Travelers Stories: What the Travel Nurse Industry is Like: A Perspective from One of the Most Experienced Travelers

June 5, 2012

The Director of Public Relations at HEALTHCAREseeker.com interviewed Cheryl Berg, one of its most experienced Travel Nurses, about what it’s like to be a Travel Nurse.  HEALTHCAREseeker.com places Registered Nurses into 13 week or longer assignments. These assignments are called Travel assignments in the industry.  1 out of every 4 hospitals in the U.S. has a contract with HEALTHCAREseeker.com.

 

What compelled you to become a Travel Nurse?

I never really got to travel much, and when my kids were young we would always go to places that would interest them.  Once they got into their twenties, I was able to go to wherever I wanted to go.  I decided to take the next step and travel to where I’ve never been and see what else there is out there.  Now I’ve been traveling for about 7 or 8 years and I love it.

 

What is the biggest factor that finalized your decision to become a Travel Nurse?

I just decided to do it.  After a couple contracts I decided I really like being a Travel Nurse.  I really like the freedom of deciding when and where I’m going to work.  If I don’t like where I decided to travel to, it’s over in 13 weeks.  It also gives me freedom in taking time off.  After my contract is up, if I decide I want to go home for a while and relax I can.

 

How many agencies did you talk to before taking the first assignment?

I talked to one other agency, and while I was out on my first assignment I met a nurse from HEALTHCAREseeker who encouraged me to switch over.

 

What steps did you take to become a successful traveler?

At hospitals, I really work hard at following that hospital’s particular policies.   While I’m there I praise the people I’m with, become part of their team and do my best to support them.  I’m there to work and that’s what I do when I’m there, but it’s important that the other nurses know they can count on me to do my job to the best of my ability.  I think I’m successful because of this and also because the other nurses can see the effort I put forward for them.

What is a Travel Nurse’s schedule like?

A Travel Nurse’s schedule is basically the same as everyone else.  It varies from hospital to hospital, depending on what their policy is.  If everyone works 10 hour shifts then you do too, your days off rotate, etc.  There have been times when I was scheduled to work night and day shifts but the hospitals helped me with the scheduling so I wasn’t working long, long hours.

 

What are the benefits to being a Travel Nurse?

One of the biggest benefits is the flexibility.  You have a 13 week contract and after working those three months, if you decide you want to take time off, you can.  Also, it’s a big difference from being a full time employee.  As a regular employee, you have to request time off and you’ll have off as long as it doesn’t conflict with anyone else’s requests.  Being a traveler, I know I can work 13 weeks and if I want to take two weeks or a month off before taking another assignment I can.

 

What kind of research do you do when you are interested in taking a Travel assignment?
I choose to do my own housing and take higher pay, so I do a lot of research to see what kind of housing is available in that area.  Some places are more expensive than others, and in some places housing is almost nonexistent.  Also, because I’m traveling to see things, I do research on what there is to see and do out there to figure out what I would like to do on my days off.

 

Is it difficult to adjust to being in a new environment with new people every few months?

No.  I’ve done it so many times that it just seems like it’s as easy as breathing.  I just go in and introduce myself.  During the few days of orientation, you get a feel for how they do things and that’s exactly the way you do it.  It’s not that hard.  I just go in and do the job I already know how to do.  It’s relatively easy, just new names and new faces.

 

What is the most challenging aspect of being a Travel Nurse?

The most challenging aspect is giving up on nesting.  There are times like Christmas when I wish I was home to decorate, or during the summer I wish I could plant flowers.  It was hard to let go of the desire to settle down and to let go of the flower beds and stuff like that.  When you travel, you don’t travel with a lot.  You only have what you need like enough clothes for a week.  If you don’t get a chance to go home while you’re traveling you’ll have 2 bags of clothes- one for summer and one for winter.  Also, I need to be tough on myself so I don’t buy something I really don’t need because I don’t have anywhere to pack it.  You have to keep things simple.  The less you have the better.

 

What advice would you give a New Travel Nurse?

First, I always tell people to go to HEALTHCAREseeker.  It’s the safest company to be with as far as sending people into a new area.  They have done research on the areas you want to go to and they know what’s available.  I have heard horror stories of people who have gone across country to work on a reservation and they’re not told what to expect.  Quite often, people get to the place where they’re going to work and it’s nothing like what the recruiter told them.  They’ll tell you anything just so you take the contract.  HEALTHCAREseeker is very truthful and they tell you anything and everything you need to know about where you’re going.  They have your best interest in mind and they don’t want anyone to take a contract if it’s not a good fit or they think they’ll be miserable for the 13 weeks.