We sat down with some stellar travel nurses and asked them about the challenges and triumphs they’ve experienced. Travel nurse Courtney Groeneveld talks about traveling with her family in an RV, growing professionally, and finding the right recruiter.
How did you get started with travel nursing?
I always knew I wanted to be a travel nurse and knew I had to get some experience under my belt. I’d done an internship in college at the local ER and got a job there right out of college. I worked there for a few years.
My husband and I had a baby, and we waited until she was old enough to travel — she’s one now. My husband quit his job to stay home with the little one. We got in our RV and just hit the road.
I wouldn’t travel without them. It’d be too hard, and I’d miss them too much.
What do you love about travel nursing?
I like the flexibility of travel nursing. It’s allowed my family and me to have more family time together and to go places we wouldn’t have financially been able to go if we’d stayed at my permanent job.
My husband and I used to work opposite shifts. We would only see each other in passing. We both felt like single parents because when I was working, he was off with the baby and vice versa. We never had days together as a family to really enjoy living. So, traveling and exploring all these places together — just having that time together has been really nice. Travel nursing has made us appreciate what we have.
The compensation has definitely helped, too.
And professionally, I’ve grown a ton. At my permanent job, I started to feel jaded and like I wasn’t moving forward. I felt like I had no way to get where I needed professionally. Travel nursing allows me to really hone in again on my skills, learn new techniques, and keep everything fresh and exciting.
Each hospital does something a little different. So, you can learn from each place you visit, put what works into your practice, and pay it forward to the next hospital you visit. You can always say, “Well, I was at a different hospital, and this is what worked for them. Is this something that you guys would be interested in doing?” You bring more to the table.
What are some of your challenges as a travel nurse?
Just having to go through all the paperwork every few months. I wish there was a national database for travel nurses that you could submit your proficiencies to once and be done with it. That’s the biggest frustration.
Then, sometimes finding RV locations that will allow us to stay for three months to a year. That can sometimes pose a challenge. But then again, it’s so nice because it’s our home and it’s always with us. We don’t have to deal with moving every time.
I was stressed once when we broke down between my Missouri and Washington assignment and had to spend three days in Wyoming. But, it’s just part of the package when you choose to do this. Overall, the experiences we’ve had have made up for that stress.
You’ve got to put in a lot more footwork as a traveling nurse than permanent staff. When you travel to a hospital, you’re there to fill their needs. They’re not there to fill your needs. I think a lot of people don’t take that into consideration — they think it’s going to be all rainbows and butterflies, and it’s not always that way.
Some of my assignments have been rough, but ultimately, it’s made me a stronger person and a stronger nurse.
What advice do you have for a travel nurse just starting out?
I think education is key — be aware of what you’re getting into and know what you’re looking for. Have an idea of what works for you. Don’t go solely by what other people say because what works for you may not work for me and vice versa. Think about:
- What shift do you want?
- What’s your minimum income to make sure that you’re meeting your needs?
- Do you need insurance? Will that affect your pay?
- What will you do if you have a lapse in between assignments for insurance?
Make sure that you have a tax home and you’re doing things legally because the last person you want breathing down your neck is the IRS.
And just explore your options. Figure out geographically where you want to be before you start and get your license out of the way because that’s a huge pain, too.
My biggest advice is do your research. I have a list of questions for recruiters that I ask. If the recruiter can’t take 20 minutes to answer the questions that are important to me and my family, then it’s not worth investing my time in them, either.
And travel nursing will be much easier if you’re organized. I keep a binder with everything I need in it — everything — RV lease, insurance info, vet and medical documents, every contract I’ve signed — any record I could potentially need — I have it all in a 3-inch binder. I have a fax scanner on my phone, and it’s been a godsend for when I’m trying to submit paperwork. Even just a smidge of organization skills will go a long way in this industry.
How has it been working with TotalMed?
I’ve worked with a lot of other companies, and TotalMed is by far the best company I’ve worked with. I was constantly having communication issues with my recruiter at another company I worked with. In this industry, you have to be able to be in touch at the drop of a hat.
So, for example, with that company, my first assignment was very dangerous, and there were times I needed to communicate with my recruiter urgently — and it’d be a week before she got back to me. They just had too much on their plate at the other company — the nurse-recruiter relationship is so vital — it’s the kind of thing that will make or break a staffing firm.
Alexis at TotalMed has been 1,000 times better. Having a great relationship with my recruiter has made a world of difference. I messaged her on Easter because the ER was slow and I wanted to make sure there wouldn’t be an issue with my pay if I got home. Alexis was out with her whole family, but she got back to me on Easter — she responded right away — and helped me solve the problem.
She’s also very proactive. She’s always in touch, asking me how I’m doing, checking in with me, and planning for future assignments. Seeing where I’d like to go next and finding the assignment that would suit us best. I’ve been very very happy with TotalMed.
What more travel nursing interviews? Check out our entire series.