By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
When I first became a travel nurse, I was adamant that everyone who had the ability to work as a travel nurse, should. If you had two years of experience, no major familial or medical problems that would hold you back, and no major career goals that would be affected, you should 100%, without a doubt, be a travel nurse.
To me, travel nursing was the best way to get a well-rounded experience as a nurse. The career path allowed nurses to see different ways of doing things, experience new hospitals, and get pushed out of their comfort zone. I felt (and still feel) as if travel nursing made me a better nurse, so naturally, I felt like every nurse should want to experience this.
I remember about six months into travel nursing, my best friend reached out about potentially traveling as well. She had just hit her two-year mark as a nurse, was not satisfied with the unit she was on and wasn’t sure what the “next step” was for her in her career.
I quickly connected her with my recruiter, gave her all my best beginner tips, and was so excited for her to hit the road.
A few months went by and…nothing. I kept checking in, seeing how it was going, and she gave me a rough timeline of what she was thinking. And then never actually took the leap. I was so disappointed. I truly thought she had made a terrible mistake and was holding herself back in life.
Shortly after that, my husband was able to hit the road with me as a traveling physical therapist. I was ecstatic. We would be able to go on so many adventures together, experience the United States, and hopefully pay down some debt along the way.
Those first few months as a travel duo–were tough. To say the least. The paperwork portion of travel physical therapy absolutely stressed him out. He hated applying for licenses, talking to all the state boards, and keeping track of what felt like endless pages of paperwork. I personally think the paperwork is fairly easy, but to my husband, it felt overwhelming.
Then he was thrown into his first assignment. My husband is very self-critical and always wants to make sure he is doing a good job wherever he works. His first position was in a nursing home, he was the only physical therapist on staff, and the supervisor was a fill-in person because the original Director of Rehab had quit suddenly. He got zero feedback on his job performance and minimal support. It was less than ideal for his work style, to say the least.
As an experienced travel nurse at this point, I did my best to encourage him. I reassured him that even if he wasn’t getting positive feedback, in the travel world a lot of the time no news is good news. I kept joking that if they really hated him, they would have canceled his contract. He was not amused.
The next assignment for him proved to be about the same. Fast forward to the end of that stretch and we were six months into our travel healthcare experience as a couple and he was not even sure he wanted to be a physical therapist anymore. Two tough assignments put a pretty bad taste in his mouth, and it was hard to know where to go from there.
Watching my husband go through this experience made me realize–some people just aren’t as happy working in the travel nurse environment as others might be. While there are personality types that could care less about direct feedback and are fine doing what they know to be right, some others may just struggle in that type of environment.
Ironically, my best friend is very similar to my husband in this regard. She likes to be very informed on policies and procedures and hates feeling like she might not know how to do something. There is nothing wrong with this–in fact it makes her a better nurse because she is thorough and pays attention to details. However, it probably doesn’t make her the best travel nursing candidate.
So now if someone were to ask me if travel nursing is for everyone I would say–probably not. Do I still think every nurse needs to experience more than one working environment. This simply makes you more well-rounded, and may even improve your skills and help you learn new tips and tricks. However, this could mean picking up a PRN job locally or taking a different full-time job where you would get full orientation and feel more comfortable in your role in the new unit.
While there are a lot of reasons that you might be a good candidate to be a travel nurse on paper, there are a lot of internal pieces you will need to examine to know if this career path is really one that fits your personality and work style. Don’t feel bad if it doesn’t feel like the right career fit for you, even if your friends swear up and down it is the best thing that has ever happened to them.
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.
- Agency Reviews
- Ask The Expert
- Continuing Education
- EMR Conversions
- First-Time Traveler
- For A Laugh
- Healthcare Roundup
- Hot Markets
- Industry Trends
- Market Data
- Nurse Contributor
- Take A Break
- Top 10
- Traveler Tips
- Weekly Polls
- Your Photos
- Your Stories