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Working on the Road with Children
Travel nurses work for temporary periods of time (usually 13 to 26 weeks) and move from city to city depending on where they're needed. It's a perfect gig for the nomadic soul: You can choose where and when you want to work, and you can move seasonally or whenever you're ready to try something new—plus, travel nurses generally earn good money.
Once you throw kids into the mix, the job might seem unsustainable. Frequent travel coupled with raising a child definitely comes with its own set of obstacles. But it is in fact doable—with some adjustments.
Travel Nursing Wages
Travel nurses are often compensated with a higher salary and more perks than a full-time, permanent staff nurse, and that can definitely come in handy for the working mom. Employers compensate their travel nurses with medical benefits, paid housing and reimbursement for travel cost on top of wages.
The overall salary is tricky to calculate considering housing and travel costs. You have to blend different types of pay (meal allowances, paid housing, travel reimbursements and hourly wages) to figure out what you're truly making. Generally, you can expect to make between $18 and $24 per hour depending on which state you're working in, on top of a housing stipend (which can range anywhere from $1000 to $2000 or more depending on where you're working), a weekly meal allowance and reimbursement for travel costs.
In California, where hourly wages are lower than some nearby states but housing costs are much higher, you might end up with a total hourly wage of about $40.83—definitely competitive with the state's average salary of $71,000 for a registered nurse, which breaks down to about $34.13 per hour.
Frequent Moves With a Child
If you're going to move every few months with a kid, you have to accept the following right off the bat:
- Your child will take up space.
- Your child's stuff will take up space.
- You will need to find more space.
This may mean towing a trailer to deal with the extra luggage and potentially compensate for a car seat. Driving with a trailer in tow decreases gas mileage and complicates travel through rough terrain—not to mention the additional expenses, given that U-Haul charges around $174 for a three-day, interstate trip with its 4-foot by 8-foot cargo trailer. Still, it's feasible.
You'll also have to accept that travels with a young child will probably mean breaking up your road trips into bite-sized pieces. Your quick bathroom stops might turn into hour-long lunch breaks, and your one-day, 16-hour drive might turn into two eight-hour drives with an overnight motel stay in between.
Picking a Location
Traveling moms have more to factor in to their decision on where to work next. Once a child is involved, you start analyzing about a city's crime rates, and how family-friendly a place is.
You'll also take those factors into consideration when dealing with housing: Are there nearby places to walk, run and play safely? Does your budget allow for baby-proofing (new carpets, for example)?
Usually, the companies that employ travel nurses either offer temporary housing or a monthly stipend to go toward the nurses' housing costs. The company-offered housing is usually along the lines of a one-bedroom apartment, which might be too small for a family with kids. In that case, you might accept the stipend instead and take on the task of finding affordable housing that comfortably fits the whole family.
Once your child reaches school age, a new level of complication is added to the travel nursing lifestyle. Your best bets are probably either to home school your children or restrict your travels to summertime.
Home schooling would allow for flexible, mobile education, and you could even incorporate your travels and experiences in different cities into your own homemade curriculum. However, this method works best if your family has one parent who's able to stay home with your child, at least most of the time. If that's not an option, some hospitals allow nurses to take a three-month leave to take a summer travel assignment, which might give you the best of both worlds.
Debunking Travel Nursing Myths
Perhaps you're still apprehensive about travel nursing as a career because you've heard some scary trivia about it. If that's the case, consider some common misconceptions about the profession:
- Myth: Travel nursing is for the young. In fact, the best travel nurses come with years of experience under their belts. This allows them to step into any hospital in any city and immediately be of assistance. It can also be easier to pursue a travel-heavy profession without young children in tow.
- Myth: Travel nursing is an inconsistent source of income. Travel nurses are steadily in demand and, as previously mentioned, are often paid at a higher rate than full-time staff nurses. Travel nursing could actually provide a solid, steady source of income for you and your family.
- Myth: Travel nurses feel like outsiders among permanent staff members. This isn't typically the case. If a hospital is hiring travel nurses, it's often to provide relief for permanent staff during nursing shortages. The other nurses will be happy to see a travel nurse join their ranks, and they'll likely welcome their travel nursing peers.
- Myth: Travel nurses have to go where their companies tell them to. In reality, recruiters usually work to place their nurses on the assignments they desire. And either way, travel nurses are never required or forced to go on an assignment they don't want.
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