5 Things to Consider Before You Make The Switch From Staff to Traveler

We have all heard how lucrative it can be to become a traveling medical professional, and walking away from your full time staff position.  How do you know if it is right for you and your family though?  While traveling the country and the gypsy life sounds like living the dream, there are certainly things you want to consider before making the plunge.  Check out this list of common things that first time travelers find are important to consider.

Why do you want to travel?

Everyone has a different reason why traveling looks like an attractive lifestyle for them.  But knowing exactly what your motivation is will help you to decide if the actual lifestyle or choice will fulfill your personal goals.  The three main reasons medical professionals chose the travel life are:

  • Money Motivated-  Travel contracts (especially in times of COVID peaks) can pay some serious dollars!  There are many travelers whom contact us and state “I don’t care where its at, show me the money and I’ll go!”
    • What to consider:  A Lot of times, these high paying contracts can be pretty stressful.  Rates go on a supply and demand system, so when the rates are super high, there’s usually a reason.  Either the hospital is VERY understaffed, has a large turnover rate, a bad reputation or is drowning in a current crisis.  Are you ready for this challenge?
  • Freedom Seekers-  You’ve heard the saying “I can do anything for 12 hours!”  Well, this takes it one step further, “I can do anything for 13 weeks!”  The idea of short term commitments definitely makes traveling a unique situation vs a staff position.  Especially if you have been staff for many years and looking for a change.  New people, new views.  The world is your oyster!
    • What to consider:  The down side to shorter contracts is that you don’t have a lot of time to get acclimated to your unit before you are expected to hit the ground running.  Orientations are usually only about 3 days, so being in a totally new environment with new people can be a bit overwhelming.  You must learn to be very independent (while also remaining part of the team).  You also will be doing the same old modules for general orientation for each 13 week contract when you switch facilities.  
  • Destination Dreams- Do you have a bucket list?  Traveling is a great way to see all those places you have dreamed of, while making money to be there.  You can literally only pick contracts in the exact locations that you want to be in.  the power to choose lies fully in your hands.
    • What to consider:  When you are destination motivated, the rates may be lower.  Since rates are based on demand, there may not necessarily be a need where you want to be.  A common instance of this is everyone wants to be in Florida during the winter.  So the snowy states are usually paying more during this time, and when Florida is hotter than the surface of the sun in the summer….the rates may go up!

Will you be traveling alone?

Whether you are planning to do your trip solo or with your fam in tow, traveling can be a great option to either get away from it all or have a prolonged family vacation.  Which is best for you though?  Here are some common scenarios:

  • Traveling with family-  How cool is it to just pack everyone up and hit the road!  Yes, it can be done in most cases.  As long as you are free to choose your housing option (as is with many contracts) you can bring whoever you want.  Even the furry family members.  Make sure that you ask your recruiter what the housing situation is.  If the facility offers housing onsite, most times they dont allow family or pets.  
    • Things to consider:  If you’re bringing your pets, make sure that the housing you choose is pet friendly.  Check out this blog (insert TRAVELING WITH PETS BLOG LINK) on traveling with pets for tips on how to get your furry friends to your destination safe and sound.  If you are bringing you kids, just be aware that hotel living can get kind of cramped.  Consider a suite or even a whole house through sites like airbnb.com or vbro.com.
  • Traveling solo-  Pack your bags and hit the road!  Your trip, your rules.  You don’t have to please anyone but you, not one to ask “Are we there yet?” or “I have to use the bathroom!”  If this sounds like your style, then go for it!  No judgment here.  Maybe your family can’t go even though you want them to.  Often the kids have school, the hubby has a job they can’t pick up and leave.  Many travelers chose to (or need to) travel alone.
    • If you are driving a long distance, consider bringing someone with you for the drive and then flying them back for your safety and comfort.  Also, consider your safety at your housing.  Be sure to choose a safe and secure location with cameras and a well lit property.  Check out this blog on safety Tips for Traveling Alone for more ideas on how to make your solo trip as safe as possible. (insert link for “Traveling Alone, Tips for Safety and Comfort”

Research the location

Regardless of your motivation that got you there, location is key to a happy and less stress experience when traveling.  Yes, maybe you have dreamed your whole life of visiting downtown Chicago…but you want to be sure that it has everything you had hoped available for you.  Some areas are upscale and gorgeous, and some are not so safe or pretty.  Where can you afford to stay is one of the questions you may want to ask yourself before you commit.

  • Check into the area in general for safety and crime rate.
  • Research the housing prices in the area.
  • Make sure that there are transportation options for you (either public transportation or rental cars, if you chose not to bring your own car)
  • Review the Nurse Practice Act for the state you will be working in, as well as the policies of the facility (as they differ from state to state, region to region and even facility to facility.)

Do you have what it takes to adapt and overcome in a new and unknown environment?

Having commitment issues myself, I totally understand the urge to live the gypsy life.  13 weeks of fun (or not) but either way, in, out and done!  I am ALL ABOUT THAT LIFE.  But being about that life does come with challenges.  Knowing your skills is one aspect, and I am sure that we all know our stuff before we decide to take the jump in the travel pool.  Can we cope though? 

Things to consider:

  • Are you ready to live alone?  Especially if you are more of a pack animal, have you considered the fact that you may not have your spouse / kids / pets with you for that long?  Can you handle coming home to an empty hotel room everyday (or night)?  It does seem to make it feel like the walls are closing in at times.  
  • Can you hit the ground running on your new unit, without your usual work mates?  New med room codes, supplies are all in new places and even all new faces.  Being able to find a great support system everywhere you go vs being completely independent is def a skill that does not come easy to everyone.
  • Are you comfortable fending for yourself in a new city?  Things like inner city traffic or lack of parking can throw a curveball into everyday activities that are super simple at home.  Even going to the grocery store may be a totally different experience than what you are used to.  Basically, can you go with any flow to get what you need.

Do you have resources to fall back on?

Easy come, easy go.  That is a saying that comes to mind here.  While contracts are a dime a dozen nationwide, they can also be canceled in an instant.  We have all heard horror stories about nurses traveling across the country on their last dime only to find that their contract is canceled when they arrive.  Unfortunately, this scenario does happen.  The demand can drop as quickly as it comes, and traveling is a business.  Be sure that you are prepared in this case.  Here are some ways to soften the blow:

  • Don’t max out your resources or finances to get somewhere.  Make sure that you have AT LEAST 2 months of runway (funds) to cover your bills and expenses before considering a travel assignment.
  • Talk with your recruiter about plan B in the case of cancellation.  Make sure that you choose an agency that has plenty of contracts at their disposal to replace you quickly.
  • Make sure that your housing option has a cancelation policy that would cover you in this event, or even consider purchasing travelers insurance.

Now that you have considered all of the good (and bad) aspects of the travel plunge, is it something that you are ready to take on?  It can be so incredibly rewarding to your spirit, your bank account and to our patients who desperately need your care.  If you are ready to pack up and get on the road, contact one of our many recruiters who are here for you!  Most of our team are traveling professionals themselves….so we have literally BEEN THERE and DONE THAT!

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