Why do nurses choose the travel nurse lifestyle? There are as many reasons as there are nurses. Some love to travel and see new places. Others want to expand their nursing skills by practicing in different environments. And some just want more flexibility and control over their lives. We talked with seven travel nurses to learn why they turned to travel nursing and how it’s helping them achieve their personal and professional goals.
Exploring the country
“I’ve always loved to travel and see new places,” long-term care nurse Brittany Wall says. “I recently decided to get back into traveling to figure out where I would like to settle down eventually and buy some property. Traveling allows me the opportunity to have the experience of living in new places and working at different places to figure out where I would like to eventually stay.”
Wall also appreciates the fact that travel nursing will allow her to realize a dream of hers: “I eventually hope to take some time off and travel/volunteer overseas for Doctors Without Borders — which is the reason why I became a nurse in the first place — now that I feel I’ve gained a wide variety of experiences to be the best nurse I can be.”
ER nurse Matt Pietraszewski also loves the fact that travel nursing allows him to do what he loves, all while seeing the country.
“I grew up in Maine, I spent the last 21 years in Maine and I was kind of culturally naïve, I guess. I didn’t know anything outside of Maine other than a few conferences that I went to,” he says. “I didn’t want to regret not exploring other places. Travel nursing is a great way to kind of explore what’s out there and expand my cultural diversity.”
He feels it’s important to do this while he’s still young. “I don’t want to have any regrets so it’s best to explore now while I’m still young and I can enjoy it. I think it’s a good way to check out what’s out there, figure out where your home really is so that you don’t regret anything later in life.”
Follow your heart
Luke Frey, a cardiothoracic step-down nurse, knew from the get-go that he’d rather be a travel nurse than work a permanent position. “Before I became a nurse, I was already looking into being a travel nurse. I like traveling and doing things, so that fit my lifestyle perfectly. Obviously, I had to get experience, and it turned out the kick I needed was that my fiancée lives in Nashville — and it worked out that traveling is the best way to go.”
Frey is a Pennsylvania native and his fiancée is from Nashville, so they’d been having a long-distance relationship for a year when a recruiter from RNnetwork contacted him about taking some travel nursing assignments. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
While he and Blair are preparing for their Nashville wedding he’s been taking assignments locally, but once they’re married they plan on taking advantage of the freedom travel nursing has to offer.
“We eventually want to go out West like California or the Northwest and just travel around for a couple of years,” he says. “Then we’d like to settle down somewhere and go from there. That’s the plan with travel nursing — just having new adventures, experiencing the country, and seeing what it has to offer.”
Labor and delivery nurse Veronica Asimolowo found travel nursing worked perfectly for her and her family, since her husband is in the army and they have had to move frequently.
“It was hard to get a full-time position since I didn’t know how long we would be in Indiana, so my husband recommended I look at a website for travel nurses,” she says. “After that I just applied, and it was easy to find a job as a travel nurse. That’s how I became a traveling nurse.”
Opportunities for learning and growth
MedSurge nurse Karen Ganci appreciates the fact that travel nursing allows her to experience things she’d never be exposed to had she not become a travel nurse.
“I just think seeing other places and being in a hospital and learning from others is just wonderful,” she says. “I love meeting new people. I told myself that I’m just going to do travel nursing for two years, but I’m still going strong. I’m learning from others. I’m meeting new people. I just appreciate that every day is a new experience. I just think that’s why I love it.”
Brittany Wall echoes that sentiment: “You’re able to see and experience how different the world of nursing is and learn new approaches and broaden your perspective. It’s also interesting to work with different populations.”
Critical care nurse Sarah Russell has transitioned to working in a permanent position, but she says her time spent travel nursing was invaluable to her career.
“When I was traveling I feel like I learned so much because like I said, I traveled to a lot of academic hospitals and I have contacts all over the country now, whether it’s doctors or nurses or managers,” she says. “And working in the different practices — every area does something a little bit differently even if what they’re doing has the same end goal, they all have different practices and processes, which I think is really neat.”
Bridging the cultural divide
Casablanca native and OR nurse Hind Elghazzali has found her approach and rapport with her patients differs a bit from her U.S.-born colleagues:
“I deliver care with no fear. If I see something wrong, you better believe that I’m going to tell you you’re crossing all the lines and you’re not following policy and you need to stop. Being a travel nurse, it shields you from that fear. I’m fearless as a travel nurse.
“I come from a different culture and Morocco is so close to Europe,” she says. “My population is very diverse, especially working in an inner-city hospital that serves a population of Albanians, Polish, Bulgarians, from all different walks of life and also ethnicities. The fact that, for example, my patients see me as a ‘foreigner’ — sometimes they feel relaxed and they’re more trusting. I approach people with my guard down; I bring myself to their level.”
Asimolowo feels she’s able to uniquely care for her patients, as the approach to patients and healthcare in general in El Salvador differs from that in the U.S.
“It definitely depends on the cultural background of my patient,” she says, “but I will apply my cultural competency to the patient or sometimes just the way I care for people. In my country we are also very caring, and our goal is to help the patient feel like we are friends and they can trust me because labor and delivery is very personal, you know?”
A way to learn and grow
“Travel nursing really helped me grow,” Russell says. “I grew up in a pretty small town, very, very close to my family, and taking off and traveling by myself, on my own, without a friend to live with, it personally really helped me grow with my independence. My mom always raised us to be fairly independent and traveling by myself was terrifying, but it was also just this fantastic experience that helped me grow not only as a nurse but as a person. It’s something that I highly recommend to anyone. I think doing it my 20s was the perfect time to do it because I do think it helped me grow so much as a person and made me become a much stronger adult.”
Asimolowo feels it’s a great all-around learning experience, and also provides her with a certain level of job security.
“I would recommend being a traveler nurse for those people who are more open and willing to learn new things and want to know different places. If you want to have a break, have a break. If you want to continue working, you do. The good thing is I don’t have any problems finding my next assignment.”
“Don’t be afraid, just to go with it,” Ganci says. “I love what I do.”