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Part 3: How to Transition From Staff Nurse to Travel Nurse - Housing

Feb 4, 2021
Kailin Haugh, BSN, RN, CPN

Three-Part Series: How to Transition From Staff Nurse to Travel Nurse

  • Part One of the series
  • Part Two of the series
  • Part Three of the series (you are here!)

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Ah, last but not least, welcome to Part Three of our three-part travel nursing series. If you have made it this far, GOOD! This is all pertinent information that will help you so much as you navigate the travel nursing world. This is the final article in this series... the final countdown (*cue music*). I hope you brought your notebook!

Travel Nurse Housing (brace yourselves!)

THIS IS SO IMPORTANT. Do not think that because your estimated paycheck is $2,000/week that you can ball out on an apartment and spend all your money before you make it! Sloooooow down. Travel nurse housing can be a complex machine!

You do get a housing allowance, but it is typically split up into four paychecks (one for each week of the month). So your total stipend could be $2,000, but you will not get it all at once. You will get it throughout the month, and by the end of the month, you will have reached that stipend total. 

Remember: you are fronting all of the costs as a travel nurse. Read that again. All of the license applications, fingerprinting costs, onboarding costs, travel costs, and rent, as mentioned above, come out of your pocket first. Keep that in mind when you’re looking at rent prices.

That said, it’s not worth it to compromise your safety to save a buck. This is a fine balance I've been dealing with. My first thought when I was a young traveler was, "I don't care where I live. I could live in a teeny shack; I don't need all that glam! I'll pocket the extra money and be LIVIN'." 

No such luck. In order to not spend a lot of money on housing, I lived in some places that seemed decent but turned out to be quite sketchy. You don't need to spend a crazy amount on housing, but you shouldn’t cut too many corners, either. 

If you don't feel safe going home at night after a shift, you will not be primed to perform well at your job. You have to be on your toes for travel nursing and ready to adapt to high-stress situations at work, so you don't need to have heightened stress levels at home, too. 

A good rule of thumb is to spend one week's paycheck on rent for the month. If you're making $1,800/week try and keep rent around $1,800/month.

two people sitting outside camper van travel nursing housing from staff nurse to travel nurse

Finding the Best Travel Nurse Housing Options

There are many popular housing websites that are prepped for travel nurses, the main ones being Airbnb and Furnished Finder. You can find a longer list and links at the bottom of this travel nurse housing resource.

Word to the wise: always ask for more pictures than what is listed on the site, or ask for a FaceTime video tour. Another lovely hiccup I've experienced is the pictures looking so nice and then getting to the apartment and realizing I'm in the middle of a decaying neighborhood (true story). 

Another way you can find housing is by doing a Facebook search by typing in "furnished housing in ____" and joining that group. 

You can also rent an unfurnished apartment and use companies like CORT to furnish your place. (CORT specializes in short-term leasing, and you can pick housing packages to get the look you want for your stay!) This option can add up quickly though, so just be sure you have a budget in mind.

Housing Timeline

Give yourself ample time to find a new place and a new assignment. Typically, we start looking for our next job about six weeks prior to our contract ending. You have to find your job before you can pick your apartment, so keep that in mind! 

Don’t rush and accept a job if you truly don't want it, but just take note that you will need to find your housing AFTER the job hunt. 

If you narrow down where you want your next job to be, you can start looking for housing earlier on. That way when you accept your job, you can already have an idea of the neighborhood where you’d want to live.

Sign your leases month-to-month, people! It’s possible to have your nursing contract canceled. If your contract gets booted, and you signed a three-month lease, you're stuck paying three months of rent when you won't even be living there! 

This happened to me on my very first assignment and is exactly why I’m qualified to write this article — because ya girl has been THROUGH IT with bumps, complications, and unforeseen circumstances. I would love to save you all the hassle of 400 curveballs!

busy city street travel nurse housing staff nurse to travel nurse

Reminders for Your First Day (and life)

ALWAYS come to the unit with an open attitude and a learning mindset. You do not know everything; in fact, no one does! And that is perfectly okay. One of my favorite quotes is, "If you are the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room." 

Do not be a know-it-all. Be confident in your abilities as a nurse, yes. But also be humble and ready to learn. Travel nursing is hard, badass, and requires a great deal of flexibility. You know what you’re doing, so be proud of yourself! 

Just don't get hung up on how your "old hospital used to do this or that.” Know your skills, and then adapt to the policies and specificities of that hospital. 

You know how to do vitals, but whether it's Q1 or Q8 is up to how that unit runs their show. You know how to access a central line and draw labs, but the connectors to draw them may require a new lesson. You know how to collect cultures, change tracheostomies, and put in an IV, but the procedures, protocols, or starter kits might fluctuate.

If you don't know, ASK! 

No one ever comes down on someone for asking for help (at least no good leader or unit with a healthy work culture does). Do not let anyone ever make you feel bad for not knowing something. These are patients' lives we deal with, we don't want them to suffer the consequences because we were too proud to ask a question. 

It's okay not to know.

Ask a charge nurse, a neighbor, or your preceptor to come into the room with you, learn, and then next time you won't have to ask. Your unit doesn't expect you to know everything just because you are a traveler. 

No matter how long you've been a nurse or a traveler or specialized in your field, you should ALWAYS be learning. If not, you're doing it wrong.

Have a notebook at the ready. 

I have a "travel nurse notebook" that I use on every first day that I have. There will always be new door codes, floor codes, and nuances that you shouldn't have to commit to memory! Make it easier on yourself, write it down in one place, and have that with you for reference so you can focus on memorizing what's important (aka patient care).

Last but not least, have fun with it!

You are there to help, learn, and expand your skills. Most places are happy to have travelers aboard because they know their unit needs more help. Be nice, be open, be willing, and be the freakin Queen/King that you are, and rock that assignment. You're there for a very short time, so make 'em miss ya ;) 

woman wearing hat smiling into camera how to transition from staff nurse to travel nurse

Farewell, Travelers. Go Forth and Be Great.

I am honored to have gotten the chance to write this article series for Trusted Health

I can say, hands down, they are the company that offers the most resources, has answered the most questions, and has made this journey so much more personable for us all! They take feedback from nurses, like me, so that they can better help you on your own journey, and that’s something that really sticks out. 

I hope this information was helpful to you! I know this is a good chunk of knowledge, but it’s one I would've loved for someone to tell me before I started. Hopefully, you were able to take something away from it!

Ready to Find Your First Travel Nursing Assignment?

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➡ Return to Part One