Making Travel Nursing a Family Affair


Three RNs share how they do travel nursing with kids

By Megan Murdock Krischke, contributor

Some nurses decide to work as travel nurses early in their careers, before they are tied down by the responsibilities of family and home ownership. Others wait until they are empty nesters and nearing retirement. But a number are choosing to make it a family affair--enriching the lives of their spouses and children by bringing them along on assignments.

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Mark Barnett, RN, BSN, started traveling with NurseChoice, an AMN Healthcare company, about two years ago. His wife, along with his three children--aged 5, 7 and 14--have joined him on his assignments for the past 18 months. “We were already homeschooling our kids, so we didn’t have to worry about what we would do for education,” Barnett began. “We were more concerned about how we would manage to bring all the things we would need and enough toys to keep the kids entertained.”

The Barnetts solved this problem by selling their two smaller cars and buying a large SUV.  They also strap large river bags to the top of their car for additional waterproof storage while traveling between assignments. Each child is allowed one bag for toys, which they trade out during visits back home in Midland, Texas.

“We use traveling as a way to enrich our children’s lives and education. While traveling between assignments we were able to visit Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home, as well as the house from the Wizard of Oz. The 14-year-old helps map our routes as part of her geography lessons. And when I had an assignment in D.C., we would go to the Smithsonian museums on my days off,” he explained. 

“In California,” he continued, “we lived less than a mile from Redondo Beach. The kids took boogie board lessons and my son learned to surf. Here, in Minneapolis, there is a large Ethiopian population, so we have sought out an authentic restaurant to experience their cuisine, and went to see the ice castles at Mall of America.” 

One of the challenges of traveling with a family is that sometimes space is at a premium. This family of five often lives in a two-bedroom apartment.

“It has been key to ensure that each child has a space, however small, that is theirs,” Barnett commented. 

He cites teamwork as another essential ingredient for making travel nursing with kids work.

“My wife is running the home and schooling the kids all day while I’m at work. So when I get home, I try to jump in and give her a hand,” he said.

Amber Holloway, RN, BSN, a traveler with American Mobile Healthcare, an AMN Healthcare company, agreed, “You’ve got to have a strong relationship with your spouse because you are each other’s only support system when you are on assignment. We have an excellent partnership and can sense when our spouse needs a break.”

Holloway and her husband decided to start traveling with their two children, aged 3 and 5, when her husband’s mechanic job was lost to the poor economy.

While traveling between assignments with small children can be challenging--Holloway mentioned it took 42 hours of driving to get from an assignment in California to their home in Mississippi--it also has its rewards.

“When we arrived at the Grand Canyon it was raining pretty hard. My husband stayed in the car with my son, while I grabbed my daughter and ran to look into the canyon. When we got up to the rim, there was a huge rainbow. My daughter said, ‘Oh, wow!’ I’ll never forget the look on her face. She frequently asks if we can go back to the Grand Canyon,” she remarked.

Holloway also noted that her recruiter has been very helpful in making sure that their housing always provides the furniture that their young children need. 

Racheal Galloway, RN, BSN, MSN, is currently on her second assignment with American Mobile, accompanied by her daughter who is a senior in high school.

“Probably my biggest concern when my daughter said she wanted to travel with me was how she would do adjusting,” reflected Galloway. “But she has done great. In the long run I feel like she will be better prepared for college because she already knows that she can come into a new situation and make friends.”

Galloway’s daughter attended public school during her first assignment and is now completing her high school diploma through on online public school that is offered by many states.

“My recruiter has been such a huge support. It isn’t just a business relationship; she helps us find the resources we need and even asks how my daughter is doing,” stated Galloway. “Any challenges we have faced just haven’t felt like challenges because she is always there to support us.”

“So often we run into people who say, ‘We wish we could do what you are doing,’ but they always have some reason why they can’t,” said Barnett. “If you want to travel, quit making excuses and find a way to do it.”

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