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Step 6

Relocating for Your New Grad Residency Program

You’ve landed your first job, picked a residency, and figured out all your licensing and credentialing―next up: Party like it’s shift change! 

Well... not exactly.

It's quite possible that you chose a program far from where you currently live. Picking up your life, packing your coveted possessions, and having to narrow down your wardrobe can be difficult. On top of that, starting a brand new job in a new city can be scary on its own without the additional stress that figuring out housing can cause.

There’s a smorgasbord of moving tips that will come in handy as you prepare to embark on your new grad nurse adventure―some trivial and boring, some daunting and time-consuming, but all super important for peace of mind―and, trust us, between saving lives and hang-gliding in Salt Lake City, you’ll want all the peace of mind you can get.

Know Your Options

Every individual’s housing preferences are different and should depend on what’s best for themselves, their lifestyles, their personal/professional goals, and any loved ones joining them on their adventure.

That means that before you start looking at apartments and weekend itineraries in your new destination, you should sit down and take note of the things that are most important to you as well as the activities and experiences that allow you and anyone coming with you to thrive on the daily.  We have a handy guide on things to consider that might help you.

orange van travel nursing new grad nurse living in a van or RV


You Must Know Yourself to Know What You Want

What makes up your “daily routine?” As a new nurse, you may not think about the activities you do and the experiences you have on a daily basis, but to shape an awesome nurse lifestyle around the factors that help you thrive, you need to first understand what those factors are. 

Once you understand the factors that must go into maintaining your lifestyle as a new nurse, build on this by figuring out what your nice-to-haves are. People prioritize convenience, new experiences, social opportunities, and a host of factors in-between. 

Knowing what’s most important to your housing arrangement from both a big-picture and little-picture perspective is important: it allows you to plan ahead to ensure that you’ll have those factors (or reasonable substitutes) at your new location. And this is an important step in reducing the amount of adjustment you’ll need to deal with as well as getting you closer to a true “home away from home."

Make sure you have the answers to these questions at the ready when it comes figuring out the preferences that should define your lifestyle and housing arrangements as a new nurse:

  • Are you an early riser or prone to sleeping in? 
  • Do you need external factors (i.e. sunlight, an alarm) to wake up?
  • What’s your eating schedule like? 
  • How often do you do groceries? Do you go to a supermarket or have most supplies delivered to your door?
  • Do you food prep any meals? If so, what devices (i.e. blender, crockpot) do you need for your food prep?
  • How often do you exercise? What type of exercise do you do? Do you need specific equipment or spaces for this type of exercise?
  • Are there certain things that must be walking distance for you (i.e. groceries, laundry, work)?
  • Do you have any regular hobbies? Interests? Are you planning on picking up any in the near future?
  • How do you tend to spend your days off? Do you prefer to go with the flow or do you crave structured activities?
  • Are you more introverted or extroverted?
  • Do you need background noise, absolute silence, or something in-between when you’re falling asleep?
  • What “luxuries” are you willing to stretch your budget for?
  • What in your personal life are you hoping to gain from this experience (i.e. travel, increased social circle, trying new foods, etc)?


Know What You Don't Want

Knowing what you don’t want (and won’t tolerate) in your new location and job is just as important as having a list of what you’re hoping for. 

This is the first step in creating boundaries, which is a healthy way for you to maintain control of your personal and professional life and ensure that you’re getting the most you can out of each new assignment. 

Creating boundaries not only helps you internally; by having these boundaries clearly set and defined ahead of time, you will set your new journey up for success. Remember, you will be working long shifts, learning new things everyday, and probably going to need to debrief the real life nursing that is coming your way. By setting up your boundaries before you start, you can ensure your stress release and lifestyle needs are set up well in advance.  

When thinking about dealbreakers, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What factors or measurements do you use to determine a location’s safety? Based on these factors and/or measurements, what counts as too unsafe?
  • Are you tolerant of noise from your neighbors or the general area? Up to what point?
  • What is your budget for large expenses like lodging and daily transportation? 
  • Is the local cost-of-living within your daily budget?
  • When it comes to housing, how far is “too far” from your place of work? A grocery store? A laundromat? A gym? A place of worship?
  • Do you require access to specific facilities or professionals (i.e. specialists) for your health or wellness? Within what radius of your home or place of work?
  • What amenities can you not live without? 


Know Who You're Traveling With

For many new nurses, the adventure of their first clinical role isn’t simply for themselves. New nursing with spouses, families, and even friends and pets is becoming more common. As such, it’s important to take everyone’s needs into consideration when arranging housing and planning your next steps in your new location.

Think about these questions when considering the needs of your travel companion:

  • How much space will you and your travel companions need?
  • Do any of the people you’re with have employment or schooling obligations? How will those needs be fulfilled at your new location?

In addition to these questions above, you should ensure that you know the personal preferences and dealbreakers of any other companions on your adventure! Be prepared to tweak your new nurse lifestyle so that everyone has the factors they need.

Applying What You've Learned

Take the time to honestly answer these questions, and don’t be afraid to add and answer more. If you’re unsure―or even just looking for a second opinion―ask those around you as well! 

Once you have a clear understanding of what conditions help you thrive, you can make arrangements accordingly. Keep your preferences in mind as you make your way through the steps outlined in the rest of this guide: your ultimate goal is to tailor your new nursing experience to encourage the best personal and professional YOU possible!

Over time, these steps (and your understanding of the ways in which your preferences shape them) will become easier, but until then, be sure to read through all of our tips beforehand to help you hit the ground running!

Finding Housing

Your first step when it comes to securing housing as a new nurse should always be to make a budget. While there can be much variation based on the location, don’t over extend your finances because you think you will be making more money. 

Think about what you can afford reasonably on your new nursing salary. Best practices suggest trying to keep housing costs to 30% or less of your pre-tax income.

Next, study the location. Do you want to be near the job or miles away. School districts, walk scores, food, neighborhoods are all factors to think about. In your first year as a nurse in a residency program you will be spending a significant amount of time at the hospital. Not only do you have your scheduled shifts, many times you are required to take additional trainings, classes, and meetings. It might be nice to live closer to the hospital so that your commute is not a stressor.

When figuring out where you’ll be living, you’ll want to keep four things in mind: housing type, quality, amenities, location, and flexibility.

Apartment vs. House

While this is a very personal financial decision, reflecting on the numbers. 60% of new graduate nurses leave their job in the first year. Although this is lower for those in residency programs, the reality of nursing usually hits in your first year. You will learn if your chosen speciality is for you, if the hospital culture meshes with your vision, and if the work itself is rewarding. You may even decide to go into travel nursing after your first year. 

With all of that to consider, it might be prudent to keep a more temporary housing situation (i.e. apartment) until you become more embedded in the work and the nurse lifestyle.

Quality

When it comes to quality, there’s no better barometer than peer reviews! Most apartment options provide the opportunity to read through reviews, whether it’s directly associated with the accommodation or through a third party.

We can’t stress enough how important it is to rent from someone with a track record of being dependable and reliable. In a brand new place, the last thing you need is your housing arrangement falling through.

Reviews can also be helpful for gleaning details about what others liked or disliked (because sometimes what they didn’t like truly wouldn’t be relevant to you!) about the area, the living conditions, and what you can’t determine from pictures.

Utilities

If you’re traveling light because you were living with friends, wanted to dump all your worldly possessions and start over, or dream about living simply, you’ll need a spot that’s furnished and stocked with linens, kitchenware, and additional necessities. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions about what is included. And don’t simply take labels like “furnished” at face value, as “furnished” means different things to different people.

Consider amenities nearby. If your place doesn’t have a washing and drying machine in the building, is there a laundromat nearby, or will you need to get creative with washing your scrubs? More importantly, make sure those amenities actually work properly. The only thing worse than not having access to a microwave is being stuck with a fire hazard.

Location

When it comes to housing, we can’t talk about things to consider without talking location. 

Do you mind dealing with a lengthy commute to work for more affordable or well-situated options? Or would you rather spend as little time as possible commuting? Do you want to live in the middle of the action or away from the noise? Remember, you will be at the hospital A LOT in your first year.

Google Maps (or any maps app/website) and Yelp are your best friends to get a sense of the neighborhoods you’d want to live in and what makes them unique. And don’t forget to check out neighborhood safety through reviews online or websites like AreaVibes.

Accessibility

Finally, you may have needs or preferences outside of what’s typically found on the market. Maybe you have a pet that you’re taking with you. Are you a social butterfly who frequently entertains house guests? 

All of these are things to consider up front. Ask the property manager or landlord about these points―everyone will be much happier if they’re on the same page as you before you sign.

Packing & Moving

Once you’ve confirmed exactly where you’ll be living, the natural next step is figuring out how you (and all your stuff) will get there. 

You’ll need to evaluate what packing and moving tips work for you. But for starters, aim for an arrangement that strikes the balance between the comforts of your current housing situation and the idea that you are starting a whole new profession and life. What can you leave behind and what might you need to buy?

From there, you can do your research to check whether those missing pieces can be found in the area for a reasonable price. If they can, you can wait until your arrival to purchase them. Try to do so at nearby thrift stores or consignment shops if appropriate, since you can get a bigger bang for your buck. However, if they aren’t available in the area for a price that won’t break the bank, then you should consider taking them with you.

This method isn’t foolproof―you may get to your new place and realize that you underestimated your need for a rice-cooker, or maybe the lightbulb in your bathroom goes out and the building manager isn’t readily available. Until then, this method gets you to your destination with as little baggage as possible.

Moving All of Your Belongings

While we recommend traveling as light as possible, ultimately the most important thing is doing what makes you feel comfortable. And there can be various reasons why you need to travel with larger, bulkier, or additional pieces, from nurturing important hobbies to catering to special needs. Moving with family also increases the chance that you’ll need more than you can comfortably carry. Sometimes your new employer will have relocation assistance. Ask your recruiter or hiring manager about options here. 

Here are some moving options to consider:

  • Shipping. You can ship larger items to your location ahead of time or arrange with a family member or friend who currently lives near you to have the item shipped once you arrive. Check out this page for a list of moving and storage options, or feel free to do your own research!
  • Cargo trailers. If you’re driving between destinations, you can connect a cargo trailer to your car with a tow hitch. And while we’re not experts on that method by any means, you can always head over to your closest U-Haul for more information.
  • Renting a Moving Truck. If you have limited stuff, renting a moving truck and driving it yourself is a good option. It means some manual labor for loading and packing, but can save you in the long run. 

Hopefully this guide serves as a helpful resource for housing, packing, moving and more as a new nurse! Once you’ve secured your new digs (and packed up your old one!) get ready for your adventure. Read up on your chosen speciality and keep those nursing books readily available as a reference for your learning. Welcome to the profession of nursing. This is just the start of an amazing journey.

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Dan Weberg, PhD, MHI, BSN, RN
Dr. Dan Weberg is an expert in nursing, healthcare innovation and human-centered patient design with extensive clinical experience in emergency departments, acute in-patient hospital settings and academia. He currently serves as the Head of Clinical Innovation for Trusted Health, the staffing platform for the healthcare industry, where he helps drive product strategy and works to change the conversation around innovation in the healthcare workforce.
Dan has authored over a dozen peer reviewed articles, delivered 100+ presentations, and authored 3 textbooks on innovation.

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