By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
When I look back on my travel nursing career I see very few times, thankfully, when I made huge mistakes. Most of my decisions that would seem wrong to other travelers had good reasons behind them. I took my time before I traveled to get my hands on as much information as I could to be prepared for the good, the bad, and the ugly. I reached out to multiple recruiters and compared packages between companies before taking a job.
That being said, there are a couple of areas I’ve definitely improved on over the last three years and make my life as a travel nurse now a much happier experience. Here are a few things I would try to do better if I ever got the chance to start this career over.
I would have used recruiters that came referred by people I know.
Let me start by saying I got incredibly lucky with my first recruiter. I met him via Facebook and he came with zero referrals from other travelers.
This could have ended badly for me. I could have been lowballed or taken advantage of, but I worked several assignments with him and we had a great working relationship. I compared his jobs to other offers and was never taken advantage of in terms of pay.
But I got lucky.
Unfortunately, plenty of recruiters are either not trained well or just use poor business practices and prey on newbies. I could have taken a low hourly rate and not known better. I could have had hundreds of dollars skimmed from my paycheck.
I strongly recommend to anyone starting their travel nursing career to only use recruiters that come from personal references. If you do not know a traveler yourself, I suggest reaching out to moderators of some of the more reputable Facebook groups or someone with a good reputation. I say this because most of these individuals have the integrity of their brand to uphold and will not refer new travelers to recruiters just for the referral. They care about helping new travelers and making sure they have a positive experience long term.
I would have been more straightforward about making friends.
I used to think I had to wait to be invited. I had to wait to be talked to. I had to wait to share fun things going on in my daily life.
Now I realize I can speak up. That funny story about my little brother? Probably a great conversation starter. The crazy ordeal with my housing? A lot of nurses would love to hear the inside scoop about travel nurse life.
If I see something interesting in town and want to go with a group—I reach out to other people instead of waiting to be invited. I have set up meet-ups, coffee dates, and group hikes and connected with so many other travelers this way.
What this has taught me is that most of the time, people are actually looking to make friends as well, they are just scared to make the first move.
Oh, and I always ask for my new travel coworkers’ numbers that first day. It might be creepy in the “real world” but in the travel world, it is totally acceptable.
I would have shared more of my adventures with the rest of the world.
When I first started as a traveler I thought my journey was boring. I did in-state contracts and worked at small hospitals because we lived in a rural area so there wasn’t much else nearby.
Now I realize that the travel lifestyle comes in so many shapes and sizes. You can be a local traveler, a traveler with kids, a solo traveler with your dog—I can guarantee there is someone out there who can relate to you.
Sharing my story and connecting with other travelers has been one of the most rewarding parts of this whole journey. I wish I had been more vulnerable at the beginning because I think that connection would have been beneficial as a new traveler.
Don’t be afraid to open up, be vulnerable, and ask for help if you need it. You never know if what you share or the conversation you spark could help someone in bigger ways than you’d imagine.
In the end, everything I didn’t do is what led me to where I am today.
Yes, there are a lot of ways I could have streamlined my travel nursing career. But learning through mistakes can be both rewarding and more powerful than simply being told what to do.
So when you do take the leap into travel nursing remember that there will be bumps in the road. There will be things you could have done better. But it will all work out as long as you keep moving forward and trying to learn and gain knowledge from each mistake.
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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