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[horizontal dotted line] "flexibility."-T.T., CST
I've been traveling for 3 years now. Originally, I traveled to escape the politics of the workplace. I continue to travel for the change. I like to keep moving. My life is different now than before I started traveling, which has forced me to get organized. I also used to be quiet and sort of shy. Now I don't have any trouble talking to people. You have to get out and talk to people when you're traveling.
I've stayed with one company for most of my assignments so I have retirement investing and other benefits. When I first started traveling, I'd take whatever assignments came to me because I didn't know what to look for. Now I ask a lot of questions before I sign on. I ask what kind of caseload to expect, and what pay I'll get.
[horizontal dotted line] "a diamond one day and a stone the next."-C.C., RN
The main reason I started traveling in 1989 was because I wanted to go to California to cope with empty-nest syndrome. I took an assignment in San Jose. The first week I was there, my car was stolen, so I drove a rental car for the entire assignment.
Then the earthquake came (7.5 on the Richter scale). I was in my apartment when everything began to shake. All the lights went out and the phone went dead. I tried to remember what you're supposed to do during an earthquake and ended up just sitting there in the dark. It didn't really disturb me until later, when I heard about all of the people who were killed. But I have no regrets. I fell in love with San Francisco and am still traveling.
[horizontal dotted line] "negotiable."-D.C., CRNA
My first travel assignment could very well have been my last. The "housing accommodations" were provided in the hospital. I slept with other traveling nurses in a unit that had been closed. The beds were so uncomfortable that I became sleep deprived. The meals in the cafeteria were free, but the food was inedible. The staff didn't welcome travelers, and the convenience of having a pool of 18 traveling nurses in-house was often abused.
I learned that all assignments will have faults and the outcome would depend on my attitude. I came away from that first assignment with 18 of the dearest friends of my life, a beautiful figure from the weight loss, and a healthy bank account from the overtime pay. But most of all, I gained insight about the travel nursing industry and the benefit of negotiating contracts.
After that first assignment, I traveled for 13 years. As time went by, I focused on career development and chose assignments that were beneficial to me. I found that everything was negotiable and my credentials were my bargaining chip.
[horizontal dotted line] "an adventure."-M.W., RN
I've been traveling for 8 years. It was a big change, but you have to bite off a little bit at a time. My sister said she'd take care of my dog. I sold my house and two cars, put a few things in storage, and kept the rest. My suggestion on your first assignment is to go someplace where you know someone. I also highly recommend international travel. It really opens your eyes. "Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore." This anonymous quote reminds me of traveling because it does take a lot of courage. And remember, you can always go back to where you were.
[horizontal dotted line] "the only way to go."-P.B., RN
Travelers get trashed. Since you're getting paid a lot of money, you can't sit for 5 minutes. I always get assigned to the sickest patients and the most difficult surgeons. Hospitals that use travelers don't always have the best working conditions. One place I went to in Miami was a dive. The next place never oriented me. I didn't even know where to find any supplies. By being thrown into situations, however, I have plenty of experience. I can do any surgical care that comes my way. Traveling is the only way to go because nurses don't make enough money for what we do. You must travel to survive.
[horizontal dotted line] "exciting."-K.G., CST
My first assignment to Michigan was exciting. I went to a place I had never heard of before. The people were great. I met up with two people whose families were multimillionaires. We went boating every day after work.
You never know what you're going to get. You may end up working in the backwoods, wondering if anyone there has ever read any medical journals. Traveling is rewarding, though, because you know you have the ability to work at any facility.
[horizontal dotted line] "a great experience."-C.R., CST
Traveling is a great experience, but you have to be self-reliant. My new approach is to find two large companies that have several assignment locations and one small company that pays more. That way, I can change companies depending on what my needs are at the time. I feel so much more in control of my life since I started traveling. I have plenty of money. In December, I'm going to take the entire month off and visit my family.
[horizontal dotted line] "enlightening."-P.T., RN
Traveling opens up a whole new world. It's great for me because I'm not married and my children are grown. I was a little naive on my first assignment. When they said I'd have a furnished apartment, I thought that would include a TV and appliances. If I'd known, I would have taken much more than I did!!
[horizontal dotted line] "fun."-B.S., CST
Traveling is fun because you get to see everything and you don't have to pay for it yourself. The only disadvantage is that you're often sent to areas that have low staffing. I've known travelers who have had bad experiences, but most of those had to do with personality conflicts.
[horizontal dotted line] "educational."-P.N., CST
You learn a lot about different areas of the country. I started traveling because I was 30 years old and had never been out of Houston, Tex. I'd say that I'm more independent now than I was before I started traveling. I've learned how to cut down on my packing. I'd recommend a laptop computer to keep in touch with the rest of the world. I do my banking online, and my mail goes to my mom. She sends me anything important. It's funny; when you travel, you notice how different all the trees are. In Mississippi, it's oak trees; Louisiana has cypress trees; and Alaska has pine trees.
[horizontal dotted line] "freeing."-P.M., RN
Travel nursing appeals to the gypsy in me. It feeds my independence. I'm a free spirit and like to try different things and meet different people. To be a good traveling nurse, you have to be a people person. You also must be flexible and know how to handle new situations and fit into existing groups.
You have to go with the flow. I think all nurses should try traveling if they can.
Hitting the Road: A Guide to Travel Nursing, S. Kearney, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2003.
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