Find out if travel nursing is for you
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EDITOR'S NOTE: Cathryn Domrose is a freelance writer.
Caridad Atienza, BSN, RN, has been a travel nurse with Cross Country Healthcare Inc. since 1990 — working in hospitals in Texas, California and Florida — because she loves seeing new places, making new friends and learning new things. Atienza left a good job in Canada to become a travel nurse because she wanted to play golf year-round.
“There are some people who are good travelers and some who aren’t,” said the pediatric nurse, who lives and works in Southern California. “If you’re very settled in your ways, travel nursing would not be a good fit for you.”
For Atienza, who doesn’t like staying in any one place for long, it’s a dream job. Average assignments are 13 weeks, but she is almost always asked to extend her stay, she said. Whether to stay and for how long is always her choice. Her longest job lasted 3-1/2 years.
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The pay is good, the golfing has been great, but the greatest reward of traveling is the constant process of learning.
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Do you have what it takes?

  1. Do you have the right experience? RNs need at least one year of recent acute care experience in their specialty; some specialties may require more.
  2. Are you flexible? Travel nursing requires the ability to adapt to constantly changing schedules and environments. Depending on your specialty, you may not get work in your first-choice city or hospital. Since assignments average 13 weeks, travel nurses must feel comfortable with different protocols, co-workers and supervisors, and keep an open mind.
  3. Are you a quick learner? Travel nurses usually have between three days and a week of orientation to learn protocols and layout, as well as how to get equipment and supplies at a new hospital.
  4. Is your family, including pets, willing to travel? Many travel nurses bring their families and pets with then on assignments, although you may have to pay more for larger housing and possibly a pet deposit.
  5. Can you work independently? Although good travel nursing agencies offer housing and strong support, some aspects of travel nursing — including getting licensed in different states, packing and moving, and arranging transportation — are the nurse’s responsibility, not the employer’s.
  6. Do you view challenges you encounter as part of the adventure? The most successful travel nurses have a positive and outgoing attitude. For them, the rewards of seeing new places, meeting new people and learning new things are worth any challenges.
Source: CrossCountryTravCorp.com and Caridad Atienza, BSN, RN

Flexibility is key, Atienza said. She adapts to different rules, management styles and equipment in various hospitals, and is willing to work almost any hours required. She earns the respect of the staff by making sure they know she is there to help them by taking care of patients to the best of her ability. When she shares information she’s learned at other facilities, she’s careful not to undermine the current hospital’s way of doing things.
Travel nursing requires independence. Orientations are brief. Though the company provides furnished housing, nurses must pack and move to every job. Atienza recommends choosing a reliable agency willing to support its nurses. The pay is good, the golfing has been great, but the greatest reward of traveling is the constant process of learning, she said. “I don’t like to stagnate. The more challenging something is, the better I am.”
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