By Leah Helmbrecht, RN, BS, Travel Nurse
Welcome to the crossover from Staff nurse to Traveler. It’s an exciting and nerve-wracking time as you turn in your notice and begin looking for your first assignment. If you were once a travel nurse and have decided to switch back to the nomad life, then you have some background knowledge to get started. Here is a list of steps to ease your transition.
Every travel nurse has their own opinion on which travel company to chose. No company is perfect and you will always find someone that has been “burned” by each company.
Ask around to travelers that you work with and call companies to find out what kind of benefits they offer that fit your needs. If you don’t click with a certain recruiter at that particular company, it is ok to request a different person. It took me 4 different companies and 2 years to find the recruiter right for me so don’t give up.
What benefits do you offer? Do you have day 1 Health Insurance, dental, and vision? Do they have the assignment location you are looking for? What is the breakdown of their pay package? How much do they offer for travel expenses? Do they offer sick pay?
Will they pay for license renewal and pre-work screening (drug testing, physical, PPD, etc.)? Do they have a housing department? What happens if you need to call out a day?
Do you offer special perks for staying with your company? Do they have short term and long term disability? Will your pay be weekly or biweekly?
Finding your first assignment can be a daunting task. Although you have been a nurse for at least two years, travel nursing is a whole new ballgame and most places want travel experience. You get minimal orientation, if any, and are expected to know everything. I know, even the most experienced nurses don’t know EVERYTHING!
I always use these situations as an opportunity to learn something new. Remember, just because they do something different than you doesn’t make it wrong. Be flexible and as long as it isn’t harmful or a risk to your license, I always say, “when in Rome do as the Romans do.”
You’re getting ready to pack your life into a car and hit the road. You will make most of your money by taking the tax-free housing. In order to do that you will need to keep a local address.
Find a friend or family member willing to let you store your belongings in their house and pay them rent in return. It gives them some extra cash each month and it will hopefully be cheaper than the rent you are paying now.
When I first started traveling I owned a Toyota Prius. I had to figure out how to Tetris my belongings in this car along with my 45lb dog and all of her stuff too.
I managed to narrow it down to two large suitcases (one for summer clothes/one for winter clothes), a small suitcase I can use to take into hotels with me during the road trip, a bag of shoes, a small bag for bathroom supplies, and my kitchen spices. Pack a small cooler to keep in the front seat for snacks while driving.
Using CraigsList is always a risk. There are so many scammers that I suggest steering away from that site. Airbnb can be useful. While I personally have not used them for more than a vacation stay, I have travel nurse friends who have and loved it. Some of the Airbnb hosts will offer discounts for a month long or longer stays.
The Gypsy Nurse on Facebook has a housing Facebook page as well. People who have stayed at great places or are renting their houses out while they travel will post available homes and prices there. Looking for Corporate Housing companies in the area you are moving to will provide you with housing as well.
Vacation Rental by Owner (VRBO.com) is also an option that allows you to put your filters in to help find the best place for you. Check with your housing department to see if they have any suggestions.
In case the housing doesn’t offer cable, I have Chrome insert that allows me to connect the tv to my NETFLIX or HBOGO..etc. ROKU works as well. Heading to Minneapolis? Check out my previous blog post to find a housing company that offers a discount to travel nurses and techs.
If you took an assignment across the country, make a road trip out of it! You’re free to see all the places you’ve wanted and with the travel reimbursement you are accruing by driving a far distance, it basically pays for itself.
I found it helpful to keep one box filled with all my important papers/small items. This way when I need to stop overnight, I can bring the box in with me and can sleep soundly knowing there is nothing valuable in my car.
I also suggest if you plan on writing your mileage off on your taxes, keep a notebook in your car to write down miles driven.
Your permanent staff facility should have all of your up to date immunizations on file. Stop by employee health and request a copy since your travel agency will need them documented as well.
Write up a lease with the people you are leaving your belongings with and paying a monthly rent to. Be sure to keep copies of your monthly rent payments.
Other documents I keep with me: social security card, passport, car ownership papers, medical records, a copy of a living will, power of attorney, medical directive, checkbooks, and my college diploma (Only one facility has asked for a copy of it).
After mapping out my route and seeing how long it will take me to get to my destination, I always give myself 2-3 days in my new city before I start work. This gives me time to explore my surroundings, find the hospital, get unpacked, go grocery shopping, and find a doggy daycare and dog park for my dog.
You’ve just left a job that you knew like the back of your hand. Walking into a new facility can be stressful. Even after five years of traveling, I still get nervous the first couple weeks. Be prepared to encounter some staff who feel as though you are there just for the paycheck.
It may take time, but most come around to realize you love what you do and are there to help. Just remember, you can’t always please everyone. So take your skills and confidence and do your best!
I know it sounds like a lot, but in the end, it will be worth the time and work. Getting paid more, taking off as much time as you want in between assignments, seeing all the wonders the United States has to offer, and having a new place every 13 weeks for your friends and family to come visit!
So say goodbye to being herded like cattle into the same building every day. The road is calling your name and your journey is just about to begin.