Fears of becoming a traveling nurse

Fears of becoming a traveling nurse

Deciding to become a traveling nurse was by far one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. For me, to think of leaving behind a home, a steady full-time job, co-workers, friends, and family was definitely a life changing decision. Let me first start by telling you a little background of my life before becoming a traveler.

My husband and I, married for 8 years at the time, lived in a small town in Ohio. We had our own home, secure full time jobs, family, friends, and our two dogs. The thought of leaving all that behind to venture into the unknown weighed a lot on my mind. A few times it became overwhelming and I pushed the thought of chasing a dream I had since childhood out of my mind because it all seemed like too much of a risk. Some of the thoughts that flooded into my mind were:

  • Do I have enough experience to walk into a hospital and function as a team player?

  • Will the other nurses hate an “outsider” ?

  • Are the travel jobs steady work?

  • How will I give up everything to basically have nothing?

  • Will I make enough money?

With the help of my husband, I was nudged to find some answers. I started talking to a recruiter a year prior to starting my traveling career. She gave me insight into the choices I needed to make at that point in my career in order to be more a valuable candidate and appeal to the hospitals in need. Some tips she gave me were to pick my specialty and stick with it for at least a year, to work towards any certifications that may strengthen my skills (i.e .ACLS, PALS), and get licensed in a few states I was interested in traveling. I did just those things and then once I had my 12 months of experience under my belt, the recruiter started looking to place me as a traveler. I had nothing to lose. I still had my full time job and I could always say no to an assignment. I wanted to know how likely it was I would get an offer. Surprisingly, several months had passed with no offers.

My husband and I decided it was time for a change in our lives. We had an opportunity to move from Ohio to Florida and rent a house from my uncle. At this time we had it in our minds we were going to travel and this would be a good trial run to see how things would go. We had a huge sale and sold most of our belongings, except essentials. We had a family member that wanted to move into town so he decided to rent our house from us. It was perfect. We packed up the essentials and left with nothing but a small U-haul trailer and the back of our vehicle with all that we owned.

We arrived in Florida and I was offered a full time position right away and we settled into our new home. My husband found a job at a machine shop to make ends meet. We learned to kayak and explored the coast. It was amazing! However, there we were again 6 months later wanting to pursue our dream of traveling.

I was still in contact with the same recruiter at the time we lived in Florida. Still nothing had come of my search for a travel position. I decided I would change companies and try talking to a different recruiter. I had read that a recruiter can make or break your career as a traveler. To my amazement, within about 2 weeks of applying and talking to my new recruiter, I had a job offer! We were going to California!

Again, we packed up our vehicle , loaded the roof with our kayaks and the back with a rack and cargo bag and we were off! We haven’t stopped since. It was the best decision we have ever made in our lives despite the fears of changing career paths and a few family members and friends telling us it was a mistake. Now let me go back and answer the questions from above in case you have the same questions.

  • Do I have enough experience to walk into a hospital and function as a team player?

    I had one year of experience in a small rural hospital in Ohio and 6 months experience in a small hospital in Florida. I’m not going to lie, I was terrified to walk into a new job and “hit the floor running”. Most jobs offer a couple of 12 hour shifts as orientation to the unit and computer system, and then you are on your own. In my experience, this has been sufficient training for me. I am quick to pick up the computer charting and other than learning where things are located, the skills you need never change. Most staff members are very helpful and don’t mind answering questions. I have felt much appreciated thus far as a traveler. Besides, you are there to help them! I have gained so much experience as a traveler. I don’t think there is any other path that would have opened so many learning experiences as traveling has. Every assignment has made me a stronger nurse. So yes, a year and a half experience was enough and I did function as a team player.

  • Will the other nurses hate an “outsider” ?

    I had read many articles that stated full time nurses will hate you as a traveler, because “they know you make more money than them”. There are clicks within the staff. That is true whether you are full time or not. If you walk into a new assignment and present yourself as a hard worker, willing to learn, and help others you will generally get a good response from staff members.

  • Are the travel jobs steady work?

    I worried about not having steady work due to the economy. I worried I would have gaps between jobs and still have the bills to pay. In my experience, I have not had a gap in my assignments that wasn’t planned. By planned I mean we usually take a couple of weeks off in between assignments to travel home to visit family. My recruiter generally starts looking for jobs 1 month in advance of my available start date. Thus far, I haven’t had any problem getting a job. Let me just say it’s important to be flexible with what shift you will work, days available, start dates, etc.

  • How will I give up everything to basically have nothing?

    This was a hard decision. We gave up our home, family and friends to take this journey. It’s all in your mind set. Are you giving up everything or are you gaining everything? We have everything we need. The experience I have gained as a nurse is immeasurable and the adventures and sights we have seen are unbelievable.

  • Will I make enough money?

    Of course this is a huge question. No one wants to work for free and everyone needs to have the security to know he or she is covered financially. I can’t venture to say I make phenomenal money, but I can’t complain. If you factor in stipend/subsidy money, it’s enough that my husband can stay home and work independently on website design vs. working full time. Again, money for us isn’t everything. We are in this for the adventure and experiences!

I would like to reiterate that changing my career path and becoming a traveling nurse has been the most rewarding and best decision I have ever made. In addition to gaining very valuable experience as a nurse, together my husband and I have made so many wonderful memories that would not have been possible without this change in our lives. I encourage you to push your fears aside and follow your dreams and take chances in life.

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”- Ralph Waldo Emerson

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