Ever since I made the decision to go to nursing school, it was my dream to become a travel nurse. While I was drowning in the assignments and sorting through the endless notes and tireless to-do schedules, the idea of getting paid to travel while taking care of people motivated me to never give up and always do my best.
Nursing was My Destiny
I had a background in caregiving. My grandmother with Alzheimer’s lived with us for many years and I was a nurse’s assistant for a couple of years before I went to nursing school. One of the ideas that always felt daunting to me was that in order to travel you had to have two years experience under your belt first. Boy, that sounded like a long time to reach my dreams back then. Fast-forward to post-nursing school graduation, I had a comfortable staff position at a local community hospital. In fact, the job and the pay were so comfortable that I ended up putting off my plans to become a travel nurse for a little longer. After four years in this position, I let it go to pursue my dream of being a travel nurse.
Getting My Feet Wet
When I ventured out into the world to look for travel nursing jobs, the first thing I came across was local agency per diem nursing jobs. A friend of mine referred me to the company and to my surprise, the pay rate was $10 an hour more than I was getting at my staff job. Agency work was a dream come true for me. Through the local nurse staffing company, I was able to land several shifts in different hospitals working per diem, and I was also able to get 13-week contracts at local hospitals.
I was earning pay similar to a travel nurse, but I still had not traveled. After about a year and a half of solid agency work, I began looking for travel nursing assignments.
Searching for My First Travel Nursing Assignment
Location is Everything
Travel nursing was going to be an adventure that included the entire family – my husband, three-year-old son, mini dachshund, and myself. One of the reasons we wanted to pursue travel nursing as a family was so we could spend some time living in our class-A RV. We decided to ditch the winter in Ohio and travel to Florida for a seasonal nursing contract from December through February. This worked well for my family because my husband ran a tree service that was seasonal and the winter was the slow months anyway.
Florida was a given for us for many reasons:
- I have an aunt that works at Disney World and we went once a year for free Disney anyway.
- Florida has a lot of travel nursing assignments available every winter to accommodate the influx in populations because of all the snow-birds. This gave me plenty of options to choose from.
- Because it’s a vacationer’s paradise, there are several nice RV parks in most parts of Florida that would have all the amenities we would require.
When it came to narrowing down to which city I wanted to work in, there were a lot of things I considered:
- Orlando, where my aunt lived, is a big city and I grew up in a small town. I wanted to work in a smaller town because that felt safe for me.
- I wanted to work close to the beach (preferably on the Gulf side).
- At this point in my career, the majority of my nursing experience was only in local community hospitals. I was nervous about taking a contract in a large metropolitan hospital. So I searched for contracts in smaller hospitals.
Getting Things in Order
I had been searching online for various travel nursing assignments for months. When I was about three months away from my preferred start day, I started calling around and talking with the agencies. One thing I realized right away is that I need to get started on the Florida licensure ASAP because it could take four to six weeks to process. Once I had that in order, I also went through all of my credentialing and certificates (ALS, BLS, PALS) to make sure that was all up-to-date and that I had current vaccination records.
Choosing a Travel Nursing Agency
Many hours were spent comparing the websites of different travel nursing companies before I made my decision. Ultimately, the one who got my attention the most was an agency that had lots of jobs listed, along with approximate pay rates.
Landing My First Travel Nursing Job
I found an assignment on the Gulf Coast at a small community hospital in a small town, Englewood, Florida. It felt meant to be. I spoke with my recruiter and found out that the hospital still had many positions available. My specialty was in Med-Surg, and there were open jobs on that particular unit. She called the hospital and I was on the phone for an interview, literally the next day. I hit it out of the park and was offered the job. I accepted the position about one month before the start date.
Wrapping Up Final Logistics Before My First Day
Everything after that happened pretty quickly. My recruiter sent me a mess of forms to fill out and complete, some by me, and others by appropriate authorities. I had to get an updated physical, a drug test, a couple more vaccines to add to the list, in addition to filling out the regular types of paperwork that go with any job, IRS forms, direct deposit forms, etc.
All of the logistics were taken care of a couple of weeks in advance of the position. This gave me plenty of time to pack, prep, and take care of the planning I needed to do at home to take off for the winter. When my first day rolled around, I was there on time and ready to hit the floor running… and I did.