If you enjoy visiting new places, meeting people and taking on a stream of unfamiliar challenges, you may like the life of a travel nurse. Prepare to spend a few weeks to a month or more at a facility, only to be moved again to another post. You won’t get bored, but you have to like change -- and its associated complications and rewards.
The life of a travel nurse involves moving away from family and friends in your hometown. While you may be able to take young children with you as you move from job to job, once your kids are in school, your options become severely limited. Working relationships can be difficult as well, because you’re always the new girl on the ward. Just when you find your stride, and you and your peers are comfortable with each other – it’s time for you to move and make new friends. It helps if you’re gregarious.
Every state has different rules that you have to learn and follow. The life of a travel nurse is one fraught with learning new regulations at every turn. For example, some states require that nurses working in intensive care only cover two patients at a time, while other states may allow as many as eight. While privacy laws may be universal in the United States, internal rules at hospitals, where travel nurses usually work, are not. You need to learn the chain of command, the rules for dispensing medication and the overtime rules at every facility where you’re assigned. The agency you work for can ensure you’re updated when you move, but much of your education occurs on site.
One of the perks of being a travel nurse is that your living arrangements are prepaid, so you don’t have to worry about rent or a mortgage if you don’t keep a home base. At the same time, you’ve got to be accustomed to living in a range of environments. You might get a nicely furnished apartment near the beach in one location and a stuffy hotel room in a rough neighborhood in another place. You don’t get to decorate your living space and have to make arrangements to ship or carry your must-have accoutrements with every move.
In addition to the sightseeing you can do as you travel from coast to coast, you also get to experience a vast number of different hospital environments. Traveling nurses often cover vacations and maternity leaves for staff nurses, which gives you a chance to work in a variety of different settings. Once you learn your way around the hallways of your assignment, you’ll find an array of nursing teams, support staff and doctors with whom you must work every day. The conditions can range from electrifyingly busy to staid and quiet. If you have a specialty, you’ll get to see how different hospitals work with the kinds of patients you treat. Generalists might land anywhere from an urban emergency room to a country-club assisted living home.
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