Why Nurses Choose to Travel: RNs Discuss the Advantages


By Susan Schneider, contributor

Nurses across the country are discovering the extraordinary advantages that travel nursing offers. They are enthusiastically embracing this unique career path which provides a chance to explore new regions of the United States, experience diverse practice environments and form new and lasting friendships—all while enjoying competitive pay, great benefits and free housing.

Travel nurses can choose assignments in any of the 50 states. Nurses can base their assignment selections on professional opportunities, financial incentives, climate preferences, hobbies, proximity to family or friends, sightseeing interests or the desire to try a destination before making a permanent move.

As thousands of nurses are discovering, there are many reasons to choose travel nursing as a career option.

Endless Opportunities and Adventures

Travel nurses can decide what kind of lifestyle they want to experience and change their criteria assignment to assignment. Maybe a bustling city like New York, San Francisco, Chicago or Los Angeles sounds exciting. Or, perhaps the charms of a small town in the rural south or Midwestern farm country has appeal.

Some travel nurses base their assignment choices on the weather, living the life of a ‘snowbird’ and enjoying a year-round mild climate. Other traveling RNs select their assignments based on hobbies such as hiking, scuba diving, surfing or the exploration of historical sites. Justin Howe, RN, who travels with nurse staffing agency American Mobile Healthcare, decided to combine his love of nursing with his love of the outdoors when he chose to leave his hometown of Hershey, Pennsylvania, to work as a travel nurse in California.

“I love being outdoors, so the consistently nice weather in San Diego is perfect for me,” he said. “I love the ocean and I’ve even picked up surfing; it’s a great place to try new things.”

The chance to explore possible places to put down roots or eventually retire is something many people spend considerable money and vacation time on. For travelers, it’s part of their daily adventure.

After living and working in Midland, Texas, her whole life, ICU registered nurse, Margo Kerby, decided to trade the wide open spaces of the Lone Star state for the tropical beaches of Hawaii by signing up with American Mobile Healthcare.

“I ended up in tears when I realized how lucky I was to be there and to have the opportunity to experience the kind of life I was living,” she said. “So many people live their whole lives to be able to take a vacation to a place like that, and there I was living and working in paradise.”

Professional Experiences and Growth Opportunities

Travel nurses can choose from a smorgasbord of practice environments ranging from large-scale teaching facilities and renowned research centers to small hospitals and clinics in rural facilities and everything in-between. They have the opportunity to work with different patient populations and cases, and to be exposed to new technology and cutting-edge procedures.

Coquet Williams, RN, an ED nurse with travel nurse staffing company NursesRx, grew up in the rural Midwest and chose travel nursing to gain exposure to different locations and clinical environments.

Her first assignment was at Eisenhower Medical Center in the desert city of Rancho Mirage, a sophisticated facility in an affluent Southern California community.

“It was a wonderful facility that gave me the opportunity to work with a patient population that I never would have experienced otherwise.” Williams said.

Williams chose her next assignment at a small 26-bed hospital on a Native American reservation on the Utah/Arizona border.

“I was given more autonomy than I’d ever experienced,” she said. “I found the challenges and diversity of cases to be very stimulating. It was so different than anything I’d done before.” Kimberly Bland, an ICU registered nurse from Charlotte, North Carolina, has been traveling with NursesRx since 2002.

“As a travel nurse, the things you experience can vary greatly from one region of the country to another,” she noted. “This includes diseases and special cases, and the way different units operate. Traveling allows you to gain a vast amount of knowledge—more than anything you can be taught in school. This makes you more marketable, both as a traveler and when you want to take a permanent job.”

Because they are not on staff, travel nurses don’t become embroiled in politics or management issues. If a practice environment isn’t an ideal fit, a new assignment is just a few weeks away. And while a staff nurse’s résumé might suffer from frequent job changes, a traveler’s résumé reflects impressive flexibility, adaptability and breadth of experience.

Unparalleled Freedom and Flexibility

A big benefit of travel nursing is that nurses manage their own careers. Their career paths don’t unfold according to the needs of an employer, but rather according to their own professional goals or personal agendas.

Travel nurses enjoy a freedom that usually isn’t possible with a staff position. They can take time off between assignments to enjoy a vacation, return home or visit family and friends.

Daryl Cronin, RN, had been working as an ED travel nurse with Preferred Healthcare Staffing.

After finishing a travel assignment in Phoenix, Arizona, he took two months off to vacation in Europe, where he visited his family in Ireland, before returning to take his next assignment in Washington, D.C.

American Mobile Healthcare travel nurse, Alison Kemerer, RN, leaves enough time between her assignments to explore places that interest her. On her way from an assignment in Tucson, Arizona, to Eugene, Oregon, she stopped to take in the sights of the Grand Canyon. On another cross-country trip, she visited Mount Rushmore, the Badlands and Yellowstone National Park.

Kemerer also plans vacations between her assignments and recently returned from Hawaii, where she visited a friend.

“I wouldn’t be able to enjoy that type of vacation if I had a steady job in one hospital,” she said.

Leslie Palstring, RN, appreciates how traveling keeps her in control of her personal life.

“I had taken an assignment in Colorado and really liked it,” she explained. “But some family issues came up and I needed to go back to California. I then chose assignments in Orange County and Los Angeles to be near home.”

When her family situation was settled, Palstring happily hit the road again.

There are many reasons that nurses choose to take their careers on the road. Whether it’s for the adventure, the résumé-building opportunities, the freedom from routine or the chance to see the world, travel nursing can take you places—while providing steady income and excellent benefits, and enriching your life on both a personal and professional level.

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