One of the many reasons that registered nurses or staff nurses decide to become travel nurses is that it brings the chance to explore new and exciting destinations. Each assignment is like another adventure. With all sorts of sights and attractions to explore, different foods to taste, and new people to meet, perhaps making a few new friends along the way too.
How can you make the most out of this fortunate opportunity? Let’s review some tips for a successful travel nursing experience.
BEFORE YOU GO
Before you head out to that new assignment, try to find out if anyone you know might have a connection in your destination. Talk to friends, family members and co-workers – even a friend of a friend can be a good place to start. Even try connecting with prior nursing school classmates.
Another great option is to chat with other registered nurses and travel nurses on forums. There are practically an endless number of travel nursing forums these days, and chances are, someone out there works in the area or knows someone who does. If you find someone you can connect with before you arrive, you might get some very helpful travel nursing tips about where you’re going, not to mention the potential to make a new friend.
Before deciding to become a travel nurse and speaking to a travel nursing recruiter, search various travel nursing websites. Each agency offers different compensation packages and locations. Most travel nurse agencies, like HCTN, have job boards that show available locations, healthcare facilities, pay ranges, assignment length, and weekly hour commitment. Gather a list of about five locations that you would like to travel to and your desired pay range.
After you’ve compiled your list, talk to a few recruiters from different travel nursing agencies. Each agency has different compensation packages available based on the healthcare facility they recruit for. Some agencies even offer their travel nurses PTO, retirement, and free medical and dental benefits. Compare your options before accepting any assignment. During your calls, also communicate your needs and wants in a dream job.
Smartphone apps can provide a wealth of information to help you get to know your new city, like Spotted by Locals which recommends local spots near your location for dining, drinking, and sightseeing. Locals contribute to the service, revealing their favorite sights, restaurants and bars along with other insider tips such as how to get around.
Another option is Meetup, an app that will help connect you to like-minded people in the area to participate in activities with. Simply enter the name of the city you’re in and your interests such as hiking, biking or reading. Odds are there will probably be endless different “meetups” to choose from nearby.
Eventbrite is another great app. You can search for local events of any kind, including hobbies, arts, music, and festivals. If you enjoy local music events, download the Jambase app. You can choose your location for local music events. The app sends notifications with new events or when prices drop for tickets.
If you are looking for discounts of any sort, download the Groupon app. They offer discounts on just about anything. Ranging from goods to massages and outdoor activities, they have plenty of discounts and ideas to offer.
Explore and join Facebook groups as well. There are many travel nursing groups that can connect you with new, fellow and aspiring travelers. You can chat with other travel nurses and read current posts about the travel nursing industry or in-facility experiences. Other travel nurses might even be able to give you new charting system documentation tips and tricks.
EXPLORE ON FOOT
One of the first things you should do when you arrive is to get to know the layout of the city by exploring on foot. While you could drive that doesn’t usually provide a full picture. The only real way to get to know the ins and outs of the community is to walk, wandering down any street that looks interesting.
Explore the places you will frequent, such as the grocery store, gas station, or a local coffee shop. This will help you feel more comfortable.
Research the Area
Before accepting any travel nurse assignment, research the city and its surrounding areas. Your research should include housing, meals, car expenses, and travel costs. This is so you can evaluate and manage expenses. There may be another assignment that pays less money overall, but the cost of living is less expensive. Therefore, you may wind up with more money after paying for living expenses.
While many travel nursing agencies offer free housing, search for other housing options and ask about your housing stipend amount. You may be able to save extra money if your housing costs less than your housing stipend.
In addition, research activities around your new location and surrounding areas. Search for activities and sightseeing options within a two to four-hour drive from your location. You never know when you may want to take a spontaneous day trip.
MEET YOUR NEIGHBORS
Meeting your neighbors is one of the best ways to learn how the city ticks, where the fun hangouts are and other tidbits of information that only locals know about. It can be easy if you’re in an apartment complex – just say hello and see where the conversation goes from there. You might also become a regular at local establishments like a neighborhood café, bookstore, or bar. Chat with the locals, including servers, bartenders, baristas and clerks, who can help you learn more about the city. When you’re naturally curious, others are likely to be just as intrigued as to you are which can spark all sorts of conversations.
CONTINUE TO PURSUE YOUR HOBBIES AND CAREER GOALS
Whatever hobbies you have at home, continue pursuing them in your new city, whether it’s dancing, yoga, running, wine tasting, movie-going or something else. It can be a great way to meet new people who like to enjoy them too. Most cities host all sorts of classes through community centers, independent studios and the like, as well as various clubs and groups focused on certain hobbies. You can use the Meetup app to discover more options in the area too.
In addition to your interests and hobbies, don’t let a travel nurse career stop you from pursuing your career goals. Whether you’re pursuing your bachelor’s degree or master’s in nursing degree, you will still have the same amount of time off as your prior staff nurse job. You will just need to plan and time manage accordingly.
By working with a variety of patient populations, travel nurses also learn new and invaluable skills. This includes nursing, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills, as each healthcare facility and its patients offer unique challenges.
You also will broaden your professional network by interacting with new healthcare team members on each assignment. Build relationships with your new coworkers. You never know when you may need them as a professional reference or maybe they know of a unique job opportunity that interests you.
H2: Aim to Experience the Local Culture
While on your assignment, aim to experience the local culture. Not every part of the country has the same culture and many regions have different populations. It’s worth it to experience a variety of local cultures. It might help you with your travel nurse career, by helping you understand different patient care populations and their beliefs.
There are several ways to explore local culture besides dining at locally owned restaurants. First, search for cultural tours that teach the history of the area and cultural beliefs. Another way is to take local transportation, like a subway or bus. It will immerse you in the local culture and help you learn the geography of your new city.
Shop at local souvenir shops and markets. Most of the time, these are run by local vendors and business owners. You may also get to try and purchase foods that are only native to that region, such as Florida oranges or local honey.
Also, research and plan to attend local events and festivals. Festivals are usually based on local history, rituals, or agricultural cycles. Thus, it’s a great way to experience the local culture. You may meet a new friend!
Make a Plan
After you’ve researched the area, activities, culture, and many more needs and interests, make a plan. First, plan your budget. Total your expected living expenses, including travel reimbursement, housing, and meal stipends, etc. After you have totaled your living expenses, account for activities, tours, or events that you would like to attend. See if these activities are feasible to stay within your desired amount. If activities are more important to you, then cut back on your housing expenses, if possible. Also, include the amount of money you would like to allocate to savings.
After you’ve finalized your budget, it’s time to start executing your plan. Start reserving your housing, car rentals, and travel expenses. Book these as far in advance as possible. Typically, you will get cheaper rates and have less likelihood of encountering unavailability the further in advance you book. If you decide to stay in a hotel or have to fly to your new city, choose the fully refundable option. This way if there’s a sudden change in plans or your start date gets pushed back, you can easily cancel or rebook without losing your money.
While you may not have your schedule yet, you can still make a list of what you would like to accomplish while on your assignment. Prioritize your list from must-do activities down to maybe or don’t need to complete. This will help you decide which activities are more important to you. After you get your schedule, start planning your off days.