Are you thinking about becoming a travel nurse? If so, you’re in for an adventure! Nursing is a great career and traveling offers nurses the opportunity to see new places and meet new people. However, there are some things that you should know before making the jump into travel nursing.
In this blog post, we will discuss some of the most common misconceptions about travel nursing, as well as travel nurse tips on how to make the most of your experience. We hope that this information will help prepare you for your travel assignment- whether it’s your first or tenth contract.
Note: While we are talking about travel nursing here, this article can also apply to any traveling professional- including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology, imaging technicians, and more.
5 Common Travel Nurse Misconceptions
There are a few common misconceptions about travel nursing that often deter nurses from pursuing this adventure. Let’s dispel some of these myths:
Misconception # 1: It’s hard to keep track of different state licenses.
This is not true! Firstly, 39 states have reciprocity agreements in place to allow legal work with a compact license. This allows nurses to practice in other states without obtaining a new license. Additionally, if you plan to work in a state that isn’t on the compact list, you may be surprised by how easy it is to apply for a new license. Often, it requires a fee and a small online quiz.
Misconception #2: You’ll be moving around too much.
While it’s true that travel nurses move around more than staff nurses, this doesn’t mean that you can’t find a place to call home. in fact, if you’re not sure where you want to “settle” (or you don’t want to settle)- being a travel nurse is a great way to explore new places firsthand. Plus, if you find a place that you love, you can always extend your contract.
Misconception #3: Travel nurse jobs are only for young single nurses.
This is not true! Travel nursing offers nurses of all ages and stages of life the opportunity to explore new places. There are many married couples who travel together, as well as families who travel with their children (kids love seeing new places!).
Misconception # 4: It’s too stressful.
Any job has its fair share of stress, but travel nursing should not be any more stressful than working as a staff nurse. In fact, many travel nurses find that they have more control over their work environment and schedule, which helps to reduce stress levels. Plus, you’ll often encounter a lot of gratitude since you are working in an environment where you were desperately needed.
Misconception # 5: It’s too scary.
It’s normal to feel a little bit scared when starting something new. But, remember that you are a highly skilled nurse with years of experience. You can handle this! The unknown can be scary but if you decide to jump in head first and embrace the change you’re guaranteed to make lasting memories.
11 Tips For Making The Most of Your Travel Nursing Experience
Now that we’ve addressed some of the most common misconceptions about travel nursing, let’s move on to some tips for making the most of your experience.
1. Take Care Of The Little Details At Home
Before you leave for your travel nursing job, be sure to take care of all the little secretarial details at home. This includes things like bills, utilities, and mail. You’ll also want to make sure that your home is in good condition before you leave- especially if you’re planning on being gone for an extended period of time.
One way to do this is to set up automatic bill pay and forward your mail. Or, have a friend, neighbor, or family member check our mail frequently. This will help to ensure that your bills are paid on time and that you don’t miss any important correspondence. As for your home, be sure to leave it in good condition- or better yet, hire a professional cleaning service to come in and do a deep clean before you go. This way, you’ll have one less thing to worry about when you’re gone.
PRO TIP: Why not rent out your home to a travel nurse while you’re gone? It’s a perfect way to gain some additional rental income while you’re on assignment (like a house sitter that is paying you!). If you own your home, the setup is relatively easy. If you’re renting, you can talk to your landlord about a sublease.
All you have to do is list your property with the dates of your contract and you’ll be pleasantly surprised that these dates will probably work for another traveling medical professional too.
Check out more information on how to rent out your “tax home” while on assignment.
2. Get a Compact License
If you plan to work in more than one state, getting a compact license is a great way to save time and money. A compact license allows you to practice nursing in 39 states without having to obtain a new license for each state.
To get a compact license, simply apply through your state board of nursing. Once you’re approved, you’ll be able to practice in any of the participating states. For more information, look here.
3. Start In A Place You Know
One of the best ways to ease into travel nursing is to start in a place that you’re familiar with- especially if you’re feeling nervous and want to guarantee a good first experience. This could be a city where you went to school, grew up, have visited on past vacations, or have family and friends. Alternatively, you can choose a city that is close enough to home that you can visit it when you’re feeling homesick (just remember it has to be a minimum of 50 miles from your home base to qualify for a housing stipend).
Not only will this help you feel more comfortable, but you’ll also have a built-in support system. This can be a lifesaver on those days when you’re feeling homesick or just need someone to talk to.
4. Keep Yourself Organized
One of the most important things that you can do as a travel nurse is to stay organized. Yes, having an organization system for your shoes, scrubs, and underwear can help your sanity. However, it’s most important to keep your nursing documents organized.
This means keeping track of your licensure (and renewal dates), paperwork, contracts, and contact information for your agency and new employer. These days, you can do all of it electronically. Just designate a specific folder on your laptop and keep track of any important dates on your calendar app.
5. Be Flexible and Open-minded
One of the most important things that you can do as a travel nurse is to be flexible. When you’re working in a new place, there will inevitably be hiccups along the way. The best way to deal with these is to be flexible and open-minded.
This means being willing to work different shifts, take on new assignments, and try new things. It might not always be easy, but it will help you to have a successful travel nursing experience. It can be easy to get caught up in aspirations for that “perfect” job, but there are always pros and cons to each assignment. So while it’s okay to be picky, don’t get too caught up in finding the perfect spot and be flexible for trying new things- or you may never actually get started!
Plus, once you’ve signed a new contract- always be on the lookout for your next one! Plus, talk to your recruiter about where you want to go next so they can keep an eye out for you.
6. Read Your Contract Thoroughly
When you’re offered a travel nursing job, it’s important to read your contract thoroughly. This may seem like a no-brainer but you’d be surprised how many nurses don’t do this. And if there is an important detail (or two) missing, you’ll definitely want to make sure everything is clarified and put down in writing.
Be sure to pay attention to the details of your contract including the guaranteed number of hours, number of contracted weeks, overtime pay, holidays, and general pay. Also, take note of the details of your housing situation- if provided by the employer.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask your recruiter or the facility’s human resources department. It’s better to iron out any potential problems before you start your job rather than after.
7. Make Arrangements For Your Pets
Many travel nurses like to bring their pets as travel companions on the road. If you have pets, you’ll need to make arrangements for them before you start your travel nursing job. While they will limit your housing options, a lot of short-term rentals will allow you to bring your furry friend for an extra fee.
To prepare your pet for its new adventure, make sure you also have all of its paperwork organized. Plus, look into local pet sitters or dog walkers who can help take care of your pet while you’re working.
8. Pack Light
One of the best travel nursing tips is to pack light. Not only will this make it easier to move around (and save you money on shipping fees), but you’ll also have less to keep track of.
What you pack depends on what you consider essential. Decide what items are on your priority list and go from there. Bonus points if you can pack it all in your car (or a suitcase if you’re flying) to arrive easily on assignment.
See our full list of travel nurse must-haves.
9. Find Good Housing
Finding good housing is one of the most important things you can do as a travel nurse. While some hospitals offer temporary housing, it’s often not the best option. Most travelers opt to find their own housing. That way they have control over where they’re staying. Plus, this usually equates to extra money in your pocket if you manage to find a rental that is less than your designated stipend amount.
While it is common to book a short-term rental for a 3 months period, there are unfortunately circulating stories about lost rent money when a contract is canceled last minute. Also, booking a rental sight unseen can lead to disappointment, a scam, and/or living in a less-than-ideal area.
To avoid this, some travel nurses will book an Airbnb or hotel for the first week or two. Once there, they find housing options once their contract has started and they have arrived on site. Alternatively, you can feel better about your rental contract by video chatting with the owner, asking for a virtual tour, or discussing the cancellation policy. This is a common practice with listings on Transplant Housing– plus owners are vetted to guarantee that you aren’t being scammed.
10. Pick a High-Quality Travel Agency
Talk to other travel nurses and search forums before deciding on a travel agency. They are not all created equally. Check into details about their health insurance coverage, stipends, and other benefits. Once you find a good one, you’ll want to stay with them for your next assignment (and the next after that and beyond).
A high-quality travel agency will help with everything from getting your paperwork in order to find you the perfect job and housing. Once you choose an agency, choosing the right recruiter can be helpful too. Be sure to interview a few before settling on one (if you have a choice).
11. Have Fun!
At the end of the day, your travel nursing adventure is what you make of it. It can be easy to feel stressed, homesick, or negative. Thankfully, you are in control of your mindset and making the most of your new adventure.
Embrace your new work environment and explore your surroundings. Get to know your co-workers, make new friends, and take advantage of your new city or town. One of the best things about being a travel nurse is that you get to see different parts of the country (or world) while getting paid to do what you love. So, make the most of it, stay positive, and have fun!
Learn more about how to maximize your travel assignment.
The Bottom Line: Travel Nursing is an Awesome Opportunity
If you’re thinking about becoming a travel nurse (or another traveling health professional), these tips can help you get started. Remember to stay organized, be flexible, and have fun! With a little planning, your experience can be positive and rewarding. Good luck!