare setting, I knew I wanted to work with people in the future. I ended up having to switch to a school with a nursing program and after the first class of pathophysiology, I knew I had made the right decision. I have never questioned my career choice since.
I first became introduced to the idea of “travel nursing” when I was in my first semester in nursing school. I was in one of my first clinical experiences where I shadowed a nurse working in the hospital. The nurse I was with for the day happened to be a travel nurse. Needless to say, I had a lot of questions not only having to do with my clinical education.
Making a living as a traveling nurse was such a foreign concept to me and I had never heard of it. She talked to me about how she had been able to travel all around the country, seeing new places and working with and meeting tons of amazing people. Not only was she able to see the world but she was paid to do it- housing, transportation, meals and all. For a 19-year-old who had never really traveled off the east coast, this idea seemed like an incredible opportunity. And it has been. Two and a half years after starting my career, I set off on my first travel assignment.
What’s it like being a traveling nurse?
Finding a contract and starting out in a new city can be both stressful and exciting. When preparing to start a new assignment, I start talking with my recruiter about 3 weeks before I want to start. I tell them where I would like to go and we go over what jobs are open on what units in the hospitals there. If something sounds interesting, my recruiter submits my “profile” to the hospital and often times the hospital will call within 24 hours for a phone interview. It sometimes happens that I get an offer on the phone and am asked to start the next week. This situation can be stressful because I choose to find my own housing, and there is not a lot of time.
I have always chosen to find a place rather than my recruiter setting me up in an extended stay hotel. So when I get an offer, I start looking for short term furnished housing immediately so I have a place to set up right away. I have used Airbnb, Craigslist, and Trulia for apartment searching. When I get to a new city, I unpack my car which consists primarily of clothes – and of course my Keurig! – and I start exploring, typically finding the hospital I’ll be working at first. Often times, I’ll get to a new place on a Saturday or Sunday and begin work on Monday. The first week in a new hospital consists of a brief orientation to the hospital, policies, documentation systems and then a day or two working on the unit with a nurse.
With only working 3 days a week as a nurse, there is a lot of time to see and experience the places that I go. I personally love the mountains, so any opportunity I have to go hiking or driving through the mountains, I take it. At night, I sometimes search good local restaurants or breweries and try those out. The first week can be a little strange if I don’t know anyone, but I have had a lot of luck meeting great people at work as well as through websites such as “Meet Up.”
What are the highlights of your job?
There are so many things that I love about nursing in general, but travel nursing is a whole new ball game. Being able to travel, and develop lasting friendships has been incredible. Just driving across the country opened my eyes to so much more than I ever imagined. I have been able to grow professionally by adapting to new work environments in a timely manner and by learning how hospitals, doctors, nurses everywhere around the country do things differently.
Another benefit of travel nursing is the ability to take time off between contracts to travel for fun too. In the past year and a half, I have been able to take time off to travel to Europe – twice – without ever losing a job. With the pay increase that travel nurses receive, I have been able to take weeks off at a time without any issue, allowing me to enjoy life and not let work take over.
What sacrifices have you made in order to live your life the way that you do?
With everything good that traveling has offered, there are a few things that can make it harder. For one, being away from friends and family can be tough. Although I am continually making and developing lasting relationships by traveling, it gets harder and harder to stay in touch with some friends (something that I could work on). Another thing that I sometimes miss is the comfort of having a place to call home. Contracts typically last about 13 weeks, so getting up and moving that often can be difficult. And finally, it can be challenging to advance my career within a hospital. Unless you are a permanent staff nurse, there are not many opportunities for becoming a charge nurse or a new nurse preceptor (although, some may consider this to be a benefit).
What keeps you motivated?
Looking back on all of the opportunities that I have had is what keeps me motivated. I have absolutely no regrets and I truly believe you will only regret the things you didn’t get to do. I have seen the following quote plenty of times but there is one time specifically in Seattle where I saw it on a wall and it made me think about everything I have been able to do and how much time I have ahead of me. You can’t just let life pass by, you have to live it. And travel nursing has given me that opportunity.
“Twenty years from now, you’ll be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
How do you measure successes?
I measure my day to day success at work by whether or not I can have a positive impact on my patients and/or coworkers. Leaving work knowing that I was an advocate for my patients and supportive to my coworkers is what allows me to sleep well. My overall success is measured by feeling content and happy. I’m not constantly looking to one up my previous experiences; I just want to know that I’ve done everything I can to make the most of every situation.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I honestly don’t know where I’ll be for sure in 5 years and I think there is a kind of beauty in that. I am currently in school online for my DNP/Family Nurse Practitioner so I imagine that I will be graduated and working using my degrees by then. As for where, I’m not sure. I am hoping that I will be settling down some at that point but, if not, I can always travel as a nurse practitioner!
We want to know: Does your chosen career path allow for work travel? What do you do? Tell us about it in the comments!