By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
As travel nursing has gotten a little easier with the development of technology, the idea of who can work as a traveler has also shifted. The general belief is that to travel you must be single, without children, and unlikely to “settle down” or commit to either a long term relationship or family.
I began my travel nurse career breaking outside of that mold. My husband and I were happily married and he was in school, so I traveled without him for the first six months of my travel career. Needless to say, we went in with open minds, so when we started to think about having kids, we kept that same open mindset.
Whether you are planning to start a family or find yourself with a little unexpected bundle on the way, having a child is totally doable whether you decide to continue your career as a traveler or pick a more permanent location mid-pregnancy. I am going to cover a few possible scenarios to consider if and when you find yourself with a little baby fever during your travel career.
Option 1: Extend your current contract to the end of your pregnancy and give birth locally.
A lot of families find themselves unsure of how to go about changing providers mid-pregnancy. If you become pregnant while on an assignment you will need to see someone pretty quickly, and it can be hard to consider leaving a doctor or midwife that you really connect with.
In this instance, it may be worthwhile to talk to your manager and recruiter about the likelihood of being able to extend through the end of your pregnancy and just plan on giving birth wherever you are currently located. If you are using company insurance, plan to use COBRA for coverage once your assignment ends. The only downside to this may be not living close to friends and family when you are going through the first few weeks with a new baby and extra hands can be helpful.
Option 2: Extend your current contract to the last part of your pregnancy and travel home for delivery.
Another possible scenario is to try to extend your contract to the latter portion of your pregnancy and then plan for time off to get home and deliver wherever “home” is.
Of course, babies can come at any time so this means accepting the risk that everything may not go according to plan and you could end up having the baby while on assignment. In addition, you will need to discuss travel safety with your provider and consider whether you will be traveling via car or plane, especially since most airlines will not allow passengers to fly past a certain week of pregnancy.
Option 3: Move home and take a permanent job or local contract prior to delivery.
Ultimately, we chose to move closer to friends and family and take a permanent job about halfway through the pregnancy. We knew we wouldn’t be moving regularly for a bit and wanted the support of family and friends nearby when we delivered.
Having people nearby to help get naps in, run quick errands, and just be supportive was a lifesaver. However, dealing with transferring insurance and time off as a new employee can be tricky. First, you have to decide if you will disclose to your employer ahead of time that you are pregnant. Then you have to navigate the company’s insurance timeline and leave of absence policies for newer employees. We ended up with about 45 days where all of our prenatal expenses were out of pocket while we waited for my permanent job’s insurance to kick in. Also, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) does not guarantee job protection for employees under a year, and you may be limited on maternity leave options as a result.
Ultimately it may have been easier to simply take a local contract. I would have likely made more money overall and instead of having to coordinate unpaid leave with my permanent job, I could have simply ended my contract around 37 or 38 weeks and then looked for a new job when I was ready to end my “maternity leave”. This is one of the best pros to starting a family while working in travel healthcare–you can make your time with your new baby last as long as it works for your family!
As with anything else that is part of the travel nurse lifestyle, having a baby comes with a bit more to think about than if you have a permanent job. However, it is possible to start a family and continue your travel lifestyle if that is what works for you.
If there is one thing I have learned over the course of my travel career, it is that healthcare workers are blessed to be needed. Between travel contracts and local jobs, there is almost always some way to stay employed no matter what your circumstance is. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative with how you build your dream life, and don’t worry if people tell you you “can”t” do something like start a family as a travel nurse.
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