By Claire Brocato, feature writer
Although the travel nursing industry has been flourishing for the past 20 years, the concept of mobile health care is still filled with plenty of interesting—and sometimes misleading—information, some of which may have prevented you from taking your skills on the road. Read on to uncover the truths about travel nursing and why many popular myths deserve to be put to rest forever.
Myth: You have to travel to a different assignment every three months
A typical travel assignment is 13 weeks in length; that’s a fact. However, many travelers have the option to extend their assignment, giving them the opportunity to stay in the same location for months—and in some cases, years—at a time.
Kimberly Bland, RN, has traveled with temporary health care agency, NursesRx for the past three years and has extended her stay while on assignment at hospitals in New York, Atlanta, Chicago and Houston.
“Three months go by so quickly,” she said. “Staying longer really allows you to make the most of where you are, but you still have the flexibility to move on when you are ready for a change of scenery. In my experience, if you show your worth and have a positive attitude, you don’t even have to ask to extend your assignment; it will happen.”
It’s hard to believe that Tracy Reynolds, RN, is indeed a travel nurse. She has been on assignment with nurse staffing agency, Medical Express, at The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia for the past four years.
“I have found my calling here, working on an oncology-gynecology unit,” explained Reynolds. “I love the unit, the people I work with and the patient population. Also, the opportunities for growth and learning constantly inspire me. I’m thrilled that they keep renewing my assignments.”
Although Reynolds’ nurse managers constantly try to entice her with offers of permanent employment, she hasn’t been swayed.
Myth: I’m too old to travel
Travel nursing knows no age limits. In fact, according to tenured nurses, traveling later in life has many advantages.
Kim Broy, a speech language pathologist who travels with health care staffing agency TheraTech Staffing, decided to embark on a travel career after working as a permanent staffer for 23 years.
“I’m approaching 50 now and I feel that my age gives me more confidence to be a traveler. I’m confident in my therapeutic skills, in my ability to adapt to a new facility and to take on a full caseload without much orientation,” she said. “Also, I’m confident that I’m appreciated everywhere I go, by my coworkers and my patients.”
Rosemary Primeaux, RN, from Beaumont, Texas, decided to embark on her travel career at the age of 52.
“The day my daughter packed her car for college, I packed my car for travel nursing,” she said. “We drove from Texas to Massachusetts together, each in our own cars. What an adventure!”
Now on her fourth travel assignment, Primeaux, who is currently based in Columbus, Ohio, says she has met many travelers who are in their 50s and 60s.
“Travel nursing is very popular among woman whose children are grown and off their hands,” she said. “Some travel alone, others travel with their spouses or meet up with them on weekends.”
Myth: Travel nurses are not treated well by permanent staff
While it stands to reason that some permanent staffers may be envious of the perks that travel nurses enjoy—free housing, bonuses, job flexibility—in the vast majority of cases, travelers are welcomed with enthusiasm and gratitude.
Karma Patton, RN, who travels with health care staffing agency American Mobile Healthcare, says that she has been welcomed with open arms at all of her assignments.
“Most nurses are extremely pleased to see you because they are so short-staffed,” she explained. “To have an experienced RN added to their unit is a big relief for them.”
Ayanna Richardson, RN, has enjoyed similar experiences while on assignment with leading travel nurse company, American Mobile Healthcare.
“I have worked at three different facilities this year and have been made to feel extremely welcome at each of them,” she said. “Some of the permanent staffers even thanked me for coming to their unit. The bottom line is that by having me there, the staff nurses get a break from working overtime and are able to ‘lighten their loads,’ which they really appreciate.”
NursesRx travel nurse, Christopher Freedman, RN, advises travel nurses to ask as many questions as possible during their interview with a hospital.
“You can usually tell from the interview whether a facility treats its travelers well,” he said. “That’s why I tend to interview the hospital as much as they interview me.”
Myth: Moving from one assignment to the next won’t look good on my résumé
According to industry experts, travel nursing experience actually strengthens a résumé.
“Travel nurses who work in a variety of settings show their flexibility and depth of skill level, something that’s very appealing to nurse managers,” explained Tina Gonzales, director of recruitment for NursesRx. “Also, because travel nursing has been in existence for more than 20 years, time has eliminated any stigma that may have existed in the early years.”
Traveler Ayanna Richardson knows that her broad range of NICU experiences will enhance her résumé in many ways.
“I have worked with a variety of people, diagnoses and equipment,” she said. “Also, dealing with different styles of nursing has made me more flexible to change. I feel that I have the confidence to arrive on any unit and get to work right away.”
Gonzales agrees that this kind of experience and confidence is highly valued by hiring managers.
“Because travelers are typically expected to begin contributing after minimal orientation, nurse managers know that they have the potential to be valuable team players within a short space of time. That is a big plus.”
Myth: I can’t work as a travel nurse close to my home
While some facilities do have radius rules that restrict health care professionals from applying for travel assignments in their local area, many opportunities exist for travelers who want to stay at home, while enjoying the perks that mobile health care offers.
Brenda Heatly, RN, was eager to work as a travel nurse, but didn’t want to travel far from her four children. To solve Heatly’s dilemma, her staffing agency, NursesRx, helped her find assignments within driving distance of her Pennsylvania home.
“I work 3 a.m. to 3 p.m. shifts, three days in a row, and I love that shift,” she said.
Heatly’s unique schedule allows her to spend extra time with her children and to participate in their activities, including coaching her daughters’ softball team and teaching Sunday school at her church group—all while working as a travel nurse.
As travel nursing continues to grow, there is bound to be misinformation that surfaces from time to time. In an effort to know what’s fact and what’s fiction, talk to the experts. Call a selection of travel nursing companies and ask them whatever you want to know. They will be only too happy to help you. Also, talk to travelers in the field. They can give you first-hand accounts of their experiences and will help to dispel any myths about their line of work.
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