I'm happy to share this article from guest writer Anne Devine, MA, BSN.
Do you dream about experiencing a different place or climate firsthand? Would you like to experience this in a financially feasible way? Travel nursing may be for you.
Travel nursing can boost your happiness factor while enhancing your personal and professional experiences all at the same time. It provides opportunities to explore new places, make friends, extend professional networks, and learn about regional differences in best nursing practices – all while earning an attractive salary and benefits package.
Explore New Places: Travel nursing provides short-term (usually 13 or 26 weeks at a time) opportunities to work and live in a place you choose. Select a setting that fits your current yearnings – whether it’s to experience big city life or living in a rural area. There’s no better way to explore the nuances of a place than to actually live there. You can browse nursing job boards for travel nursing opportunities and check hospital review sites like Nurse.org or Glassdoor.com, to read what nurses are saying about working at a specific hospital.
You can scout out which outdoor activities to explore first, and the special, off-the-beaten path places that are unknown to travel websites. You can see cultural performances that might not make it to your hometown, and learn about local history, arts and crafts, and music. If you’re a foodie, tasting regional cuisine may be your passion, as you can find the mom and pop places that serve authentic, home-style food, and explore the bounty of local farmers’ markets.
If you’ve been living in the snowy Northeast, a stint in sunny southern California may increase your pep and Vitamin D. A desert dweller from Arizona may find a tour of duty in the green, beautiful Pacific Northwest a welcome reprieve. Since contracts are short-term, you can potentially experience a variety of locations in the course of just one year. You get the picture!
Make New Friends and Extend Your Professional Network: Nurses often forge bonds that last a lifetime, whether it’s from your BSN or diploma program, graduate school cohort, or the team of nurses you work with in your first nursing job. This camaraderie doesn’t stop with your early nursing career. Along the way, you’ll meet special people you’ll want to keep in your circle, and today’s social media makes this even more possible.
Flexible schedules (such as three 12-hour shifts a week), provide time to explore an area, and what better way to enjoy it than with other travel nurses or local coworkers? Working closely with other nurses can be an intimate experience where memorable experiences are shared. These experiences can result in close friendships and admired acquaintances that can expand your professional network for a lifetime. Be sure to connect with people you value on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and other sites appropriate for your relationships. You never know when these connections may be of future benefit, professionally or personally, or when a former colleague may reach out to you for advice and information.
Learn About Regional Differences in Nursing Best Practices: Although regulatory agencies, accrediting bodies, and medical/nursing protocols dictate standards of patient care, there are regional differences in how these standards are applied. As a travel nurse, you will observe and learn from working in different settings and seeing how patient-centered care is implemented. You can also learn how local cultural and social norms affect nurse-patient interactions.
For example, as a travel nurse working in a rural hospital, you may learn how to assess health literacy so that patients can more fully benefit from the health teaching you provide. Experience in a large urban area may teach you how culturally competent nurses decipher cultural values and practices that can impact an immigrant family’s health.
These experiences will enrich your nursing repertoire of best practices that you can draw upon throughout your career. You’ll also have the opportunity to see how people work together – nurse-to-nurse and as multidisciplinary teams – and decide on the kind of healthcare/hospital environment that best suits your professional style and goals.
Earn an Attractive Salary and Benefits Package: Before signing on with a travel nursing agency, carefully research the details of their salary and benefits package. Of course it’s important to review the hourly and differential rates offered, but don’t forget about travel allowance (for getting to your new assignment), housing allowance, and other benefits, including medical and dental insurance coverage. It may be useful to meet with a tax accountant to review the overall package to ensure that it meets your financial needs and goals. Travel nursing can be financially rewarding; be sure you fully understand any additional paperwork required of you, as well as any tax implications.
It’s been said that travel has three parts: planning, traveling, and remembering. You don’t have to go anywhere to get started as a travel nurse. Begin by thinking of three places you’d like to explore. Then start your web research about travel nurse opportunities in those areas.