101s, travel nursing

Travel Nursing 101

Recently, my old travel nurse recruiter called me out of the blue, asking if I’d be interested in traveling. I’m very happy in my permanent job with plans to go to graduate school soon, but two years ago, I could not wait to get out of my beloved Wisconsin. I did a fair amount research, but I had no idea what I was getting into.

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Oh, you cute, unsuspecting kiddo. The places you’ll go…

Maybe it’s the start of the new year, and you’re looking to fulfill a long-standing goal. Maybe all the snow is getting you dreaming about warmer weather. Maybe you’re looking for a change of pace. Maybe you’re looking to make some money. If you’re a nurse with a year of experience, you might want to consider travel nursing!

Travel nursing is basically short-term contract work at hospitals for nurses. I was a travel nurse for a little under a year, and I cannot recommend it highly enough! However, the learning curve is high, so let me teach you what I’ve learned.

If you have more questions, feel free to comment! Otherwise, if you have more specific questions, you can email me at nursingthefaith@gmail.com.

As you’re getting started…

There’s a variety of books on the market about travel nursing. I found The Truth About Travel Nursing: Know More than Your Recruiter as a Travel Healthcare Professional by Kyle Schmidt the most helpful and well researched. He goes into the history of the industry, example contracts, tax law, etc. I highlighted, bunny eared, and marked up my copy. It was very helpful before, after, and during travel nursing. The one by Kyle Schmidt has been things that you’d have to absolutely scour Google for. Others have just been mostly about things that your recruiter will tell you anyway. 

On that note: A lot of websites about travel nursing are actually made by travel nurse companies as a recruiting tool. I have one listed later on. Travel nurse companies only make money when you work for them, so some companies will do anything to get you to take a job. Fellow travel nurses have told me how they put in an email address once and have been harassed for years about traveling for companies. Just be aware when you’re asked to put in an email you will likely be actively recruited. I still actively get recruited to this day. It’s annoying. 

I do have some product placement, yes.* However, I am not actively trying to sell you anything. I just know how hard it is to be in a new place and a new job while balancing the awkward independence of being a short-term hospital contract worker. I would have struggled so much more if it were not for the helpful travel nurse community, so I want to pass everything I’ve learned onto you! 🙂

Questions to ask yourself when considering travel nursing

1 – What are you hoping to gain from traveling?

If you’re looking for better hours, more paid time off, better benefits, I need to burst your bubble. Travel nurses fill a need. Permanent staff get the first pick of shifts, days off, etc. Some places are really great and let you self-schedule. Most will pick your schedule for you and probably put you on night shift. Very few travel companies offer paid time off since they only make money when you work. The company-paid benefits are usually worse or only kick in after you work a large number of hours for them. I was fortunate that I traveled while on my parents’ health insurance because my company’s benefits were not great.

If you’re looking for a change of pace and place, traveling might be good for you. Personally, I was quite comfortable at my job and a little tired of my college town. Traveling sounded like a great new challenge. It was. (See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

Travel nursing can be a great boost to the resume. My dream job was to work in an Emergency Department. Though I applied as an outside hire for something that was not my speciality at the best hospital in the area, my travel nurse experience showed that I was adaptable, learned quickly, worked well with a variety of staff, etc. I got the job!

Travel nursing was also great for me personally. I learned how to embrace the unknown, how to travel by myself, how to be alone, figure out what I want in life, how to move across the country, and so much more. (See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

2 – Are you willing to move?

Moving across the country or even a couple hundred miles away is no joke. Are you willing to leave your comfortable life behind and embrace the unknown? Really think about.

Practically, you need to move at least 100 miles away to qualify for all the great tax-free money that travel companies like to use to pay you. According to the IRS, you must work 100 miles from your tax home in order qualify.

  • When I was a travel nurse, my dad would always ask when I was coming to “visit my tax home” instead of asking when I was coming home.  Many travelers (including me) move in with family as their tax home.
  • Tax home law is complicated. Travel Tax is run by a former travel contract worker, and they are very knowledgable. I used a modified version of the worksheet they post on their website.
  • For taxes, my family trusts Turbo Tax. Though I had my reservations because of my complicated taxes (5 moves, 3 jobs, with federal and 3 state filings), I ended up using good old Turbo Tax. It pleasantly surprised me in how relatively easy the process was for filing my very complicated taxes.
  • The travel nurse company is more likely to get in trouble than you if tax home and tax-free income laws are violated, but I’d rather not be audited. Get a basic understanding of the requirements needed to be a valid tax home to avoid a headache in 6 years later.
  • Is tax law giving you a headache now? This leads me to our next question…

3 – Am I organized or willing to be organized?

As a traveler, you live and breathe by your 8-to-13-week contract. Are you willing to plan ahead and figure out what days you want off before signing a contract? It’s the best, easiest, and only guaranteed way to get time off during a contract. Too, careful planning is needed between contracts if you’re planning to take a long trip (or in my case, taking all the winter holidays off).

Travel nursing requires organization. Every hospital requires your certifications, a current TB test, immunization list, and a nursing license in that state. Most require online modules or proof that you know how to do your job. All travel companies require an inventory of your skills. Some hospitals require a drug screen. Organization is a necessity.

Travel nursing is essentially short-term contract work and requires a whole different level of organization to adequately prove to the IRS that you qualify for tax-free money which is part of how travel nurse companies pay you. You need to keep track of receipts like you’ve never done before.

  • There’s an app for that! Various applications exist to help you keep track of receipts. A list can be found here.
  • I personally put all my receipts in an envelope while traveling to and from assignment. When I was settling in, I then used the VuPoint Solutions Magic Wand portable scanner with additional case for all my receipts and then saved them into a folder in my computer. I still use the scanner, now for photos and recipes. Someday I hope to use it for articles for grad school. 🙂

4 – Do you know how to do your job?

So many new nurses I meet tell me they want to travel nurse someday. I say that’s awesome. But I always follow it up with know your speciality! You’re working on your own after a week (on average). You need to know how to safely do your job. I recommend a year of nursing experience at minimum.

When are you ready? You’ll know. I hate when people give that as an answer, so let me give you an idea when you know:

  • You know when you job is so ingrained in you that you get annoyed that the float nurse doesn’t know something.
  • You know when you know what a doctor wants to order before he or she orders it.
  • You know when you can just look at a patient and know they’re sick without any labs, vitals, or anything aside from how they look to tell you otherwise. 
  • You’ll just know.

You’re obviously allowed (and expected) to ask questions during your assignment. You do get an orientation, but things are going to be different. You’re going to learn new things, but no one is going to be babying you. The hospital and your manager expects you to perform with less training than an experienced new hire, so know your stuff. 

Things to prepare when you want to start traveling

1 – Have some money saved up!  

Travel nursing requires a good chunk of money up front (travel costs, gas, waiting for the first paycheck, etc.) Save up before starting so you can enjoy your first couple weeks of assignment, instead of pinching pennies! I’d recommend a least a grand.

2 – Invest in a camera! 

I am so thankful I had a nice camera while traveling the country. Many of the background shots for my posts (such as this and this) are from my pictures I took as a travel nurse. I have so many memories that I couldn’t share with family and friends any other way but by photograph. It’s worth a small investment.

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Thank you, National Park pass!

I asked around, looked around, researched, and I invested in a Canon PowerShot SX500 IS. It runs around $250-$300. It’s been very dependable, has an external battery than is easily recharged, easily fits into a medium to large purse, and has given me great photos!

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This one is blown up as a 8×10 in my bathroom!

My sister uses a similar one to document her young boys, the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS. It’s slightly more expensive at $400 or so, but it has both a viewfinder and a display screen that flips around. The viewfinder is handy in bright light situations. My display screen on the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS is great…except when it’s extremely bright outside, and I can’t see what’s on the screen.

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Blind shots from lack of a manual viewfinder can also turn out well. 🙂

Being the paranoid human being that I am, I also have the case and the 3-year drops and spills warranty. I have not needed to use the warranty for any issue whatsoever, and it’s almost up. Overall, I’ve been really impressed with my Canon PowerShot SX500 IS and its features, including a 30x optical zoom. However, as the eternal younger sister who wants to imitate her older sister, I do like my sister’s Canon PowerShot SX50 HS better, mostly for the viewfinder feature and the 50x optical zoom.

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Even with 30x zoom, Lady Liberty looks GOOOOD!

3 – Consider opening another bank account! 

I’m a fan of credit unions for my banking needs. But credit unions are local. Travel nursing contracts take you all over the United States (and even abroad!). My financial planner recommends Capital One 360. It’s an online-only bank, so dividend rates are better on savings accounts. I use it now, and I like the extra money for my savings.

With the Capitol One 360 checking account you can use ATMs all around the country. At the time, I had not heard of it, so I used a large bank chain. It worked fine. I did not use it as much as I expected because my credit union has such good online banking including taking pictures of checks with my cellphone. Still, I used large chain bank to get cash without paying ATM fees (which, are tax deductible, but I didn’t want to do all that extra work).

4 – Make sure your car is in good working condition!

I cannot emphasize this one enough. I thought my premium oil change in Connecticut would last me until California. WRONG! Halfway through Southern Utah, my oil change light went off, and I almost had a panic attack. Yelp saved the day on that one. (Yelp is a great travel companion both in a new place and to find new places where you’re living.)

I am so fortunate I never had a tire blow or anything serious happen. Keep up to date on oil changes. Makes sure your wipers work. Keep your car in good working condition by keeping up on maintenance.

Questions for when you’re looking for a travel nurse company 

1 – Where do you want to go?

Is it your dream to go to Florida in the winter? The Carolinas in the spring? Boston in the fall? California for the summer? Make sure you have a license!

For half the country, your state license works in 24 other states through the Nurse Licensure Compact. Check out:  https://www.ncsbn.org/nlc.htm.

Sadly, popular destinations like California and New York are not compact states (though New York has legislation in process). Compact states are easy for transferring/verifying a license. Some states are speedy. Others take time, lots of time.

California is notoriously slow at verifying and sending licenses (it took a month to get my check cashed and a total of 3 months to get a license and then mailing another check and 2 months to get a physical license in 2014).

Also to note about California, apparently they’re also notoriously slow at verifying their license, so if you have a California license and want to go to New York next, know that it will take 6-8 weeks for California to verify that you have a California license. You cannot get another nursing license until all your nursing licenses have been verified, so keep that in mind.

I’ve also heard New York is allegedly slow with applications and verifications, but I’ve never personally applied nor verified a New York license.

2- What job do you want?

The jobs on any travel company’s website aren’t necessarily where they currently have jobs.  It depends on the company, but it’s often a marketing tool to get you to sign up for their company. Once you’re paired with a recruiter, that is when you’ll hear about contracts you know for sure are real. Again, not every company does this, but I’ve heard that enough to do that it warrants mentioning.

This is why a some travel nurses created Travel Nursing Exchange It lists actual contracts with the company that offers them as well as helpful information on permanent staff rates, licensing cost, and even average monthly temperatures. The site came out after I started traveling, so I’ve never personally used it (aside to post my own reviews), but I wish it existed when I traveled!!

Travel nurses debate among themselves small vs. medium vs. large companies. Kyle Schmidt can explain it better than I can.

I used one of the largest travel nurse companies. Large travel nurse companies are likely to go everywhere in the United States, and I wanted the flexibility. Then again, large companies tend to pay less and not work as hard to keep you happy. Then again, they’re so big that they can sometimes have exclusive contracts with certain hospitals or hospital systems.

The size of your company and your company itself depends on your goals. I wanted to see the United States, work at well-regarded hospitals, gain experience, and make a living. Large company suited me fine, and I liked and trusted my recruiter.

Questions for when a recruiter sends you a potential travel contract

1 – What do you want from the travel contract?

From the get-to, tell your recruiter what you want. They want you to be happy so you’ll work and then they get paid. So, what do you want?

  • If you can do multiple specialities, which one is better?
  • What shift do you want to work?
  • Which kind of hospital do you want (teaching, rural, urban)?
  • What size do you prefer (few beds, thousands of beds)?
  • Where in the country do you want to be?
  • Is pay more important or is experience?

Well-ranked, Magnet, prestigious, etc. hospitals tend to pay less because they know their name carries clout and so spots fill up quickly. Other hospitals pay more because of high turnover and tough assignments. Let your recruiter know what’s important to you at the beginning.

Exception/Note: If it’s your first contract, try to be more flexible. A lot of places do not like to take first time travelers because they have not proven they can succeed at travel nursing yet. Both your recruiter and the hospital want you to be successful.  For your recruiter, it means money for the company, and for the hospital, it means their need was adequately filled.

2 – Don’t be afraid to say no.

  • Recruiters are usually more upset when you have a phone interview and turn down a contract than if you say no to submitting your file in the first place. If you’re not interested, say NO.
  • If you’re being pressured to submit there, still say NO. You’re going to be the one on assignment, not them. If you don’t want to be in Indiana or Wyoming or New York or even Wisconsin (aka the greatest state ever) for 8-13 weeks, say NO.

3 – Ask about licensure and time it takes to get it (if you don’t already have it).

  • Compact states are a lot easier since all you need to do is pay about $30 dollars and get your license verified if you have a compact license too. Check out https://www.ncsbn.org/nlc.htm.
  • Non-compact states can vary enormously in cost. For example, my Massachusetts license cost $305 with application fees and paperwork needed to go with it in 2014. In comparison, Connecticut was $220 in 2014.
  • Different states require different continuing education. Keep this in mind as you’re juggling multiple licenses. I’d consider keeping an Excel document with a running list of when things expire/what is required.

4 – Ask about the place.

  • Have you had other travelers there before?
  • What have you heard about it?

One of my recruiters asked me about a place my travel nurse friends had warned me about as being horrendous. I asked her for her opinion, and  when she answered me honestly about how it was a tough assignment, I trusted her more. Some recruiters will lie through their teeth to get you to take an assignment. You’re the one working the assignment. Make sure it is what you want to work. 

5 – Do some quick research.

After my recruiter mentioned a hospital, I usually went to the hospital website (looking specifically at the about section and careers section to see how short-staffed they likely are), take a quick look a Google Maps, do a brief search on U.S. News and World Report, and type in something along the lines of travel nurse XYZ Hospital review into Google. I liked both my travel assignments.

Take everything with a grain of salt. Smaller hospitals usually aren’t ranked on reports, not all for-profit and not-for-profit hospitals are created equal, every hospital has a mean person or two, and not every traveler loves their job in general.

Notes on interviewing and contracts

1 – Prepare for phone interviews (mentally at the least).

Most helpful thing I did after my file was submitted (meaning my recruiter put in my application for a contract) was look up some usual interview questions. That way, when managers called me (and they will call!), I was in an interviewing mood. I could spit out my 3 best/worst qualities easily.

There’s always going to be awkward and tough questions, but depending on the manager, some “interviews” are just information about the hospital and when can you start. Once, I was asked when I could start, and that was it.

Have pen and paper handy, because the manager is going to run you through the unit, what kinds of patients they get, uniforms, scheduling, shift, etc. Here’s where you can (and should!) ask  about nurse-to-patient, nursing assistants, uniforms, scheduling, what your shift will be, etc. 

Make sure to get the manager’s name. Your recruiter is going to ask for it as soon as you call them after the interview is done.

Too, thank them at the end of the interview! You’re more than likely going to be working with them soon if they’ve called you (because managers rarely interview travel candidates they don’t actually want to hire). Start your professional relationship on a good note. 🙂

2 – If you want guaranteed time off, ask for it during contract negotiation and even mention it in your interview with the nurse manager.

As a traveler, managers care about you last when it comes to their schedule. You are there to fill a need. If you’re unhappy, you’re gone in an average 13 weeks. Their permanent staff is not. If you need (or vaguely want) time off, ask for it in your contract.

With the manager interview, casually mention you need a couple days off, and you don’t have them in front of you (works like a charm).  Managers typically don’t care what the actual dates are, given that they are not a holiday, so it’s not a huge deal if you don’t know them off the top of your head (though, if it’s a holiday, maybe tell them that…).

Mention that you need guaranteed days off again to your recruiter, and get it in writing in your contract.

No. Really. GET IT IN WRITING IN YOUR CONTRACT. Nothing in travel nursing is guaranteed unless it is in the contract.

3 – Do you need it for work? Ask for it to be reimbursed in your contract.

  • Does the hospital require that you only wear white scrubs and you have none (or only one pair)? Ask for scrub money.
  • Does the hospital require ACLS, and yours expires during the contract? Ask for money to take a recertification class.
  • Do you need to pay to park? Ask for it in your contract.

Ask for everything and anything that you’ll need for work! (This is where the Excel sheet of expiring certifications, licenses, immunizations, etc. comes in handy.) The worst thing your recruiter can say is no. If you need it for work, it’s likely that you need it for good reason, and they can probably get it for you. 

Remember that contract extensions are like a new contract negotiation. I managed to get an extra pair of scrubs during my contract extension. I purposely got slightly darker ones than the required uniform, and now I can wear them at my permanent job for their uniform. 

4 –  If it’s not in the contract, it is not guaranteed.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: GET IT IN WRITING IN YOUR CONTRACT

Read that contract over carefully before you sign. It is literally what you will fall back on. If you’re unhappy at a hospital and want out of your contract, you need evidence as to how the hospital breaks your agreed upon contract, so know that contract.

Some contracts will have exclusivity agreements, meaning you can’t use another agency to work at that hospital. Know that it also can mean you need to work for the company for a certain length of time before the hospital can hire you if you want to stay on as permanent staff. 

Road trip essentials

Road tripping is an art, not a science. I liked to use my road trips to visit old friends, so I preferred to lengthen my trips and shorten my daily drives.

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Visiting one of my best friends during a planned pit stop in Iowa!

One old friend I caught up in Pittsburgh with introduced me to her two of her friends the night I stayed over. One lived not so far away, so we met up again in New York City and New Jersey. The other ended up moving to my current city and is now a good friend. I cannot understate the power of reconnection and connection!

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Visiting a new friend in New Jersey!

Other people power through the drive. It’s completely your call. I personally found 8 hours of driving manageable, 10 hour awful, 12 hours exhausting, and after 14, I was delirious (and smelled horrible). Remember to account for changes in weather too. That 14-hour drive was a planned 10-hour drive, but then rain happened in the Ozarks in Missouri. I almost lost it in a Taco Bell parking lot at hour 13. I had to roll the windows down I smelled so bad at hour 13.5. (I wish I were joking.) Thankfully, I stayed with one of my best friends and her parents, so they took me in anyways. 🙂

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Not only did they take me in, but my friend’s mom packed me a lunch!

Roadtrippers is a great application to see what route to take, things to see, and how much gas it might cost. Otherwise, I’ve found places I’ve visited on random Buzzfeed articles, from TV shows (Scranton, PA, from the Office), from word of mouth, etc. Investing in a National Park pass was worth it. (Plus, I had a route that passed through a National Park on my way to an assignment, so I wrote it off on my taxes!)

When looking for food or things to do, I really love Yelp. I started using it on my first travel assignment, and I use it all the time to find restaurants, my oil changes, coffee shops, everything. McDonald’s, Subway, and everything gets old. Yelp helps you find local food on your route. It’s also great when exploring new cities. I used it in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, San Diego, Las Vegas, and now my new hometown of Milwaukee. I love it.

AirBNB is a great option for overnight stays. It’s usually less than a hotel, and you are staying with a local who can give you suggestions on what to do/see. Otherwise, I used Hotels.com, Kayak, and Trivago to find hotels. Some people like Priceline and similar websites.

When packing your car, it’s an art and a science. A lot of travel nurses have trucks. I had (and have) a compact car. To fit all my essentials into a small car, I invested in a couple things.

  • A couple of hard storage containers like this are great. I used two, and I recommend getting non-clear ones because clear containers are see through. All your stuff in a car just gives people and excuse to break into your car.  However, I did use clear Ziploc Flexible Storage Totes. They’re awesome for sheets and oddly shaped things. I still use both products now.
  • Jewelry tangles easily, and it can be an absolute bother to pack. I invested in a hanging jewelry organizer. (I use the word investing lightly. They’re usually under $20.) I cannot find my exact one, but this one and this one are good options. Whatever you do, get zippers! Makes your life so much easier. I use it now, and it makes weekend trips a breeze because all I do is zip, zip, and pack.
  • Remember a blanket or two. I used my comforter to cover up everything packed in my car. I’m paranoid, yes, but no one broke in.
  • Also pack any kitchen things that you don’t want to buy. I’m thrifty, so I’d go to Goodwill or Salvation Army for some essentials, but I do not buy used eating utensils. Pack those bad boys! Collapsable cooking utensils like this and this are awesome.

Your passenger seat is reserved for your new best friend: food! I found a good cooler is necessary for beverages (because they’re way overpriced at gas stations) and meltable foods (aka chocolate). My sister gave me a cooler from Thirty One that I still use, but Coleman offers a less expensive and a more carry-able option.

Remember to have snacks, beverages, music of some variety (I’m all about the old-fashioned iTrip), a car phone charger such as this, and yes, maps and pre-printed direction readily available.

I love my GPS as much as the next person (and probably more because I call her Charlotte Neverlost), but GPS fails. Just ask my brother about our 3-hour drive through Ontario and how horribly mean I was to him because I was stressed out.

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We actually stopped for directions, not Tim Hortons coffee. Oh, Canada.

In Ontario, Canada, that little piece of paper is all we had to go on. Those things saved me more than once. I cannot stress the pre-printed directions enough. Mine included estimated mileage for the day, driving time from stop to stop, and turn-by-turn directions.

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My California to Wisconsin directions.

Too, GPS tends to fail in National Parks and other non-populated areas. Maps and pre-printed directions are extremely useful. Use them! I kept a United States road atlas in my car after the Canada fiasco.

Make sure you have handy that envelope for all your receipts from gas to food to hotel that you’re going to need to file taxes later! Too, take a picture of your mileage as you leave and arrive. That mileage is how your travel nurse company pays out your travel reimbursement (which usually runs at $250 or so one way. That does not cover everything, so anything you buy to get from one assignment to your tax home is tax deductible).

Tips on maximizing how much money you can earn while travel nursing

1 – Work an Electronic Medical Record conversion.

You’re usually contracted to work 48 hours, the hospital needs an insane amount of people, and they need a lot of people quick. From what I understand, the rates tend to be higher than the hospital’s normal rate for travelers.

Plus, if you know how to use the system the hospital is converting to, they’re going to want you. With the rate EPIC is expanding, it’s a good one to know. It’s allegedly “the best” so a lot of major hospitals are getting it if they do not already.

2 – Get your own housing.

Companies usually give you a stipend around $2000 (2014 number, more money for larger cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, etc). If you find housing under that price, you keep the extra.

Airbnb is a popular option. I’ve used the site for weekend travel, and it’s been great. The site mutually reviews both the host and the guest, so it does not pay for your host to cheat you out in any way. Otherwise, Craigslist and subletting are options too.

I found housing via a Facebook group for travel nurses. Travel nurses tend to want to live with other travel nurses, so if you meet one you like, see if you could potentially look for contracts in the same area for the next contract. 

3 – Wait until the contract is just about to start.

You’ll get an emergency rate if the hospital needs you STAT, which tends to be more money than the contracts that are planned months out. Then again, this makes it harder to find your own housing (harder, but not impossible). I’m not spontaneous enough for this option. 

4 – Go with a short-term contract.

You’re probably an emergency addition if the contract is only for a few weeks. This means you could potentially make more money, but it could also mean the place is awful.

5 – Go with a rural, smaller, or fairly unknown hospital, possibly in an “off” season.

Big name hospitals can offer lower rates because they know if you don’t like the price, someone else probably doesn’t either, but they’ll like the hospital’s name enough to take it.

Too, a lot of travelers like warm places in winter. Going someplace cold might bring you a better rate since it’s harder to convince people to come to cold places in winter. It’s also how to can get into more popular places like Alaska for during their popular season (summer).

6 – Do not pick up overtime for your travel company. Use a different per diem agency.

Instead of the IRS taxing your entire paycheck, as a travel nurse, only part of your paycheck is taxed. Your advertised hourly rate becomes a mix of taxable per hour and non-taxable per diem money. See here (but keep in mind this is a company-paid travel nurse company website to recruit you!).

Your actual hourly rate is usually something like $18-25 dollars. After your assigned 36 hours, if you pick up an extra 4, that extra 4 hours will be at your actual hourly rate, not the advertised hourly rate (which is a mix of your hourly rate and per diem money).

If you call in sick, you have to make up the hours because your contract is written for a specific number of hours. I picked up extra because I took 2 weeks off between a contract and my extension and had to make up hours in order for the company to pay for my housing. Otherwise, extra hours are just not worth it. It virtually does not pay for you to pick up overtime, especially after taxes.

If you’re used to picking up overtime and extra hours to supplement your pay, I would not recommend that strategy as a travel nurse unless you work for a secondary per diem or PRN company. Keep in mind that some contracts have exclusivity agreements though, so that may not be an option.

Keeping your sanity when you’re lonely on assignment

By far, being away from family, friends, and the familiar was the hardest part of travel nursing for me. Yes, traveling is great, but it can be hard when you feel like you don’t know anyone.

You can always consider taking an assignment by family and friends. It eases the transition and could give you that housing so you can keep the stipend. Sometimes, though, you don’t know anyone.  I used MeetUp during my long assignment in Connecticut and found good people.

Nothing says re-connecting like “Hey, I’m moving close to you and know nothing about the area. Help me out former Spanish class buddy?” (True story. Thanks for all your help, Dan!)

Social media is all about connecting us, right? You can actually use it to connect to people. I did! Sometimes people didn’t answer. It was awkward, yes, but the positive outcomes far outweighed those disappointing moments for me.

Honestly, church helps infinitely as well. Most of this blog is about how life relates to the Good Lord Above, so I have an obvious soft spot for Jesus who constantly teaches me I’m never alone nor abandoned. Quite practically, though, church can be helpful in making friends. I found other good friends through a young adult group through my church and a fellow nurse’s church in California.

Otherwise, I really met good friends mostly as travelers or through other nurses.  Travelers like to stick together. I still get texts to this day (a little under 2 years later) about contracts I’ve worked, hospitals I’ve worked at, and my take on them! We’re a community of gypsies, and we support each other. Facebook travel nurse groups have been helpful too.

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With my traveler friend at the Bean!

I learned quite quickly to find the other travel nurses at orientation, get a phone number or two, and now you have someone to make sure everything is going well! One of the nurses I met on orientation is now such a good friend. I checked in so much with the seasoned travelers I met on my first assignment. I traveled with a wide variety of other travel nurses I met during my assignments. Other travelers were more than happy to give me contact information for friends where I was going to. Some travelers have met their spouse this way too!

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A group of us travelers being silly in Central Park, NYC.

Don’t be afraid to ask for contact information, especially if it’s from another traveler. Travel buddies are nice, especially if you’re taking short trips away from your new home. Every traveler wants to explore, and we all know that it gets lonely. Too, we ask each other for advice, so finding a fellow travel nurse to swap stories is infinitely helpful.

Just remember:

No matter how stressed out, lonely, overwhelmed, or any other emotion you are, you can do this! Ask for help, reach out to other travelers or former travelers, call your mom crying (moms are the best!), come home when you need to, travel when you need to, and remember to embrace the journey!

And if you’re a believe in the One above, remember:

always
This double as a nice 5×7 printable as a little gift to you for reading all this! Thank you! 🙂

Travel nursing was one of the best and most difficult things I’ve ever done, but it made me a much better nurse and person! I am so grateful for my experience, and I hope you enjoy your time too! 🙂

To recap products I found infinitely helpful in my travel nursing journey*:

The best and most thorough book on travel nursing you can find.

Tax time essential.

Receipt/Document scanner.

My sister’s Canon Powershot model with viewfinder and 50x optical zoom.

My personal Canon Powershot model with 30x optical zoom.

Hanging jewelry organizer with zippers.

Hanging jewelry container with zippers and more pockets.

Large storage container that is not see-through.

Flexible Totes for odds and ends. It is quite possibly one of the best inventions ever when it comes to easy moving/traveling.

Collapsable measuring cups.

Collapsable colander (yes, you need a colander. How else are you going to drain all that pasta you’re going to be making?!)

Easy to carry and pack cooler.Old-school iTrip.Car charger for cellphone and any other USB device.

Every map you’d ever need in the United States.

If you have more questions or have suggestions, feel free to comment! Otherwise, if you have more specific questions, you can email me at nursingthefaith@gmail.com. Thanks for reading! 🙂

*if you do click and then buy a product on Amazon within 24 hours, I will earn a very small commission. You can just click here as well. So far I’ve made…$0.12!!

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2 thoughts on “Travel Nursing 101”

    1. Thank you! Please feel free to share! I would have been a goner without all the help I got! 🙂

      And, I’m well! I’m a year into my permanent job now, and it’s so good to be home. How you’re well too! 🙂

      Like

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