Travel nursing is a career and a lifestyle that is becoming increasingly popular among 20-somethings with a nursing degree. Essentially, it involves working with a recruiter at a medical staffing agency and signing contracts that typically last at least 13 weeks for a given hospital in the U.S. This option is available to nurses with a variety of concentrations and specialties, and there are contract openings in virtually every state. My husband Brandon became a travel nurse after our Heritage Honeymoon and we have been living the travel nurse lifestyle ever since.
While there are plenty of articles, blogs, and accounts from travel nurses themselves, I thought I may fill a void by sharing my perspective as the partner of a travel nurse - why I love it and why it can sometimes be challenging. If your partner is thinking about how to be become a travel nurse and you're thinking, how do I become a travel nurse's [boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, etc.]?, I hope my perspective will help!
Step 1: Have States in Mind, but be Open to Travel Anywhere
The very first question to answer when becoming a travel nurse is, where am I going to go? Brandon had literally no preference, but we talked about Raleigh initially since we had family there. Then we had friends who would be in Denver so Denver became our goal. But like most things in life, it didn't go as planned. There were no jobs available in any of the cities that we had considered. And another big thing to keep in mind is that you have to have a nursing license in the state you want to practice in. So choosing a destination also meant that Brandon would need to get a new nursing license before his start date. Not to mention the wedding and honeymoon we had in between.
If you are interested in pursuing travel nursing and have a specific destination in mind, you can get your license for that state, but be warned that you may not get to use it right away. It seems to be all about timing and luck and who you have looking out for you (see Step 2). What ended up being the best opportunity for us was just a 4 hour drive from home: Baltimore, Maryland. At first we honestly felt a little bummed out. We were embarking on this brand new adventure and if I had to put a sound to the feeling, it'd certainly be, "whomp, whomp." But looking back, it was a blessing in disguise. We had to be thankful that Brandon was able to get an assignment and get his license in time (literally just in time). And while I had been used to working from home in the evenings for quite some time, I was embarking on my own personal adventure of working from home full-time and having this new digital nomad lifestyle to accompany my husband's new travel nursing career. Baltimore gave us the opportunity to ease our way into it. I got to see Brandon learn the ropes of travel nursing, adapt to a totally new work environment, and build upon his already sharp skills. We went home to see family for Thanksgiving. And we had the chance to confirm that this is really what we want to do.
So I think that it's good to set goals of where you want to be, but don't limit yourself. Embrace the opportunity to travel and live anywhere, and all of the lessons and blessings it will bring you.
Step 2: Get a Squad of People Working for You
The most crucial part of the travel nursing process is getting the gig, which means having a team of recruiters from different agencies working for you to get you the very best assignment at the very best compensation. I think it's a mistake to put all of your eggs in one basket with one agency and one recruiter. It's important in anything of this nature to actively compare and incite a little competition. But that doesn't mean it's easy, either. Brandon had to go through so many applications, forms, tests, and procedures to onboard with each agency. I felt bad that I couldn't help him with any of those things, but we both knew that it was in the best interest of both of us to have an entire network of connections to find the best opportunity.
And wouldn't you know it, while he was all set with the Baltimore contract with one agency, he was able to secure his next contract in Denver with a different organization before we even stepped foot in Maryland. I don't think that's the way it will always happen, but it certainly wouldn't have happened if he didn't work with several different recruiters and organizations. That said, I'd highly recommend this approach for how to find the best travel nursing assignments. And even after you secure your assignment, there are a lot of other details to iron out - taking the provided housing or finding your own (we've found our own), thinking about how you're going to get there, and packing and preparing (on to Step 3). As a partner, the best thing you can do throughout this process is to be supportive, encouraging, and enthusiastic about the opportunities ahead.
Step 3: Be Prepared to Leave Everything Behind
Remember, being a travel nurse amounts to one word: Temporary. But it's on purpose! You don't need to take all of your belongings with you for a quick 13 weeks. This was the part of the travel nurse journey that I found to be most cathartic: living with less.
When it comes to packing, it's so important to be intentional and minimalistic. While your travel nurse partner may wear a pajama-like uniform, that doesn't mean you get to bring/pack more for the journey. Work together to decide what's necessary and what isn't. For Brandon and I, we decided to pursue housing in Airbnbs, so everywhere we lived has had everything we've needed. All of the personal items we bring can fit in our car, and that my friends is liberating.
The new lifestyle you are embracing as the partner of soon-to-be travel nurse will be so rewarding in so many ways. You'll see and do new things, experience new ways of life, and lean on each other in ways you maybe haven't had to before. But don't forget that this is your story too - your work is still important and you can still pursue your own goals, too. Find a balance of celebrating each other and your triumphs. Know that you are doing something wild and wonderful and while it may not last forever, it will be pretty amazing while it does.