Travel nursing has always been an interest of mine, even as a young nursing student. The pull towards adventure, traveling, and meeting new people inspired me to pursue this career change. When I graduated from nursing school and was working as a med-surg nurse, I began following travelers and was in awe of their lifestyles. I knew it was something I wanted to do someday. I didn’t want to be a med-surg nurse forever, so I followed my dream into the pediatric world and landed in the NICU. The NICU challenges me, inspires me, breaks my heart, pushes me to be my best and it is a place I will always cherish. I am grateful that my journey has led me to these tiny, resilient humans.
After I started working in the NICU and realized I would stay here for awhile, I began thinking more about travel nursing. A lot of serious thought and self reflection went into deciding to travel and it took me months to finally commit to it. There was not one reason that went into why I wanted to travel nurse, but here are the big reasons:
- I was unhappy. I felt stuck, sad, bitter and angry most of the time. It wasn’t because of my job or a person in my life. It was just an overall feeling of unhappiness/emptiness that had been building over the years and it wasn’t something that anyone could fix other than myself. I lived in fear of my multiple sclerosis and it was consuming my life. I feared not being able to travel and see the world when I am older due to my disease, so I felt travel nursing now, while I am young and able, was the best choice. This is to prove to myself that my disease cannot rule my life and that I can and will do things on my own. This is me taking control of my own happiness.
- I am in crippling debt. I want to settle down, buy a house, and start a family someday and it would be nearly impossible with the debt I have acquired over the years (thank you college). Travel nurses make much more than staff nurses due to the hospitals being desperate for help. Make more money = pay off debt faster.
- I can no longer fill my own cup. This journey so far has involved a tremendous amount of self reflection and growth. I have gone back to therapy and have been working on getting to the root of my unhappiness and building a foundation of strength that will help me keep moving forward. I am working on controlling my negative thoughts and learning how to live a more happy, fulfilled life.
- My nephew was born. If I could spend every single day with that little one, I would. I never knew my heart could love someone so much until he was born. Travel nursing gives me so many more opportunities to be closer to him and to see him more than I would be able to if I were still in St. Louis.
- Travel nursing has always been a goal of mine. The freedom of traveling to a new place every 3 months, meeting new people, and advancing my skills and knowledge of NICU nursing was an absolute must in my eyes. I knew I would regret not doing this down the road so I took a leap of faith.
I applied with Aya Healthcare because another nurse, who worked for them, said nothing but wonderful things about the company. I had heard that a recruiter can make or break your experience so I wanted to be sure that I was in good hands to start my journey. I applied to the agency in June with the intent of starting to travel in late October/early November. When I spoke with my recruiter she asked why I wanted to be a travel nurse and what were my goals. After this initial conversation, I didn’t hear back from her until September when we started to apply for jobs.
That leads me to the process. Travel nursing works through agency contracts. Each agency has contacts with cooperating hospitals across the country and has access to job postings at the hospitals that are in need of travel nurses. My recruiter will send me the pay packages and hospital information (what level NICU it is, how many beds the unit is, etc.) and I let her know if I’m interested in applying to that hospital or not. At that point, I wait to see if I get a phone call from the manager of the unit for an interview, which is hopefully followed by an extended offer. So yes, I am interviewing for a new job every 3 months. Most contracts are 13 weeks long but can be longer depending if you take any time off during those weeks or not. My contract here in Winston-Salem ended up being 15 weeks.
I’ve received a lot of questions on pay packages and how they work. Most travel nurses average around $20/hr in pay and a lot of their money comes from stipends. I get a weekly meal and housing stipend that makes up the bulk of what I make. The amount of your stipend package depends on the area and the cost of living there. Some states are notorious for paying very low regardless of cost of living (Florida I am talking about you). Some nurses choose to get company housing which entails your agency to find housing near your hospital and paying for it in full during your time there, but then you lose out on the housing stipend. A lot of nurses choose to take the housing stipend because more affordable housing can be found outside of the agency’s findings. This works out to a travelers benefit because we are able to pocket that extra money that was saved on the cheaper accommodations. My pay package also includes my insurance plan that I find very adequate.
After I accepted the job for Winston-Salem, NC, I had a lot of paperwork to submit. I was required to get bloodwork, drug tested, provide references, and get all of my certifications together. All while still working full-time and packing up my belongings in preparation. Kyle is planning on selling the house soon, so I had to work on packing ALL of my stuff and trying to get it moved out of the house before I left. Talk about a stressful few weeks.
I spent about 10 days in Florida before venturing up to North Carolina. Those first few weeks here were EXTREMELY hard. I am not going to lie, I cried a lot. I have never lived on my own before and I have never lived away from my family and friends. It was quite an adjustment. I plan on doing another post about my time here in North Carolina and what I have learned since being on my own. With my contract coming to an end, I am excited to see where I go next but am also sad to be leaving all the friends I have made here. I will say, travel nursing has so many perks and can be so much fun, but also comes with loneliness and a different type of stress that no one seems to want to talk about. I am so glad I decided to push myself out of my comfort zone and do something that completely terrified me. It has been nice to just focus on me and my happiness for once.
As always, thank you for continuing to follow my journey and for supporting me through this crazy thing we call life. Stay golden my friends and until next time!