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Moving to a New City as a Travel Nurse

Mar 24, 2021
Catherine Sparkman, RN

When you’re first coming from a staff nursing position, travel nursing can feel like all glamour and intrigue. Maybe you’ve met that traveler who has come through your unit with their endless stories of adventures and experiences in faraway places, and who has seen the beautifully curated matches on the Trusted platform (shameless plug) with enticing pay packages and stunning locales. 

But as any seasoned travel nurse will tell you, actually getting up relocating to your intended destination can be quite the complicated, and even frustrating affair! 

Here are some tips to help you ace the transition and execute it as gracefully as Beyonce followed up Kanye’s VMA rant in 2009: 

1. Do Your Homework (the Internet Is Your Friend!) 

You don’t have to wait for your little toesies to touch the ground at your destination to “start” your travel assignment — in fact, you can begin your journey much earlier, to give yourself the best chance of enjoying every minute of your short stay!

Whether that means posting on social media asking for restaurant recommendations or perusing blog posts on recommended activities/sites in your future locale, the preparation can (and should) start the minute you sign your contract.

One of my favorite ways to do this is searching hashtags on Instagram with whatever destination I’m going to, or posting in my story asking for recommendations! You might be surprised at the insights your circle of friends and acquaintances can offer. 

2. Chat It up at the Nurses Station

Take advantage of those few shifts you have time to do more than pee! We all know they happen, and that we should probably start learning what a UTI/acute kidney injury feels like way earlier in nursing school — but seriously, taking the time to talk to your staff nurse colleagues can improve your experience immensely both on and off shift! 

Who better than a local to recommend all those secret gems off the beaten path? I’ve found some of my favorite restaurants/hidden trails/scenic spots as a result of a quick chit chat at the nurses station.

Not to mention, it’s a great way to break the ice and make some friends of the people who are in the best spot to support you during your assignment!

3. Time Goes by Quickly — Make a List!

It’s still crazy to me how fast 13 weeks can go by on a travel assignment. There’s the huff and puff of getting there, finding housing/getting familiar with a new city, completing orientation and finding your groove on your assignment, and then all of a sudden you’re already halfway in!

One thing that has helped me is to make a list of things I really care about doing during my time at each particular location, and start putting them on the calendar the day I get my schedule! Believe me, you don’t want to save that one epic beachside bar for your last free day, only to find out they are inexplicably closed on Wednesdays. Not cool.

guy on bike on mountainside overlooking bay bridge travel nursing in a new city

4. Dive Into the Newness!

One of the best (and initially most challenging) things about travel nursing is that it forces you to get out of your comfort zone! You’re in a new place, working on a new unit, surrounded by new people. This can feel paralyzing at first, but don’t panic!

Instead of seeing all the newness as intimidating, look at it as an opportunity to try things you’ve never tried, and do things you’ve never done! Look up what your area is known for. Surfing? Bizarre foods? Nightlife? Bookstores? 

Take this opportunity to lean into whatever gets your blood pumping, or even slightly scares you. I can promise you — you won’t regret it! 

5. Also, Plan for What You Love!

Alright, alright, embracing newness, making lists and taking advantage of the locale is all well and good — but you’re also working a challenging job without the support you normally have as a staff nurse, so you need to set yourself up for success and avoid burning the candle from both ends!

Take a moment and ask yourself: What fills me up? What are the things that bring me joy and help me be my best self every day? 

Is it moving your body regularly or practicing meditation? Is it food prepping like a boss, or making sure you have access to a smart TV for those post-shift Netflix decompression sessions? 

Plan for those simple things that you need to stay sane! When your life is a bundle of moving parts, it can help to schedule in those things you know will center you!

6. Do All the Group Things

Travel nursing can be lonely, plain and simple! You might get lucky and find a tight community your very first shift, or through your random flatmate, but you can’t exactly predict that.

Luckily, there are so many ways now to meet and interact with people in group settings. 

There are awesome memberships like Class Pass which gives you access to a variety of fitness/activity classes to experiment with! You can join pub crawls, run clubs, interest groups, spiritual communities. Whatever interests you, you probably aren’t the only one!

7. Carpe Every Diem

My final tip in moving to a new city: embrace every single day as it comes. Whether it’s a day of napping/laundry/rehabbing from your last tough shift, or exciting new adventures, be thankful for every moment as it passes, knowing your time there is limited! 

Give yourself grace, and expand those comfort zones! It is incredibly cliche, but ultimately profoundly true: you only live once. Get after it!

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