Although some nurses may start their careers with travel nursing as a goal, few plan to do it their entire lives. The desire to live close to family and "settle down” has the typical nurse staying put. This was not the case for Jessica Fox, who has worked as a travel nurse for more than 10 years. She once enjoyed the consistency and predictability of a permanent job, but states her "gypsy soul" ultimately could not be tamed. "I just kept seeing advertisements for travel nursing and knew it was my time to explore this option," she says.
Her love for autonomy and adventure made her a great candidate for this type of nursing role. She admits that over the past decade, there have been times she questioned her decision to stay on this path, but eventually discovered helpful habits to make it work. Here, Jessica shares her advice on being a successful and happy long-term travel nurse.
Long-Term Travel Nurses Can Start Small in the Beginning
Born in Hayden, Colorado, in the mid-1970's, Jessica Fox always loved caring for people. When she decided to make a career out of helping other people, travel nursing was the furthest option from her mind. She enjoyed the security and certainty that her work brought. After becoming a single mom, she needed a bigger paycheck to make ends meet, and that's when she pursued travel nursing. "At first, I traveled locally, so I could safely test the waters and determine if this was going to be something I liked. I didn't want to uproot my son and leave my friends and family for a job I hated", she recalled. After completing several assignments close to home, she decided to branch out and travel to bigger cities further away.
Feeling assured that travel nursing was her newfound calling, Jessica took the leap and accepted an assignment in another state. "The ability to choose assignments close to home at the beginning of my travel nurse career really helped me gain the experience and knowledge I needed to feel comfortable moving from home. It was also easier for my friends and family to say goodbye, seeing how happy I was. If you’re unsure of this role, I encourage starting off small, then committing to larger assignments later – it was a game-changer for me," she explains. Nearly 11 years later, Jessica will occasionally take assignments close to home. "At least once a year, I will work closer to home. It fills my cup just enough to keep going."
Technology is Essential to the Success of a Long-Term Travel Nurse
Investing in technology is an important tool for success as a long-term travel nurse. Jessica highly encourages nurses to have updated smartphones and laptops. She states, "Having good technology is non-negotiable. You absolutely cannot be a long-term travel nurse with outdated equipment, period!" Video chatting with loved ones is crucial to stay connected to your family and friends. Without those connections, you can feel isolated and alone. "I have PJ parties and movie nights with my son each weekend I'm away from home, and it's so much fun," Jessica shares with a wide smile.
Jessica explains that, “being able to effortlessly read and sign your work contract, provide documents via email, and communicate effectively with your recruiter makes travel life much easier.” Since many hospitals require communication software to be downloaded to your personal device for HIPAA compliance and encrypted communication, having updated equipment is key. There are also a variety of apps for medical references, which is useful when you are traveling from place to place. "I never considered myself to be tech-savvy, but after 10 years of being a travel nurse, I could probably float to the IT department," Jessica laughs.
Thriving as a Long-Term Travel Nurse Means Work Hard and Play Harder
Traveling nurses, by nature, have an adventurous spirit. However, Jessica shares that sometimes “we can get into a work ‘rut’ if not careful.” She advises that it’s crucial to make time for fun activities. "I once agreed to go on a fly-fishing trip even though I knew nothing about tying flies, but it was a great time! Some of the best moments in my life have happened by stepping outside my comfort zone and doing something new," Jessica says. Taking advantage of everything your destination offers is one of the best parts of being a travel nurse. Your recruiter at HCTN will not only help you with the technicalities of your assignment but will also act as your virtual tour guide – giving you first-hand knowledge of your city's must-see attractions and activities.
As you get to know your co-workers you will begin to receive invitations for dinner parties, book clubs, and family gatherings. Jessica highly recommends you accept all the offers! "It's not just about doing all the fun things, but about the relationships you develop while doing them. I formed many friendships as a long-term travel nurse and have remained in contact with most of them. I have been part of unique holiday traditions, attended interesting churches, and eaten food I didn't know existed. It has been an amazing experience!"