When you’re in the last few months of nursing school, the next steps feel daunting. Every job seems to require two years of experience, the big hospitals are really competitive, and other options are paying so little that paying off student loans feels impossible. Although you’ll still need about two years of on-the-job experience to begin working as a travel nurse, it’s a solution that can quickly accelerate your career. It pays better than most permanent jobs, gives you the opportunity to travel, and offers a wealth of experience that will bulk up resumes in no time. We talked to Allison Bouck and Matt Pietraszewski, two early career nurses, about what they love about travel nursing.
Higher pay, especially for nurses early in their career
New nurses often have to settle for low pay in order to get the job they want. With travel nursing, this isn’t the case, because the places who need travel nurses will pay higher wages to fill that gap. Matt, who is a ER nurse, saw the wages for entry-level traditional nurses and panicked, thinking he’d never be able to pay off student loans or buy a house. But, travel nursing pays him enough to make these goals feasible.
Allison is also focused on saving, and she said the pay for travel nursing is “way better.” She’s saving up to go back to school to become a CRNA.
“I’ve been successfully saving a whole bunch of money so I can go to CRNA school and be without an income for two years while I’m in school, which is daunting,” says Allison. “But I’m glad that I can travel nurse and do what I love and also get paid and save some money for things I want to do in the future.”
Accelerated career development
Travel nursing is a great way to get lots of experience in a variety of settings. Each hospital has a different way of doing things, and travel nurses get to pick and choose the best practice strategies, which they can then carry with them to additional assignments.
“I think I’m a little bit more well-rounded of a nurse than someone that just learned one way of doing something and sticks to it,” says Matt. He’s not interested in a managerial position right now, but people already ask him advice for how to run things, and he feels that his experiences travel nursing could one day set him up to formally lead other nurses.
A chance to travel and see the country
A lot of people want to travel after school, but travel nurses have the unique opportunity of getting paid while doing so. Matt wanted to travel because he had spent most of his life in Maine, and he didn’t want to have the regrets that can come from always staying in one place. He also recognizes that traveling is much harder once you have kids and a family.
“The best thing to do is to explore now while I’m still young and I can enjoy it,” says Matt. So far, he has gone to New Mexico and Virginia for assignments, and he wants to eventually travel in the West so he can see lots of national parks.
Allison, meanwhile, loves the fun of traveling for recreation as well as the challenge of traveling for work.
“I just wanted to do more exploring. I like the challenge of being able to go to a new unit and really test my skills, test my ability to just be thrown into an environment with little orientation and just take the best possible care of these patients that I can,” she says.
Opportunity to work in many different and diverse practice settings
One of the benefits of traveling early in your career is that you get to see an incredible variety of patients, more so than most early career nurses. Matt explained that while Maine had a lot of psychological issues, New Mexico had drug issues, and Virginia had more seniors who had age-related issues.
These are all completely different medical issues that bring new types of patients. When nurses learn to work with these conditions and patients, they’re much better prepared for any job.