Nursing was a career neither Michelle Cooper nor Chloe Callicoat thought as kids they’d devote their adult lives to. “I didn’t have the stomach for it,” Michelle says. Chloe’s mother had tried talking her into becoming a nurse “from the time I was — gosh, I can’t remember,” she laughs. “I never thought it was going to suit me as well as it does.”
Now both nurses are veterans. Michelle’s been a nurse for almost 16 years, Chloe 13 years, with most of their time spent in home health. Both women became home health travel nurses about a year ago, and each are enjoying the freedom the travel nursing lifestyle affords.
A growing need for travel nurses
With an aging population and so many patients relying on Medicare, the need for travel home health nurses continues to grow.
“It seems like every year Medicare changes their rules, regulations, there’s more paperwork, there’s more demand,” Michelle says, “and I’ve seen several nurses — not traveling nurses, but nurses that are full-time — and they’re like, ‘I can’t do this.’ We’re right along with the rest of them. It’s just some people can take it, and some people can’t.” As result, great travel nurses are highly sought after.
Freedom to just go
Chloe had two goals in mind when she switched to travel nursing: to see the country and to give her daughter a much-needed break. “I figured what better way to see the country than to get paid to do it,” she says, adding, “My daughter was suffering from depression, so we talked about it. ‘How would you feel about traveling around the country while I work, and you doing the homeschool thing?’ She was like, ‘Yeah, let’s try that.’” The change has been great for both of them. “We’ve been clear across the country, and she hasn’t had to have any antidepressants,” Chloe says. “She’s doing so much better.”
Michelle took up travel in part so she and her husband could get away from Florida’s heat. “I wanted to go up north to get out of the heat and just to see a whole different state.” They got as far as Georgia and fell in love with it. She’s now based there. In between assignments, she’s able to easily visit her family in Florida, and she maintains regular contact the rest of the time. “I talk to them almost every day,” she says.
Adjusting to a different care model
Working home health travel nursing took some adjusting to, mainly due to the temporary nature of the care. “One of my pet peeves,” says Michelle, “is I’ve gone out and seen a patient that I’ve never seen before, and that’s okay. But when you have to ask the patient questions, and they’re like, ‘I’ve told five nurses this,’ I totally understand. They’d rather have continuity of care and, for me as a travel nurse, I would rather provide continuity of care.”
Chloe agrees. “You’re not seeing them from the very beginning to the very end, it’s just whenever you get there. That makes it a little tough.”
Nonetheless, the silver lining is their immense impact on patients. When Michelle took a day off for a doctor’s appointment, she was surprised at how much she was missed. “My LPN checked with me and said, ‘I hope you’re feeling better because all your patients are asking where you’re at.’ That makes you feel good.”
A rewarding lifestyle
Michelle is grateful for how travel nursing has enriched her life. She enjoys having the opportunity to work with different clinicians and supervisors, and see how they do things differently in different parts of the country. “The money is good too,” she adds.
Chloe agrees: “I’ve doubled my income. It’s a huge difference. Huge. I would have never been able to afford to get my daughter horse-riding lessons. I still have my mortgage and all of that, but I would have never been able to afford to do what I can with her now. We’ve done so much together. We got to visit the Grand Canyon. I’d never had that opportunity if I hadn’t started traveling.”
Travel nursing gives you an opportunity to experience a new place in a much more intimate way than you would as a tourist. “When you’re traveling, and you’re just taking the interstate, you don’t get to see a whole lot,” Chloe says. “But when you’re out trying to find people’s houses in the middle of nowhere, you get to see so much more of the countryside. That’s my favorite part, just finding those little out of the way areas that take your breath away, and you can just be like, ‘Wow, this is worth it.’”
More time for self and family
Home health travel nursing has given both nurses a better work/life balance and more freedom to do what they want. “Traveling has really engrained in me that five o’clock is cutoff time,” Chloe says. “All the companies I’ve worked for have been really great about that. I’ll be like, ‘I’ll do whatever I can for my patients, but at five o’clock, I’m done.’ They’ve been great about saying, “That’s cool. We’re totally onboard with that’.”
Michelle too likes the freedom. “It’s nice because we get to see our six patients, and we don’t have to go over that number of patients unless we want to.” She also gets to decide which assignments to take and chooses only those requiring no weekends.
What advice do they offer would-be travel home health nurses?
Michelle’s is simple, “Make sure you’re seasoned in home health.”
Chloe adds, “You just have to be very open-minded and very flexible. When I’ve worked for a company for three months, the first thing they say to me is, ‘Thank you for being so flexible,’ because I’m here to fill a need. I’m not here to demand things. That’s my take on things.”