Note: Guest contributor Brittany Garcia wrote this post. Learn more about Brittany at the bottom of this article.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the travel nursing industry has seen a significant increase in demand, and staff nurses everywhere are taking the leap. I used to think that healthcare travel was exclusively for single people without children, but I’m here to tell you that is 100% wrong! I successfully traveled the country with my family of three for four years. I will say that this can look very different for each family depending on your needs, but it’s definitely doable. I’m happy to share my experience and tips with any nurses with a family looking to make that transition, especially now while the travel market is so hot!
Why We Considered Travel Nursing With a Family
Travel nursing was never anything I had previously considered or planned to do. I remember hearing about travel nursing in nursing school. I thought it sounded great, but I had other plans with my significant other. Four years later, we were married, purchased our first home, worked great jobs, and had our first baby on the way. We were living the American Dream, or so we thought.
Once our daughter made her appearance, we quickly realized that we were not living the life we wanted. My husband worked standard corporate hours, and I was on weekend night shift to save on childcare costs due to our mountain of student loan debt, two car payments, and a mortgage. It suddenly dawned on us that we were living to work and not working to live. During this time, my husband Nick approached me about travel nursing. I blew him off at first, but the more I looked into it, the more intrigued I became.
Being the type-A PICU nurse I am, I had to do some serious research before I was willing to uproot my family and move from place to place every 13 weeks. This was when I made great friends with Google to find answers to questions I had about travel nursing, like:
- How was I going to support a family with a contract job?
- What about insurance coverage?
- What if a hospital cancels my shift?
- How do I ensure I will have another job lined up?
- Will I make enough money to support a family?
- How does housing work?
Nick and I made a list of questions, a budget, and important benefits to our family, and we started our agency search. After doing this, I found a handful of agencies that offered what we were looking for, so I proceeded to interview potential recruiters. Looking back, I realize how extra this was, but I wanted to be absolutely certain I was confident in my decision to trust a complete stranger to guide me through the travel nursing world. Nick even took turns speaking with potential recruiters, and once we found “the one,” we took the leap and have never looked back! I took comfort in knowing that we could always go home if it didn’t work out.
How We Managed to Travel With Our Family
After we landed on our decision, the rest was easy! The hardest part was breaking the news to our family, friends, and employers. Everyone thought we were crazy, but we knew this was the best decision for us. Our game plan was to secure an assignment, then put in notice at our jobs. Nick was going to be a full-time stay-at-home dad, and I was going to contract my 36 hours so that we could have four days a week to spend together as a family. For us, the challenge was being secure in the uncertainty that comes with travel nursing.
Because we were taking this on as a family, our goal was to share responsibilities to ensure we were successful. For example, there is a lot of onboarding (physicals, bloodwork, drug testing, specialty-related testing, modules, and certs) to complete before starting any assignment. These tasks were on me to manage. Nick was responsible for finding our housing for assignments. We wanted to make this as easy as possible, so we aimed for furnished spaces close to the assignment and in safe neighborhoods. We found a lot of success using Airbnb and Facebook groups specifically for travel nurse housing. We quickly learned that the more flexible we were, the better off we would be.
My first assignment was in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the three of us lived in a 200-square-foot casita! It had everything we needed – a full kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping area. In addition, it was within walking distance from the hospital. We did not spend much time in the casita, so it didn’t matter that it was tiny. Being flexible in our housing gave us many options and the ability to save on cost.
Nick was also tasked with being a primary caregiver for our daughter Izzy when I was working my shifts. Let me tell you, he did a fantastic job! One of my travel nursing career goals was to pay down debt, so something we focused on was locating free or inexpensive activities for Izzy to participate in while we were on assignment. She was only 18-months-old when we started our adventure, so it was essential for us to keep her interacting with other children because she was still too young for school. We found many activities through municipal websites, local libraries, and universities, but our favorite was camping and hiking. Each year we purchased a National Park Pass for about $80, and we could visit as many national parks as we wanted that year. During our four years on the road, Izzy visited approximately 35 national parks.
Would I Travel With My Family Again?
I often get asked if I would do it again, and my answer is, “YES, YES, YES!” Travel nursing gave me the flexibility to spend more time with my family, experience a variety of new places, pay down a lot of debt, grow professionally in my career, and meet many wonderful people. Something that stood out to us as a take-a-way from the experience was that you truly don’t need material things to be happy. During our travels, we had a suitcase each, a coffee maker, camping supplies, and a small box for Izzy’s toys – that’s it! I can honestly say that some of my favorite memories with my husband and oldest daughter were during our time traveling the country.
Logistically, traveling with a family can pose a few additional challenges, but if you have a great support system, it’s absolutely doable and enjoyable. For anyone considering traveling with a family, take the leap. You won’t regret it.
About Brittany Garcia, BSN, RN, CPN, CCRN
Brittany has been a nurse for 10+ years and spent most of her career in the industry working in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Nursing is actually her second career. Her first bachelor’s degree is in Biomedical Sciences, where she helped research ethanol fuel production.
Later, she attended the University of Miami’s Accelerated BSN program and began her nursing career in the PICU at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Texas. During her time there, she received her Certified Pediatric Nurse credential. She spent about half of her professional career traveling the country with her family as a TNAA travel nurse and earned her Pediatric Critical Care Certified Nurse credential. While traveling, she had the opportunity to work in some of the most prestigious children’s hospitals like Boston Children’s, Seattle Children’s, Arkansas Children’s, Children’s Hospital Colorado, and Children’s Hospital of Orange County. Along the way, she also gained experience in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Pediatric Cardiovascular ICU, Pediatric Urgent Care, and General Pediatrics.
Brittany’s passion for nursing and travel has most recently led her to a position within TNAA’s internal Clinical Department, where she looks forward to being a resource for travel healthcare professionals across the industry.