Taking The Leap: How I Got My Start In Travel Nursing
By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
I window shopped for a long time before I finally took the leap into travel nursing.
Two months before my wedding I started chatting with recruiters. I had just hit my one year mark as a nurse and knew I was closing in on enough experience to begin to transition to a travel job. I spoke with a few different companies, found a recruiter I really meshed with–and still couldn’t say yes.
That all changed one fateful night after New Year’s Eve.
I was scheduled for four out of five nights in a row leading up to my 24th birthday. I actually really enjoyed working night shift. The pace was great, my coworkers were awesome and as the sole provider for our family while my husband finished grad school we really relied on my night shift differential.
What I did not enjoy about my permanent job was hospital politics. I had recently been denied a day off due to a policy that had been conveniently waived for a coworker. My wages barely covered my rent and student loans and I was constantly picking up overtime to try to get ahead. Management was experiencing turnover and there was a lot of unknown changes on the horizon.
Then I floated three out of five shifts.
Now I don’t typically hate floating. I enjoy variety and learning new skills. My unit was lucky in that we only floated within the women’s and children’s cluster, so I didn’t have to worry about taking care of adults. I’m a pediatric nurse so an 85-year-old with COPD is way out of my wheelhouse.
But something about that particular stretch where I was the one that got picked to float despite other options sent me crashing through a mental barrier I had built.
I went home after that last shift and slept maybe three hours. I got up, drank my coffee, and dialed that oh-so-patient recruiter I had spoke with on and off for about six months. I was able to submit to a job two hours from home that paid double what I was making as staff nurse.
An hour later, the nursing director called me for an interview. The hour after that, I had an offer on the table.
All of a sudden, the night shift haze and caffeine frenzy wore off and I called my husband in a mild panic attack.
“I just quit my job. I don’t have a job!”
Bless him. He just laughed and said “Well, you have a job. It’s just a travel job.”
“But, it doesn’t feel like a real job.”
Even now—two and a half years later—I get that same giddy feeling when I secure a new assignment. Whether it’s a dream location or killer pay package, it usually feels too good to be true. Is this real life? Am I getting paid to go live in some of the coolest places in the country after a 20-minute phone call?
I still remember the pent-up frustration I felt during that stretch of shifts. I remember hopping out of bed on very little sleep with my heart on fire to change my life and pave my own way through my nursing career. I remember talking to the credentialing specialist on the phone when they asked in a shocked voice why I was doing paperwork on my birthday.
Now, I am so thankful I used that anger and frustration to make a positive change. Instead of continuing down a path to being burnt out or dispassionate, I found a way to improve my life and in turn make me a better nurse. Had it not been for those few bad nights, I may not have ever found the courage to take this leap. Looking back, it was not difficult logistically but it was insanely hard mentally.
Travel nursing is one of the best decisions I have ever made for both my career and my life. I have been pushed to new limits, learned new skills, and experienced so much growth. I have also been blessed with friendships around the country.
If you are out there worried to take that first step—just do it! Permanent jobs will be around forever. Travel nursing has so many advantages, and can even be a great break if you are feeling frustrated or unsure where to go next. Be brave, be confident, and be ready to show the world you can take it on.
Alex McCoy currently works as a pediatric travel nurse. She has a passion for health and fitness, which led her to start Fit Travel Life in 2016. She travels with her husband, their cat, Autumn and their dog, Summer. She enjoys hiking, lifting weights, and trying the best local coffee and wine.
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