Adventures in Nursing Blog

Why be a travel nurse?

Why be a travel nurse?

If you asked 100 travelers why they started traveling you would probably hear a couple of answers over and over on repeat. Money and experiences. Meeting new friends in new places.  These and maybe a couple others are common to most travelers, but to boil it down to these reasons alone would be an oversimplification of a much more intricate story. You see each traveler is unique. Each traveler has a different history, a different set of core values and different things that make them feel alive. Each traveler goes down a different path that leads them to the decision to throw caution to the wind, ignore the status quo, leave the safety and security of a staff job, and hit the road.

In fact, an oversimplification of the, “why travel,” question can be one of the biggest mistakes a new traveler can make as they embark upon this exciting, often intimidating yet extremely rewarding journey.

Every time I speak with a new prospective travel nurse, I ask them this incredibly important question…

Why do you want to travel?

Some have an answer immediately, others kind of pause and contemplate, but most, if not all, have one thing in common… they want to travel, and that reality alone is driving them to pick up the phone, call a stranger and ask them to help them find a travel job. Sounds terrifying doesn’t it? 

I am not a travel nurse. I am not a nurse at all. I am a travel nurse recruiter, so I will tread lightly as I make some bold statements about how a clear and concise sense about the answer to this question for each individual traveler can be a game changer. I would argue that for a traveler to maximize the enjoyability of their travel career, this question must be answered, and answered with confidence and conviction. So here are a couple of tips to help you answer this question and get the most joy out of your experience as a traveler.

1. Whatever the reason is you start; it may not end up being the answer to your ultimate Why.

Travel nursing is a journey that begins with one step. You may start your journey because you just need a change. Maybe you are craving a specific adventure in the snowy peaks of the Rocky Mountains, or the long sandy beaches of Orange County. Maybe you have student loans that need to get paid off, and where you are currently, it feels like it will take a lifetime. Maybe you don’t really know at all, it just seems that the road is calling to you. My advice to you, stay flexible. Whatever your reason is at first, you may discover wasn’t a priority at all. Your ability to stay open to new reasons for your journey may open your eyes to possibilities you didn’t imagine. Maybe a little imagination will lead you to your Why, which will re-direct your journey to what your heart is truly craving. At the end of your time as a travel nurse, the feeling you want to have is a sense of pride, fulfillment and joy as you look back and see where you have been. That you will feel as though you are ready to hang it up because you understood why you chose to travel, and it propelled you into every experience you had. The good experiences, the not so good ones, and the hard ones. Knowing why you went through it will ultimately bring closure to your adventure when the day comes you are ready to be done. Fulfilled. 

2. You can’t have two reasons that drive you most.

The most common thing that frustrates travelers in the early stages of their career is having their priorities muddled together. The truth is, when picking and choosing travel assignments, having clarity about why you are doing this, will be the most important tool in your toolbelt for making decisions. The biggest roadblock to contentment in your choices is competing priorities.

Your Why can’t be more than one thing or you may find multiple priorities competing and causing a lot of confusion and anxiety.

Most travelers have more than one answer to their “why travel,” question, which is fine… as long as there is clarity when push comes to shove about what matters most. Let me give you an example to illustrate. The two most common things a traveler prioritizes as they set out on their journey is location and money. Let’s face it, the two biggest benefits to travel nursing is the financial freedom it provides and the opportunity to see fun, exciting places while they gain those new experiences. In the industry there is a direct correlation between location and money. Some of the most desirable locations, have some of the lowest paying jobs. San Diego for example, is one of the most expensive cities in America, which comes as no surprise, but what is always a surprise to a new traveler seeking a 13 week contract in Sunny SoCal, is that the money isn’t much better than they were making in their staff position.

Now what?! What do you do when you have two competing priorities? You can’t work in San Diego and make great money!

This is where clarity becomes so important. When you have to choose, knowing what you care about most will allow you to make a hard decision and have no regrets. This opens the door to a fun, and exciting travel journey. Do you have competing priorities? I would challenge you to talk to your recruiter. Let them help you identify your why so you can move forward with confidence and never look back.

3. Your Why may change, you will need to change with it.

Life has a way of changing in an instant. As a traveler that is more true that it is for most. Learn to roll with the changes. Learn to let your Why change based on your changing circumstances so you can move through your journey with ease and enjoyment. Maybe you are homesick, you aren’t ready to settle down and hang up your travel shoes yet, but a contract close to home might rejuvenate you to head back out on the road. Sure, you may sacrifice your original why to do so, but remaining flexible could help lengthen your career as a traveler leading to experiences you may have missed out on if you let yourself burn out. You will get tired of hearing it, but remaining flexible is about more than the job, it is staying flexible with yourself. You will change, and your priorities will change with you. That’s ok! Learn to embrace that, and it will enhance your experience as a traveler.

4. A good recruiter will not only help you determine your Why, but will use that Why as a honing signal for finding each assignment you will end up in.

If your Why is clear, the only thing that may hold you back from getting consistent assignments that are fulfilling that Why is a recruiter that isn’t listening. Unfortunately, as a group, we are better talkers than listeners. We often move way too quickly and put nurses into boxes. We over generalize and make assumptions for you. Often it is with the best of intentions we find ourselves becoming terrible listeners and sending jobs your way that have zero chance of fulfilling your Why, but that doesn’t make it right or ok. Find a recruiter who will help you clarify your Why, hold you accountable to your Why, because he or she is listening not only to your words but to your story as a whole. Find a recruiter who sees your travel experience as a journey and not just a job. I know they may be few and far between, but if you understand this stuff you might be able to better educate your recruiters on how to serve you best.

My hope is that this information would resonate in your heart and propel you to ask these ultimate questions about your travel journey. Yes, we make a lot of decisions with our head, and most of the time it should have some say in where we go and what we do. But the unique realities of travel nursing demand more attention to the heart then the head at times. Discovering this, learning to listen to your heart and allow it to translate into reality will open doors you never imagined were possible. Enjoy the ride