By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
Now that the new year is officially in full swing there are a lot of people evaluating their life. Where do I want to be in five years? Am I working in a career that I love? What if now is the best time to take that leap I have been considering for a while?
If you have been considering working in travel nursing for any amount of time I want to preface by saying I highly recommend this career path. My experience as a whole has been positive and to anyone considering travel nursing, I would say go for it.
However, as with any positive thing, there are the inevitable negative aspects that come along with it. Getting into the travel nursing world can be daunting, and being unprepared is the worst thing you can do if you want to enjoy your work as a traveler. I feel that being upfront and honest about some of the common struggles travelers face is the best way for new travelers to be prepared to manage these stressors as they come along.
Here are the top five downsides to traveling that I feel all travel nursing newbies should be prepared for:
1. There is a lot of behind the scenes work to get started in travel nursing.
- Before you can even submit to jobs, you must have references and an updated resume ready to go. In addition, you have to have licenses on hand, locations in mind and have a baseline idea of housing costs before you actually apply.
- Once you have secured a position, there is usually at least a few hours of credentialing and paperwork to complete. This includes visiting a walk-in clinic for drug screens, updated labs and submitting proof of all prior vaccinations and licenses.
2. There will be upfront expenses before you get your first travel nursing paycheck.
- Most travel nursing contracts include a form of travel reimbursement—on the first check, that is. This means if you move in the Sunday before a Monday start day, you will not actually receive your first housing stipend or travel money until about 12 days later.
- Some costs to consider at the start of each assignment include first month’s rent, pet deposits, and travel expenses on the way there. I have had to pay close to $3,000 before actually starting work, so planning ahead for this is key.
3. Each state has different renewal requirements you have to monitor.
- To make yourself more valuable as a travel nurse you will want more than one state license. If your home is in a compact state this is great, but a lot of the destination states are not part of the compact (Hawaii and Alaska in particular).
- After the leg work of getting the license is complete, you then have to maintain said license. Each state has different guidelines and fees for renewals and you will have to check the individual boards to make sure you stay on top of these.
4. Loneliness is a real problem in travel nursing.
- A more obvious downside to travel nursing is lack of in-person connections in each area you live. You may make friends on assignment but there is always an awkward period at the beginning where you don’t necessarily have people to hang out with outside of work.
- While there are many ways to combat this loneliness, it is also helpful to be aware of it so you can meet it head-on. This is a normal feeling and it is okay to be lonely, but have some plans in place to deal with these emotions. Call a friend, go to a workout class, or just go for a walk if you are feeling especially down about a lack of personal interactions.
5. If you decide to switch companies, all of that hard work has to be done a second time.
- Working with multiple companies is almost inevitable in travel nursing, but that doesn’t mean it is easy to coordinate. Each time you decide to submit for a contract with a company you haven’t worked with, you will have to re-submit your resumes, references and paperwork.
- The best way to handle this is to get organized at the start. Keep a folder of all your personal identification, license copies, and vaccination records. In the event that you have a company pay for a vaccine, TB test or physical, always request copies of these records in case you work with a different company for your next contract.
- By keeping your files up to date you can simply send all of your paperwork over in a matter of a few clicks each time you need to establish a contract with a new company.
This can all be a bit of a downer, but I would not change my choice to work in travel nursing for anything. The people I have met and the experiences that came as a result of this career are without a doubt worth all of the extra work and planning.
By being prepared and knowing what to expect you can have a more positive experience as a traveler and minimize the anxiety that comes along with this career. Expect the unexpected, plan for bumps in the road, and just be thankful when you don’t have to make use of those plans when everything goes smoothly.
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. Alex enjoys hiking, lifting weights, and trying the best local coffee and wine.
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