We sat down with some stellar travel nurses and asked them about the challenges and triumphs they’ve experienced in their travels. Thomas Booth discussed the importance of understanding your values, working with a recruiter you trust, and integrating into new hospitals.
What made you decide to become a travel nurse?
I’ve always wanted to travel. In college, I wasn’t able to go abroad like my friends did. And I was working really hard in nursing, and I felt like I could make more money as a traveler.
With a regular nursing job, to get just a 2% annual raise, you have to wait a year for a review. So, I just dove in.
Being a travel nurse allows me to have more control of my finances. Now, I take assignments that work financially for me.
How did you get connected with your recruiter?
Once you find a recruiter that you really enjoy working with, keep them near and dear because they are hard to find.
I was struggling to find an assignment in Los Angeles. I had a lease for three more months, so I couldn’t move. My recruiter at TotalMed, Aaron, was working really hard to place me, but nothing was coming up. That’s when I added another recruiter.
I told both Aaron and the new recruiter what I needed from a job and to submit me the moment a good fit came up. As we are getting close to the day of my job ending, I got messages from both the other recruiter and Aaron.
The other recruiter said, “There’s a job for you! Oh, wait, nevermind. It just got filled.”
But Aaron’s message was, “I submitted you for a job.” He did all he could to get me that interview, unlike the other recruiter. It’s important to have someone like Aaron in your corner, someone you can count on to be on your side.
What do you love about travel nursing?
I love the fact that it’s challenging. You’re always the new kid. You’ve got to hit the ground running — learn all the protocols and figure out how a new hospital operates. The types of patients you see change from assignment to assignment, or even shift to shift. You have to expand your comfort zone quite a bit.
I’ve become more well-rounded. I would tell myself I really don’t want to work in a certain setting, and then, when I arrive for a new job, that’s the setting I find myself in. You need that kick in the butt sometimes. It’s encouraged me to engage with different populations and stretch myself professionally. It’s nice in that respect because it keeps it fresh.
I’ve stayed in California because of the weather. It’s nice that they have the mandatory patient-nurse ratios. The work day is balanced with good breaks. Those moments of rest allow you to really give your best. And also the pay rates are some of the best around. I’ve worked in Los Angeles, Orange County, and now I’m up in the Bay Area. It’s been cool to see different areas and different cultures.
What challenges do you face as a travel nurse?
Since you are in control of your destiny, when one contract is ending, and you haven’t found a new assignment yet, it can be nerve-wracking. But that’s why it’s important to have a recruiter who is invested in finding you a new assignment and will advocate for your position. Aaron has really come through for me a lot.
Also, some travelers are very critical. There is a difference between complaining and advocating for yourself. The best way to help yourself is to show your good work ethic, be helpful to your co-workers, and present your value as a team player. You want to help those who are struggling because you never know when you might need some help in return.
What advice would you give to a travel nurse just starting out?
You have to look at yourself in the mirror and decide what truly matters. For example, I prefer a 7:00 am to 7:00 pm shift, but right now I’m working 11:00 am to 11:00 pm because I’m happy with my location.
In the past, I wanted to find a job in San Diego, but I realized that there weren’t many well-paying jobs there that fit my criteria, so I expanded the area I was willing to work.
Keep your recruiter in the loop about what matters most to you. Let them know whenever your priorities shift.
There are quite a few resources online, and I would suggest looking at your networks on LinkedIn or Facebook. Look at people you went to school with, see who’s travel nursing. Ask them how they’ve done it and what their struggles were. It’s different for everybody but that will help you get a good education, help you figure out what to think about.
I’ve had people I’ve gone to school with, people younger than I am, ask me about traveling, so I started blogging. I’m just getting started, and I’m looking to expand more into experiences and general nursing. Right now, I’m tackling getting started in travel nursing, salary, and being the new person at a hospital — the main things everyone asks about. I really enjoy it.
Want more insight from Thomas? Check out his blog here.
Looking for more travel nursing interviews? Check out our entire series.