Note: Guest contributor Wendy Bledsoe wrote this post. Learn more about Wendy at the bottom of this article.
You might envision a travel nurse as a single person in their 20s or 30s who has a couple of years of bedside experience and then decided to see the world. Some travelers fit that description, but there are also travelers who chose nursing as a second career path, travel with their families, or waited until closer to retirement to travel. Let me tell you about the perks of traveling when you’re older and why I decided to do it!
Perks of Traveling When You’re Older
- It’s fun! You’ve worked hard for decades to raise your kids and care for your household. Now, it’s time to focus on you. Traveling allowed me to meet new people, see new places, and try new things. When I started, I was afraid I’d be seen as the ‘old nurse’ by the younger travelers, but this wasn’t the case! Career experts say 61% of travel nurses are over 40 years old. I soon realized the advantages of travel nursing are no different for an older nurse versus a younger nurse. A nurse is a nurse at any age, and we all have something in common that binds us together – we love to help people. I felt like a teacher, mother, mentor, psychologist, and leader to all the other nurses on the units, and that felt pretty special.
- When you’ve been a nurse for decades, you’ve likely gained a lot of experience, and hospitals need your expertise! Travel nurses are expected to jump into their new roles with minimal orientation. With your experience, you already know how to be a nurse, and after learning the new facility’s processes, you’re ready to do your job. You’ve likely been through a lot and seen a lot – not much phases you anymore. So, as older travelers, we can precept, take charge, and are a great asset to any unit. Oh, and stress? We can handle it so much better!
- We’re great advocates for ourselves and ask for what we need – skills established through experience. We’ve learned to communicate effectively with coworkers and patients. We don’t mind giving our opinion when necessary, but we’re also mature enough to know when it’s not wanted. These skills are essential for travel nurses.
- Remember Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development from nursing school? The 40-65 stage is ‘Generativity versus Stagnation.’ According to Erikson, this is a time in life to make a mark on the world by creating or nurturing things that will outlast you or creating positive changes that will benefit others. What better way to do this than to nurture new nurses across the country and leave your mark at each facility? This will set us up nicely for the next stage in life when we reflect on the accomplishments we’ve made.
- When you don’t want to work full-time all year and want to slow down your pace a bit, travel is a great option. It allows you to have more time off than a permanent nurse job will allow. Each travel nurse assignment is typically 13 weeks. After an assignment, you can take a break for a month or two if you want. A travel nurse career makes coordinating work around life events, seasons, and holidays more manageable. For example, maybe you want to be present to welcome a new grandchild or keep grandchildren during the summer. Or, perhaps you need to care for a family member having surgery or help an ailing parent. As a traveler, you can take an assignment in the area where your loved ones live or take a break to be with them. This career provides an excellent opportunity to see loved ones more often!
- If you’re like me, you’ve had enough of unit politics at this point in life. As a travel nurse, you can go into a unit, do your thing, and easily avoid unit politics and drama. By the time you begin learning about the unit politics, it’s time to move on to your next assignment!
- When the going gets tough, the tough get going! Moving to different states, being the “new nurse” constantly, and caring for complicated patients can be challenging. Travel nurses need to be able to handle these situations, and the resiliency you’ve built in life will help you take on these challenges.
- Have you ever asked yourself, “Where should I retire?” As a travel nurse, you can make this decision while you explore the nation! It’s an excellent way to check out an area before you make a greater commitment. If you visit on vacation, you don’t really get to know a place, but if you live there for a few months, you get to immerse yourself like a local. This insight will help you make a better choice about where you want to retire.
- When your house seems empty and you’re ready for a change, a travel assignment might be a great option. You don’t have to make the commitment of selling your home and moving into something smaller. You might want to keep your house to welcome loved ones during the holidays and summers (and by having the flexibility of a travel schedule, you can enjoy being home and spending this valuable time with them). Then, when life settles again, you can take another assignment somewhere you have always wanted to visit and leave the house behind. This idea is particularly enticing when your spouse is retired, and you can enjoy your days off together.
As you’ve read, there are perks to traveling at any point in life, and experienced nurses have the skills to take on this new chapter while enjoying life on the road.
I’m a nurse with 35 years of experience working in different specialties. I worked in the ER, OR, and CVOR, was a transplant coordinator, and served as the nurse manager of a student health clinic. In my 50s, I traveled for two years as an ER and Peds ER nurse.
I’m so grateful for the experiences I had as a traveler. During this time, I lived in a beach condo with an ocean view, enjoyed St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah, saw fall in New England, spent Halloween in Salem, had ski season in Reno, volunteered at the CT Open and U.S. Open tennis tournaments and belonged to a tennis team, and went on incredible hikes and sightseeing ventures. I met dozens of other travel nurses I stay connected with on social media and watch as they grow personally and professionally.
I loved traveling so much that I joined an agency’s clinical team as a director of nursing, a position I love as I get to mentor travelers while sharing my experiences and passion for the career.