Ask a Travel Nurse Question:
Hello, I am an RN and I want to start traveling. I’m highly concerned about housing, especially in cities that have higher cost of living. How do I know I’m getting a good housing deal in a safe neighborhood? Should I take the allotted housing allowance and find my own housing, or should I go through the company?
Ask a Travel Nurse Answer:
If you are especially concerned with housing, there are a few things you can do to ensure a good experience.
First, don’t worry about if you are getting a “good deal” or not. It’s all relative and you’ll go crazy if you are always on this quest for being the Traveler being paid the most, or housed in the best accommodations, or having the most comprehensive medical benefits. If you are provided a nice place to stay, while making a living traveling anywhere in the country, count your blessings.
Next, have a conversation with the housing department of your Travel Nursing company. If you give them a location you are considering, then they should be able to give you the names of the complexes they use in the area. For big cities, they may have a couple different complexes from which you might even be able to choose.
They should try to place you in a complex closest to where you will be working, but I have had a few assignments where I asked to be placed a bit further from the hospital because I liked one apartment complex better than another they used, closer to the hospital. My first time in Phoenix, I had a half-hour commute to the hospital in Glendale, but didn’t really mind as I was with a company that housed me in Paradise Valley (and if you are not familiar with the Phoenix area, yes, Paradise Valley is as nice as the name implies).
It also helps if you travel with a company that allocates more of the compensation they receive from the hospital (for your employment contract) toward quality housing. For me, the key to knowing this has always been whether they seek to place me in an extended stay hotel (often cheaper) versus a one-bedroom apartment.
You also need to understand that you will likely make less with these companies (hourly rate), but your housing should make up for that fact. There is simply NO company out there that has the best pay rate, the best benefits, AND the best housing. It’s all about allocation and you need a company that places a premium on housing.
If you travel with such a company, safety should not be an issue. I traveled with a company that struck out horribly on their very first contract with me (if you’ve read my book, this is an incident I outlined in detail). It was the only assignment in which I have ever felt unsafe, but not the only assignment on which I have had housing issues. However, in both instances, the company went above and beyond in remedying the situation. I’ve NEVER minded earning a few dollars an hour less with this company as I know how proficiently they handle difficult situations.
If you want the ultimate freedom to choose where you will reside, then yes, you can take a stipend (and MANY travelers will tell you this is the way to go). However, I’ve stayed in some great places and in two decades of travel, I’ve never taken an assignment away from home where I did not have the company find my housing.
First, what if you do find the neighborhood to be unsafe after you arrive? You are then charged with the task of finding new housing, moving once again, possibly losing a security deposit, or worst of all, not being let out of your lease easily. All of this while you are starting a new job in what may be a totally unfamiliar city, in which you may have no support from family or friends.
However you decide, let the travel company arrange your housing for the first assignment. Get an idea of how travel works, then you can look into securing your own digs should you choose.
Hope this helps. If you need any help with company selection, I work with a great bunch of recruiters at the various companies I use for my travels. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.