What if I told you that as a nurse there was a way you could not only travel the country (and even around the world) without costing you a cent, BUT you could even get paid to do it? Did that raise your eyebrows a little bit? If so, read on.
In early 2008 I was working part time as an ER tech while finishing up my nursing degree. It was a great job because it gave me a WHOLE lot of emergency room experience, which is what I wanted. My master plan was to be an ER nurse/Trauma nurse. [As a side note, if you’re a nursing student reading this I’m planning on putting out a master plan for nursing students who wish to work in a specific area upon graduation…so keep an eye out for that.]
Anyway, I had it all set up. The ER director took a liking to me and promised me an ER position after I passed my NCLEX. However, one week before graduation, the nursing director retired from that position and the new director hired a family member in the spot that had been reserved for me. I was crushed.
The next nearest hospital was an hour away and I wasn’t too thrilled about making that drive every day. Fortunately, the ICU had a position open and the director put in a good word for me. It wasn’t the ER, but it was critical care. So I accepted the position. During that first year I learned A LOT. Little did I know that the experience I was getting in the ICU was setting me up for some huge opportunities.
The town I was working in at the time was great but it was a relatively small college town with not a whole lot of opportunities and I had the fever. I wanted to travel. I wanted to experience all that my degree would allow me. I decided I would apply to the U.S. Air Force and see the world (stay with me here). I talked to a recruiter, submitted all the necessary paperwork, took my physical and voila! I was not only accepted into the Air Force, but they offered me a $75k sign on bonus because of my critical care experience! I was pumped!
I was told that I was to ship off to Commissioned Officer Training (COT) then I would begin my career as a nurse in the Air Force Nurse Corps. One week before I was to go off to COT I got a call saying that my COT date was pushed back three months due to the class being filled up with nurses without critical care experience. It was a minor setback, but I was cool with it. I would just go in three months from that time. However, that happened TWO MORE TIMES. After that third time I told them I wasn’t waiting any longer and they could find someone else to string along. (Oh, and I never got the $75k so they were cool with me turning them down.)
It was around that time I discovered something called Travel Nursing. Travel nursing is where you work with a Nurse Staffing Agency that places nurses tempora
rily in hospitals all around the country according to the needs of each hospital. There are even staffing agencies that place nurses in other countries. The only catch is you must have at least one year of critical care experience (used to be 2 years but the nursing shortage is pretty severe).
Perks of Travel Nursing
There are quite a few perks that come with Travel Nursing. I’ve listed a list of them below:
-You get to work in exotic places
-Travel Contracts are anywhere from 8 weeks and more (you typically get to decide)
-You only have to work 3 days per week, but can work more if desired (most of the time)
-All your living expenses are paid for IN ADDITION to your weekly paycheck through the use of a stipend.
-All of your travel costs are reimbursed to you
-Pay is typically WAY better than your current job
-Health insurance is usually included free and provided Day 1
*PRO-TIP-If you buy an RV/Travel Trailer you can apply the stipend to the travel trailer and have your very own RV fully paid for after a year and when your done traveling you have a cool toy to use on camping trips or cross country road trips!
Tips to Get Started
So, if all this sounds pretty cool to you and you’d like to give Travel Nursing a try I have a few tips I’d like to pass your way so you aren’t going into this thing blind.
1)Not all travel agencies are the same. There are a lot of travel agencies…A LOT. I would suggest finding some Facebook groups that consist of travel nurses. They can give you a lot of insight as to what companies they’d recommend and what companies they’d advise you to stay away from.
2)Plan ahead. It will take you some time to get licensure in the states you want to travel to. You’ll want to apply for temporary licensure right away. This doesn’t take too long to obtain. It’s the permanent licensure that takes the longest. You want to get your permanent licensure for the states you want to travel to because once your temporary licensure lapses and you DO NOT have your permanent license, it will be a big headache. Also, be sure you have the CEU’s recquired for that state before you apply. They will want you to have them.
*If you live in a compact license state, this is awesome because you don’t have to worry about licensure in 25+ states. This will give you time to travel while awaiting licensure to states like California (which takes the longest).
3)Don’t accept the first offer. Once you’ve received your offer, ask other seasoned travel nurses what they think about your offer. It’s possible there are better options out there.
4)Keep an open mind when your contract ends. If you’ve done a good job, they most likely will want to renew your contract. If this happens, its very possible you can get an even sweeter deal the second contract. This happened to me 3 times. I renewed 3 times and each time the deal got sweeter. They put me up in nicer facilities each time AND they paid me more each time.
5)Start gathering all your medical records. Getting started takes awhile. It’s a rather lengthy application process. You’ll have to complete some skills checklists according to the units you will be working in. So before you start filling out online applications, gather all your health background information (shots/vaccinations, certification cards, CEU’s, state nursing licenses, etc).
Travel nursing is a really really cool part of nursing that not many people take advantage of and not many know about starting out. Don't think that just because you might have kids you can't take advantage of travel nursing. You can take the summer break and take a travel contract to one of many tropical destinations or some other awesome spot. You’ll just need to be sure to work your 3 days a week while your family does some fun stuff without you.
I'd HIGHLY suggest finding Angelina on Twitter. She's an EX-Nurse Recruiter and has A LOT of great information out there too. Here's her link. Tell her Nurse Mike sent you.
I hope this has been helpful to you guys. Getting paid to travel is an awesome opportunity that few professions allow. Nursing really is a great profession isn’t it?!
If you already travel or use to travel I’d love to hear from you. I’m sure other people looking to travel would love to hear from you too! Comment below if you think I’ve missed anything or you can offer some additional tips or advice. If you have any questions ALSO post below. I’d love to help any way I can. Thanks for taking the time to read!
Yours in Health