Diverse Perspectives & Advocacy

Why Travel Nursing is More Than Money

Jeri Ford, BSN, RN, CPN
August 13, 2021
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When you tell people you are a travel nurse, there are a few responses you get in return. 

“You must make bank!?”

“Wow, that money must be nice!”

“I bet your savings is huge.”

“So, your housing is totally paid for, right?”

What has always struck me about this is how far off I feel from these sentiments. As a traveler of 7 years, I can honestly say that increased pay is never my first thought when asked about my career as a travel nurse. 

My first thought is, what a fun life I have had!

Travel nursing is FAR more than the money. Here’s why:

The clinical experience you gain

I started travel nursing with only 1.5 years’ experience as a new nurse. Not only was I moving to a new city and a new hospital, but I was also joining the staff on their float team. As we all know, being a part of the float team means going to a new unit every single day. I was terrified! I was scared that I wouldn’t know anything, that I wasn’t experienced enough, and that I would drown. What I quickly learned is that you grow the most by being put in environments where you rely on yourself. This is true for all travel assignments. You see different ways of doing things, different policies that work and don’t work, multiple specialties, and gain skills beyond your wildest expectations. Even if you may have nice coworkers, you don’t have the crutch of long-time coworkers to help you for every task. I have seen both inpatient and the clinic side, NICU and PICU versus med-surg and step-down. After several assignments under your belt, your versatility and ability to learn quickly become highly valued traits when interviewing for your next permanent position.

Exploring new cities

Jeri Ford in the city

Living in eight different cities so far as a travel nurse has been one of the highlights of my life. The standard nursing schedule leaves you with four days off per week to explore your newfound city, and that alone makes travel nursing worth it. Every new city I would stalk Instagram, TikTok, Facebook travel groups, and Thrillist to make a long list of bars, restaurants, sight-seeing, and events to add to my bucket list for that city. Even if you don’t make it to every item on your list, you have so much fun checking them off. It is hard to describe how much fun it is to wake up on your days off and know there are limitless activities waiting for you to explore. I am now a go-to person when any of my friends or family want to visit a city I have lived in. From biking the Golden Gate bridge, to the best apple orchards in Michigan, to paddle boarding in the San Diego harbor, to hiking the Hollywood sign – travel nursing has given me memories that will last me a lifetime,all while getting paid to do so. 

The friendships you make

This is hands-down my favorite part of travel nursing. Some of the people I have met over the years are my absolute best friends now. If I had not taken the risk to start travel nursing, my life wouldn’t be nearly as full and beautiful as it is with them in my life. The thought of never having met these girls is unfathomable! Travel nurses tend to have adventure and wanderlust in common. You meet like-minded people with open schedules and the interest in adventure. You can surround yourself with people who say “yes” when you ask them on a last-minute Vegas trip. Even if you do not become best friends with every single person, you meet people from all over the country who you keep in touch with for future traveling, jobs, assignments, etc. Having these connections are not only wonderful personally, but also professionally. I have collaborated with many other nurses over the years with various projects all because I met them on an assignment. As a matter of fact, I am here writing this article for Trusted Health right now because of a travel nurse connection while working in San Francisco!

Extra time for wanderlust

Jeri Ford at the beach

What’s even better than a nursing schedule? You guessed it,a travel nurse schedule. The beauty of a travel nurse schedule is that you do not have to always get approval for a vacation. Want 4 weeks off with no questions asked? Plan your next assignment to have a start date of 4 weeks after the end of your last one. This has led me to some amazing adventures and traveling. You have extra time and money to explore far more than just the city you are in. Greece, Italy, Paris, Mexico, Costa Rica, Australia… the world is yours… and you don’t have a boss telling you “no”.  *Cue daydreaming music!*

Elevated mental health and independence

While travel nursing presents unique difficulties in the beginning of an assignment (where to live, pay, new hospital and rules, etc), once you are settled, your mental health improves. As mentioned before, my first assignment was a float pool job in Dallas, Texas. This girl went from never leaving Indiana to a new city, new people, new hospital, and new floor every single day. At times I look back and truly cannot believe how much bravery that took. After navigating these challenges alone, the overwhelming feeling of independence and success is remarkable. Not only do you learn independence, but you learn how to be alone. You will eventually meet friends, but there will still be many times you have to explore the city on your own. Knowing that I will be okay whether I am alone or with friends has been a huge personal growth for me. 

These are my top five reasons to travel as a nurse besides the money, but I could go on longer! Travel nursing truly impacts you more than you could ever prepare for. I hope this information leaves you more interested in travel nursing than ever. 

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