Although no one is keeping official count, industry experts estimate that there are at least 20,000 U.S.-based traveling nurses working in this country and internationally. It’s a career choice that provides a number of benefits, including –
- the adventure of travel;
- the enjoyment of tackling new work challenges, meeting new colleagues, and learning new things;
- the ability to structure work engagements around lifestyle choices; and
- the opportunity to earn more money while working fewer hours.
Equally important, according to two traveling nurses interviewed by Health Education Solutions, is the ability to focus on the work you love, helping patients, without having to deal with the office politics that seem to accompany any organization’s workplace, including hospitals.
Might becoming a traveling nurse be a good career option for you?
Freedom, flexibility and finances
These were the three significant factors cited by two traveling nurses when asked by HES what they liked best about being a traveling nurse. Stephanie Doud, currently a nurse manager with a Denver-based health organization, noted that her impetus for becoming a traveling nurse was that “I was living in West Virginia and wanted to come back west. And at that time in my life I found that I was moving a lot, and it was clearly a good way to both be mobile and make good money.” Citing her youthful wanderlust, Ms. Doud confirmed that “it was a great way to go places I wanted to go and still be able to support myself.”
Keitha VanBlaricum started her path as a traveling nurse at the opposite end of her career, after she had put in 30 years as a traditional, facilities-based nurse. Her original motivation was that the area where she lived was economically depressed, and salaries for nurses were similarly depressed. She found herself working for lower and lower wages, but at the same time realized that her “kids were grown and married with their own children,” and she had the freedom to consider other nursing options.
Ms.VanBlaricum wisely researched the field of traveling nursing, carefully checking out the numerous companies that place nurses who are looking for such positions. Based on her research, she has now had an enjoyable and financially rewarding five years as a traveling nurse, and offers this advice to those considering such a career transition:
Don’t settle with just one placement company. Look at several and see what each has to offer. I worked with a single company for several years and got very little support. This experience opened my eyes more to the field of traveling nursing, and the opportunities this industry has to offer.
Many placement companies really want qualified nurses to come work for them. They are competitive, so you can often get better benefits by looking around and signing up with perhaps three or four different companies to start. . That way you’ve always got someone working on your behalf, and you can see which company does the best job for you.
Bottom line: you don’t want a company that you feel like you’re working for; they’ve got to be working for you, too.
Ms. VanBlaricum echoed the comments of Ms. Doud and other traveling nurses that one of the great joys of her career choice was that she “gets to take care of my patients without having to worry about the office politics.”
Certification increases assignment options, compensation
One of the issues that a number of traveling nurses mentioned was how to continue to expand your professional skill set when you’re moving around so much. Many found that the more specialized expertise they could offer, the better assignment opportunities they had (and the higher those assignments paid). For example, Ms. Doud noted that getting her advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) certification enables her to be considered for ER work. For many traveling nurses the convenience and ease of online certification and re-certification is the way to go.
While the basic life support (BLS) certification is considered a fundamental requirement, consider expanding your skill set to include some of the more specialized areas, such as the advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) certification or the pediatric advanced life support (PALS) certification. Because the cognitive portion of these certifications is available online, you’ll be able to complete them no matter where your next assignment takes you, whether it’s San Francisco or San Juan! Health Education Solutions offers ACLS certification and recertification, PALS certification and recertification, and Basic Life Support courses online.