By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
There are a lot of obvious difficulties that come with the travel nurse lifestyle. Making new friends, paring down belongings, and finding housing are some top concerns that I hear about from new travelers trying to figure out this new way of living.
As you begin to move between assignments these “big” problems start to get easier to tackle. While I planned for all the well-known struggles, here are a few unexpected things I had to learn to navigate on my travel nurse journey.
Finding a hairstylist
Right before I started traveling I had the horrible luck of getting my hair absolutely ruined by a new hairstylist. I’m talking splotchy color, uneven trim–the works. Needless to say, I was not keen on branching out at each new assignment and trusting a new person with my hair every few months.
I actually opted to go from a high-maintenance blonde color to a more subtle style to help stretch out my time between appointments. By doing this you could try to only make appointments when you are home and can see someone you trust. However, for men who need more frequent haircuts or if you don’t want to wait quite that long, I have another tactic. Find someone you work with or meet on assignment who has really great hair and simply ask where they go to get it done. This way you have a pretty good idea if you will be spending money on a reliable stylist instead of someone you simply read reviews about online.
Figuring out where to get your car worked on
This is another area where you could end up in a costly predicament if you hire someone unreliable. Finding someone to fix larger problems on your car can be scary especially if you don’t know much about cars or what questions to ask.
Once again you can try to ask around with coworkers if you end up in a spot where you need to get work done on your vehicle. Another good option is to check out the AAA website. In the past, we have had good luck with any stores listed as an AAA approved business, and it’s nice to know you are going somewhere that has a stamp of approval from an outside source.
Learning a new grocery store
This is one of those things that is a small issue but takes a little bit of time to adjust to in each new city.
One thing you may not realize is that each new state and city comes with its own set of grocery store brands. I had no idea this was even a thing until I moved out of my hometown after college. I have found that Kroger actually has a wide-reaching brand of stores under different names, so that is usually my go-to when moving somewhere new because the prices always seem to be the best. Regardless, it is always interesting to see how opinionated people in the area can be about where to buy your groceries.
Keeping up with uniform requirements
Even if you enjoy shopping for new scrubs, changing uniforms every new assignment can turn into more of a chore than a fun shopping trip. A lot of hospitals now have specific uniform colors or requirements, which means purchasing enough scrubs to get you through each new assignment without going crazy doing laundry between every shift.
If you are budget conscious like me, this inevitably lands you in the boat of owning a few sets of “okay” scrubs instead of a really nice wardrobe of all the fancier brands available these days. Once again this is not a huge issue in the grand scheme of things, but sometimes it would be nice to invest in a few pairs of those really cute trendy scrubs blowing up my Instagram feed.
Staying on top of personal medical needs
On a more serious note, keeping up with routine medical care can be a challenge while working as a travel nurse. Obviously your primary doctor is likely back home, so you have to be really organized in making sure to get in for yearly appointments during visits to see friends or family.
In addition, if you change travel companies your insurance will also change with each new assignment. If you are relatively healthy, this may not be an issue in regards to deductibles or out of pocket max, but it may make it trickier to see a doctor when you are home. Make sure to ask if your company terminates coverage on your contract end date, or if you will be able to sneak in a visit if you get in quickly after your assignment ends. The last thing you want is to have to use something like COBRA to pay for a routine well check between assignments.
All in all, none of these struggles outweigh the vast amount of positives that come along with working as a travel nurse. Just like the rest of the tricks, you learn to navigate the big challenges, finding an emergency car mechanic or locating the store with your favorite coffee creamer flavor will get easier as you go along. Once again, you just have to embrace the crazy life that is travel healthcare and take time to laugh about all the “struggles” that no one but a fellow traveler can truly understand.
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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