Pets and Travel Nursing
Are you a registered nurse, LPN, or CNA with a beloved fur baby? Have you researched travel nurse jobs yet hesitated to take the plunge because you’re worried about how to manage a life of traveling without giving up your faithful companion? Alternatively, are you a traveling clinician wishing you had a joyous tail-wagging welcome every night but are concerned about how a pet fits into your life? Then, this article is for you!!
Here, we’ll dive into the world of how you can enjoy the benefits of an animal companion without sacrificing a travel nursing career, or vice versa.
Challenges to Having a Pet as a Travel Nurse
Let’s leap into the challenges first. Yes, there are challenges. Nevertheless, by delving into the challenges, you’ll discover that they are not insurmountable. Each challenge has a work around, or tips and tricks that will enable you to push past them.
1. Extra costs. A pet isn’t a paltry financial investment anyway, moreover, a traveling pet incurs extra costs. If your travel plans to contract locations generally involve your car, then they’ll ride shotgun for free but the Airbnb for your overnight that is pet friendly will likely have a higher rate than the cheap highway side motel (but you should always call and ask, with increased popularity of pet travel, places are advertising themselves as pet friendly so you may be pleasantly surprised).
Nevertheless, anytime you fly with your pet, you can count on spending an extra $150 or so for their ‘ticket’ to ride in the passenger cabin with you. If your pet is a large animal, you may not be allowed to have them accompany you in the plane, which means they’ll be crated and travel as cargo, which will run you even higher, to the tune of as much as $300.
The good news is, most travel nursing agencies offer a traveling stipend for contracts that allow you to use said stipend as you see fit instead of offering reimbursement. Whether or not the stipend covers the entire cost of flying your pet likely depends on the airline, flight availability, and destination (for example there are more flights to choose from in and out of Chicago than there are out of Wichita, KS) and yet if you consider that your cost is ‘free’ due to the stipend, then $150 out-of-pocket to fly to Charlotte, North Carolina seems more manageable.
2. Traveling with a pet. As we touched on above, road tripping with your pet doesn’t cost you extra but it does require further planning. You’ll need to ensure you have food and water bowls easily accessible in the car, and choose your pit stops wisely. This may mean certain restaurants are off limits while you’re on the road and if you have to overnight somewhere on the way, you’ll need to confirm that it’s a pet friendly space.
On the other hand, if you travel by plane with your pet in addition to the aforementioned cost, you’ll want to research the airports for where you can allow your pet out of their carrier so they can stretch, urinate/defecate, and eat and drink. This can cause layovers particularly stressful as you’ll need to accommodate your pet as much as your own needs.
It needs to be said that the first time you fly with your pet is always the hardest. You learn from the experience, as does your furry friend. The more often you travel together in airports and planes, the more the both of you will figure out better routines, better timelines, and learn to settle into the trip itself.
3. Documentation doesn’t end with your work shift. Talk to your veterinarian about your plans to travel with your pet. For flying purposes, you’ll need to talk to the airline to find out exactly what type of documentation and vaccination records you need to provide. In general, pets require routine vaccinations even if they never board a plane. Having a vet in your ‘tax home’ community that is familiar with you and your fur baby and able to keep records that can be sent to you digitally in case of emergency care needs in another city or town will be a feather in your cap.
4. Pet loneliness when you’re on the job. Rightfully so, some clinicians worry about their pets being home alone during the long working hours of nursing shifts. This alone shouldn’t be a deterrent to having your companion with you on assignment, but it speaks highly of your character that you care. If you agree to a contract that you know will be grueling (emergency crisis response assignments, for example), you could consider boarding your pet for the duration of the contract. Even if an intense work contract isn’t on deck for you, a 12-hour shift is still a long time for a dog to be home alone. Luckily, dog walker businesses have popped up all over the country to help people out with this exact conundrum, and they’re easy to connect to by using one of the following pet care services:
PetBacker connects you to dog walkers and pet sitters, allowing you to compare quotes from five different caregivers, operates on customer review ratings.
Wag! is similar to Uber but for dog walkers, pet sitters, and boarding options. They insure the services and also conduct background checks on all available pet caregivers.
Rover whose website reminds one of AirBNB, offers boarding options, pet visits, doggy daycare, and dog walking also from caregivers who have passed a background check.
Benefits of Having a Pet as a Travel Nurse
Now that we’ve worked through the concerns that have been roadblocks for you, we’ll bask in the benefits of having a pet as your career leads you across the country.
Life as a traveling clinician has the potential to be an incredibly rewarding, exciting, perspective-broadening experience, and yet it also ebbs and flows. Some locations you connect with people easily while at others you’ll spend increased time alone. Regardless of personality, almost all travel nurses report periods of home sickness, loneliness, and/or nostalgia. Your best animal friend will be a source of comfort and companionship in those quiet moments. If your fur baby is the type of animal that requires exercise, they’ll keep you engaged with the outdoors, even if it’s only for daily walks around the neighborhood or to the city’s parks.