Before You Go - Travel Nurse Checklist
Sometimes it is good to sweat the small stuff.
In our previous article, we walked you through tips to help you prepare for securing travel nurse housing, but does your leaving-home checklist include steps to tie up the loose ends of the life you have now? While you may regularly take the following things for granted, you’ll want to make sure that they’re covered before becoming a full-fledged travel nurse.
Before Leaving for a Travel Nurse Position
Your job is to look after your patients’ health, but don’t neglect your own! If you fall sick away from home, you’ll be grateful you did the preparation to tie up these loose ends in advance.
Health Insurance and Coverage
As part of your leaving-home checklist, you’ll want to ensure that you have medical (and maybe also dental and vision) insurance while on assignment. Your nurse staffing agency will usually help you choose and enroll in an insurance plan as part of your onboarding with them. You can also choose to carry your own insurance, which will save you the hassle of re-enrolling in a plan (and possibly needing to change your medical provider) when working with different travel nurse agencies.
Either way, be sure to secure it as far as possible ahead of time so that you don’t have to worry about insurance coverage once you start working!
Beyond setting your insurance up, you should also know when your coverage starts. For agency-sponsored plans, it may be when you start your assignment. If that’s the case, make sure you have insurance coverage or other means in place to bridge any awkward gaps in time between leaving your old position and starting your travel assignment.
Finally, as part of your leaving home checklist, take stock of clinics, hospitals, and pharmacies near your future home and job, if you haven’t already. Research which in-network providers are nearby, and confirm with their offices directly over the phone for the most up-to-date information. You may even want to familiarize yourself with the route you’d take to get to your preferred primary care and/or urgent care providers.
If you get sick or injured while on a travel nurse assignment, the last thing you’ll want to deal with is figuring out how to get the care you need. Get these logistics out of the way now so that you’re prepared for those unfortunate curveballs. If you end up not needing these services, at least you’ve got some peace of mind.
Prescriptions While Traveling
You or a loved one traveling with you may need special prescriptions, vitamin supplements, or medical aids. While online shopping can get most things delivered to your front door, it’s not foolproof. Research physical stores in the area that sell the products you need. Consider stocking up in advance if necessary. That way, you’re prepared in case you unexpectedly run out or lose medication!
Becoming a travel nurse can certainly boost your finances with higher pay. But it can also create a financial headache if you’re not well prepared, so make sure that your checklist includes reminders to figure out the following money issues before you go!
Paying the Bills
The typical travel nursing assignment is six to 13 weeks (about three months). Now just think about all the bills that you regularly pay off in one month.
Yup, you’ve got some planning to do.
First, make sure that you have a clear sense of any outstanding bills that you haven’t yet paid, as well as all regular upcoming bills for the next three months.
Second, pay off as many bills as possible in advance. Priority should go to any outstanding (or soon-to-be outstanding) bills, since sorting overdue payments can be a headache on the road.
Third, make clear plans as to how expenses specific to your permanent residence (such as rent and maintenance costs) will get paid off while you’re gone. Be sure to alert any individuals or groups expecting your payment of your travel nursing plans, and keep up an open line of communication with them so that you’re both on the same page regarding timelines, payment amounts, and any changes to your plans.
If necessary, make sure that a trusted friend or family member is available in the location and can help facilitate and confirm payments in your absence.
For recurring expenses - think subscriptions to services like Amazon Prime or Netflix - set up autopay. (It’s 2019. No more excuses.) This allows the charges to be automatically deducted from your account, which means fewer things for you to worry about and more brain space to focus on planning fun activities on your days off.
Finally, don’t forget to do a quick rundown of your last couple bank statements and discontinue services that you won’t need or can’t use while you’re on assignment! No need to carry membership to your local yoga studio if you won’t be a local there for the next three months.
Depending on how you’re setting up your tax home, you may want to keep up ties with your go-to banking branch―even after becoming a travel nurse. However, that doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to bank at branches near your new location! Find out where the closest full branches and ATMs will be near both your job and your home while on assignment.
Credit & Debit Cards
The most important thing you’ll want to do when it comes to taking your credit and debit cards with you is keep your bank in the loop.
Unfortunately, identity theft and stolen credit cards are still a thing, and banks do their part in combating these issues by carefully monitoring where (and for what) your cards get used. If they find activity that’s out of the ordinary - say, the massive shopping trip in a completely different state that you’ll probably do once you land in your new assignment location - they’ll usually “freeze” your card until they can verify that you intended for those purchases to be made.
Not only can this be embarrassing if you happen to be in a checkout line, it may even prevent you from receiving a product or service that you need. Give your bank a ring (some banks even allow you to do this online) beforehand and inform them of where and when you plan to leave for your travel nursing assignment. It'll be five minutes well spent!
Tying Up Loose Ends: Communication
Now more than ever, it’s easy to stay in touch with loved ones while you’re on the road. This simplicity also extends to staying on top of any responsibilities (and abreast of any unforeseen issues) that arise while you’re not there. For the smoothest possible experience with both, we recommend adding the following tasks to your travel nurse leaving-home checklist:
Like your bank, you may want to keep your main mailing address set to your permanent residence to help you maintain the location of your tax home. But how do you get your mail and other packages while on assignment?
For mail, the USPS has two mail-forwarding options for people away from their home for weeks to months at a time. You can either fill out a form online or visit your local post office to have mail forwarding set up to reroute packages to your new location.
Remember: if you’re keeping your permanent residence as your tax home, then you’ll want to request a temporary change of address!
For packages from vendors like Amazon or subscription services, things are a bit more straightforward: simply change the default sending address on file to that of your new location.
Make sure you prepare two contact lists: one with contacts at/from your permanent residence and the other with contacts at/from the new location of your travel nurse assignment.
If you don’t already have them on speed dial from your interview adventures, make sure that you save the phone number of your travel nurse recruiter at the agency you’re working with. You’ll also want to have the number of your new manager/supervisor, the medical facility you’re working at, your new landlord, and any medical facilities you plan on utilizing for care (don’t forget your pharmacy).
When it comes to your permanent residence, sometimes, it takes a village (your village, that is). You should have contacts for friends and family in the area of your permanent residence. Make sure that you leave behind a copy of your travel itinerary and the contact list for your assignment.
Consider reaching out to a couple of trusted friends or family members in the area to have on hand in case of emergencies that require in-person attention.
Issues like unexpected bills and mail can come up while you’re traveling, and having boots on the ground will help you address these issues more easily and efficiently. Most importantly, remember to grant these people any necessary authorization to act on your behalf before you leave!
Below is a basic leaving home checklist (based on everything we’ve discussed above) for individuals who want to tie up loose ends before embarking on a new travel nurse assignment. While this list is non-exhaustive―everyone’s situation is different, after all!―it’s a great starting point.
- Apply for and confirm health insurance (and possibly dental and vision insurance) for your next assignment
- Learn when insurance coverage starts and have plan for how you’ll be covered before that date
- Stock up on medical prescriptions for yourself and loved ones as necessary
- Pay off any bills that you can in advance
- Set all recurring bills to autopay
- Discontinue services that you won’t need while on assignment
- Alert your bank that you’ll be temporarily relocating (to avoid card freezes)
- Set up mail forwarding
- Change the shipping address on any online accounts (i.e. Amazon)
- Save important contacts (i.e. travel nurse recruiter, unit manager, medical facility, new landlord, friends and family, etc.) on your phone
- Leave behind a copy of your itinerary and the contact list for your nursing assignment with friends and family
- Look into authorizing a trusted friend or family member to act on your behalf in your absence should the need arise
Keeping on top of everything you're temporarily leaving behind can be daunting, but with enough preparation (and the above checklist), it’s absolutely possible. Happy traveling!
If you're looking for some more guidance, feel free to reach out to one of our Nurse Advocates today!