Should I become a travel nurse?

Maybe this is the first thing you’re reading since you heard about travel nursing, or perhaps you have done months of research and are just now asking yourself: “Should I do this? Should I become a travel nurse?”

If you haven’t already, I recommend reading our “How to Become a Travel Nurse.” That will give you a good idea of whether or not you’re qualified, and if you’re up for the process as a whole.

Once you know what becoming a travel nurse entails, that’s when you need to ask yourself some hard questions before taking the plunge.

Does Travel Nursing jive with my personality?

Are you someone who thrives on predictability? Do you have close friends and family members who you rely on for emotional support and live nearby? Do “unknowns” cause you anxiety and unnecessary stress?

Remember: Unless you are “travelling” to a nearby hospital (as some nurses do), you are likely going to need to move away from friends and family. Additionally, you can only usually get work for 13 weeks at a time, which means you will be constantly looking for new work, changing hospitals and getting to know new systems. This is extremely exciting for some nurses, but for others it sounds like a prison sentence. Ask yourself: Which one am I?

If you love adventures, feel like you’re in a rut, don’t have close connections in your current city or dislike your current job, you are probably a good candidate — at least emotionally and personally — for travel nursing.

Additional personality-related questions to ask yourself:

  • Can I adapt quickly?
  • Am I ok changing methods and charting systems every 3 months?
  • Do I need a lot of supervision and feedback? Or do I work well on my own?
  • Am I a flexible person?
  • Do I make new friends easily? Do I like strangers?

Am I physically up to the challenge?

Obviously being healthy and fit is important for normal nursing (12 hours on your feet, anyone?), but travel nursing comes with the added physical toll of moving every three months or so.

Moving and travelling are fun — that may be exactly why you want to become a travel nurse — but they aren’t without sleepless car-rides, cramped plane flights, delays, misplaced baggage, lugging suitcases, rearranging furniture… You get the point!

Can I financially afford this?

What kind of financial burdens do you have holding you back? Maybe you signed a year-long lease or you’re 3 years into a mortgage. In order to keep a tax home (read more about travel nursing taxes here), that’s actually a good thing! But you’ll have to crunch numbers before deciding to quit a steady position.

What about debt? A car with payments? Credit card bills? Student loans? Some nurses have made travel nursing their ticket out of the debt-cycle, but it takes careful planning.

If you are moving to Alaska, you probably can’t take that new car with you. Should you sell it? Lend it to a friend? Can you do that before your first assignment, or will you be stuck making payments?

It might be wise to have some money set aside in savings, because even if you get reimbursed for things like travel, that might not happen for a few weeks (or even months!) and you’ll need some cash to keep you afloat.

Additional financial questions to ask yourself:

  • Can I afford no paid vacation time?
  • Do I have money to cover gaps in employment?
  • Do I understand my tax situation?
  • Do I understand how my pay package works?

Can I personally afford this?

Do you have any personal ties that require you to stay in the area, such as an aging relative, a significant other, or children? Would you be able to take them with you, or does their health, job or school schedule prohibit it?

These are some good questions to help you get started determining whether or not a career in travel nursing is right for you.

Remember: You might be able to try out travel nursing for 6 months, and if you really hate it, go back home and find a permanent job again. You don’t have to commit forever, and sometimes it’s worth the risk to try!

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